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Balcony Failures

January 11, 2018 0 Comments

Property owners and their investments have been at risk due to unspecified regulations resulting in faulty materials used in construction, particularly in relation to buildings with balconies.

Apartment Building with Balconies

Using quality building materials to improve balcony lifespan

When framing a house with a balcony, one would assume that the builder would choose durable materials, especially for the detailing for the balconies and balustrades. The materials need to be durable enough to prevent water from penetrating through the linings of the balcony posts and rails, which can cause serious damage and failure over a period of time.

However, this attention to quality is not always practice. Many balconies today are made using cheap and lightweight materials to save money. Over time, these building materials become frail and fall apart – much sooner than expected. Timber decks and lightweight balconies are expected to have a minimum of 20 years life expectancy according to National Association of Forest Industries.

Problems arising from the use lightweight materials for balconies and timber decks include:

  • Minor movements due to wind, heat swell, and shrinkage can open up poorly sealed joints and linings, allowing water and moisture to penetrate and build-up within the nooks and crannies
  • Excessive flex of the floor linings due to joist spacing
  • Dust adhering to the surface and crevices, which can also build-up over time
  • Inadequate floor strength
  • A lack of moisture resistance

Using cheap and sub-standard materials on buildings is dangerous, putting residents’ lives at risk.

There are several ways to ensure that balconies do not age prematurely:

  • Use reinforced concrete that can last for up to 40 years if the drainage and detailing are well designed
  • For timber framing, longevity can be increased if the framing is lined with compressed fibre cement board that seals the joints properly
  • Minimising dust particles from penetrating crevices and settling on surfaces during the installation phase

The National Construction Code could insist on expensive and durable materials. However, the NCCC is known to be performance-based. Unfortunately, insufficient care by contractors and dusty site conditions become acceptable when building balconies and decks.

Many building consultants do not have a thorough definition of leaks and defects, despite the fact that it is their job to look for these faults in buildings! It is imperative that as a building contractor you do your best to ensure high standards on balconies and decks so they will have a reasonable lifetime. This is a step up from simply complying with regulations and the Building Code of Australia.

Filed in: Trade Tips

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