Balconies are great outdoor features of buildings which allow the residents to enjoy views, fresh air, and increased living area. Maintenance of these balconies is important to allow for their safe use and enjoyment.
What are some common issues that can develop with balconies?
Some telltale signs of balcony failures and deficiencies include concrete spalling at the floor, outer edge (or face) or ceiling surfaces. If you see concrete spalling at the outer edge and ceiling of the balconies, that is especially concerning. The spalling concrete can fall from the underside of the balcony, or possibly fall many stories down to the ground level below, potentially hitting a pedestrian or vehicle. This could cause serious harm or even death.
Other commons issues include the failure of the railings.
Since balconies are exposed to the weather year-round, this causes them to be susceptible to damage and deterioration and they will require routine repairs.
Balconies that are near the ocean are even more vulnerable to the elements. The salt water and salt air are very corrosive to most materials. This exposure will speed up the deterioration process by causing metals to rust much faster.
Are your railings safe?
Steel railings tend to rust and deteriorate over time causing unsafe conditions. Rusting railings should be repainted periodically. It is quite common for the paint to not be maintained properly.
Aluminum railings where the posts are embedded into the concrete are especially susceptible to corrosion and deterioration below the surface making for an unsafe condition that cannot always be seen.
Glass railings should be inspected for cracked glass.
In general, all types of railings should feel secure. They should not feel loose when shaken.
How often should I have my balcony inspected?
It is recommended that a visual observation is conducted every 1-2 years. Make a list of the units and have your property manager or building superintendent visit every unit to make note of the existing conditions. These inspections should be very brief, and the intent is to make sure that there are no glaring safety concerns that should be addressed immediately.
What should we look for?
Concrete cracking or spalling, exposed rebar, failing waterproofing membrane or paint, failed caulk, rusting or deterioration of the railing post bases, failing grout pockets, railings that feel loose when you shake them.
What should we do with this information?
This depends on the severity of the issues. Smaller issues can be handled by contacting an experienced restoration contractor who specializes in this type of work. They can provide a proposal to repair and restore the balconies to their original condition.
If the problems are larger and more widespread throughout the building, it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced restoration or engineering firm who can do more thorough inspections and put together a condition survey, cost estimate or even plans and specifications if necessary.
How much does this cost?
Costs vary based on the number of balconies, quantity of repairs, work access, and property protection (sidewalk bridging or other protective measures). Essentially, the more balconies your building has, the more it will cost. When averaging the entire cost of the project over the number of balconies, the cost could be a few thousand dollars per balcony.
How is this work accessed?
Typically, balcony repair projects are accessed from the exterior using lift equipment or suspended scaffolding so that the interior of the units are not disturbed. In cases where a repair is limited to one or only a few units, interior access may be advisable due to the large cost of accessing the exterior for just a limited number of units.
How will my property be impacted by balcony repairs?
Typically, balcony repair projects include repairs and waterproofing throughout the building. These projects often take several months to complete. When the contractor is working at or above your balcony, your use of the balcony will be restricted until the work is complete in that area. Additionally, there will be noise related to the concrete repair work in the vicinity of your unit.
Be mindful of scaffolding and how it will affect surrounding areas and amenities. Before construction even begins, you and the contractor should have a plan in place on how the project will be phased and how pedestrians and tenants alike will be kept safe during construction.
What could happen if we wait too long to repair our balcony?
Putting off balcony repairs can dramatically increase the cost. There have been instances where the problems require owners to completely restrict access to the balconies for several months until a repair program is implemented. This has a negative impact on their ability to sell the unit or to attract new tenants.
What preventative maintenance measures can be taken?
Having periodic, visual inspections can make a world of difference. The earlier that issues are identified and repaired, the less costly and problematic it will be for the property owner.
Common ways to protect your balcony from deterioration include applying a pedestrian grade waterproof coating membrane at the floor of the balcony and a waterproofing coating at the ceiling. Also, it is recommended that the sealants are replaced, and the railings are repainted, as necessary.