are concrete balconies safe

Are concrete balconies safe?

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    Ever since the play "Romeo and Juliet" brought them to widespread attention, balconies have become commonplace features in the architecture of our homes and other living areas. In housing communities such as condos and co-ops, balconies can be an additional advantage, providing a few extra feet of living space as well as the opportunity to take in some fresh air and sunshine.

    To ensure that they continue to look their best and last as long as possible, balconies require the same level of consistent care and maintenance as any other structure. How are balconies maintained, and what kind of repairs are made to them when they become damaged? Maintenance and repairs can add years of enjoyment and value to your condominium or co-op community if they are properly planned for and carried out with the appropriate equipment.

    The interior of the living space can be connected to the exterior in the form of a transitional space, such as a balcony. Due to the fact that the wall that separates the interior space from the balcony is typically made of movable glass, the balcony area can be used to help bring light into otherwise dimly lit areas. These warm and inviting outdoor living areas can be utilised for a variety of purposes, and they serve as a welcoming space for a large number of people who live in and work in a variety of residential and commercial buildings. These outdoor living spaces require a great deal of care and attention because, over time, they are exposed to adverse weather conditions, normal wear and tear, and the condition of the building, which they are an extension of. The condition of balconies can deteriorate over time, turning them into potential hazards for tenants rather than a versatile outdoor space that they can use to enjoy the outdoors.

    A cantilevered extension of the living room floor slab, the balcony concrete of residential and commercial structures is an integral part of the structure. Different sized and arranged configurations of reinforcing steel are scattered throughout the balcony's concrete. It is not uncommon for there to be two mats (layers) of reinforcing steel, but it is also possible for there to be only one mat. Whether or not it is exposed to the atmosphere, the reinforcing steel will eventually corrode to varying degrees over the course of time. Ongoing maintenance and inspections can cut down on significant costs not only for building owners but also for the tenants who occupy those buildings. Delaying necessary maintenance and repairs may produce the opposite of the desired outcome.

    Check out Hitch Property Constructions for a wide range of balcony repairs.

    How They Work

    The vast majority of balconies constructed in modern times are fashioned from steel and concrete, with the occasional wooden and concrete version thrown in for good measure. According to Stan Wellinsky, vice president of Valcourt Building Services LLC in Elizabeth, New Jersey, there are two types of concrete balconies: continuous slab and those that are constructed from steel frames that are mounted to the structure externally. A continuous slab balcony is simply an extension of a building's concrete floor slab. The building's framework is extended with steel planks, which are followed by the placement of concrete. Railings are installed on both types of balconies after the initial construction is finished. Depending on the balcony, the railings are either embedded into the balcony itself or surface mounted.

    Concrete Balcony

    What is Concrete Deterioration?

    Cracked and spalled pieces of concrete falling off the surface of a building are examples of concrete deterioration, as defined by Donald Chalaire, PE, of Chalaire and Associates, Inc. "Concrete is being pushed outward because of the expansion of the steel bars due to corrosion," he says. "The corrosion is causing the concrete to expand." "The growth is due to iron being transformed into scaling rust, which has caused the expansion. The scaling rust consumes vastly more space than it can currently occupy and possesses enough power to crack the concrete."

    If nothing is done to stop the concrete from deteriorating, there is a significant risk to public safety. According to Steve Young, P.E., President of Howard J. Miller P.E., Inc., "When the deterioration is severe, it can affect the inside of units and can even cause catastrophic failure if not taken care of over some time," says Young. "When the deterioration is severe, it can affect the inside of units." "However, the majority of the time, people are aware that it is looking bad and attend to it before the balcony falls off the building," he says. "[T]hese people are fortunate."

    What Causes Concrete to Deteriorate?

    Corrosion in concrete is caused when rainwater and chlorides penetrate the material all the way down to the level of the steel reinforcement bars. According to Chalaire, "Over the course of time, the outer surfaces that are exposed to the weather absorb more and more mild acids and chlorides, which penetrate deeper and deeper into the concrete."

    The amount of time it takes for the contaminants to reach the steel bars is contingent upon a number of different variables. The manner in which water penetrates the concrete, the frequency with which wet and dry cycles occur, and the varying degrees of exposure are all factors that come into play. This typically takes place once every 15–20 years for waterfront buildings, but the time frame can be cut down to just a few years if the concrete is extremely porous or if the steel bars are not embedded deeply enough. According to Chalaire, the process of corrosion starts when the contaminants make their way to the steel bars and the rust starts eating away at them.

    What Are Some Signs of a Serious Problem?

    According to Terri Chalaire, P.E., of Chalaire and Associates, Inc., cracks in the ceilings and floors of concrete-framed buildings, whether the building is new or old, are fairly common. "The cracks can be significant and contribute to dangerous conditions and concrete damage, or they can be insignificant, not causing a structural problem or other concern, or they can be somewhere in the middle, possibly allowing water intrusion and problems down the road," she says. "The cracks can also be somewhere in the middle, possibly allowing water intrusion and problems down the road." An experienced professional will be able to diagnose the problem by looking at the shape and size of the crack, as well as the configuration of the steel reinforcing bar in the slab, the general configuration of the slab, and the location of the crack in relation to the configuration of the balcony. For those who are not particularly well-versed in concrete, some warning signs of a serious problem include the following:

    How Often are Repairs Necessary?

    If the work was done correctly, it should not require repairs for 10–20 years; however, it is likely that repairs will be required every few years in any given association. Terri explains that unfortunately, just because repairs were performed at one location does not mean that there won't be problems at other nearby or unrelated locations. "Just because the concrete in one unit is brand new does not mean that the concrete in another unit, which is 20 years old, will last forever." She recommends to property managers that they monitor buildings and make a note of any repairs that will need to be completed, and then they should have all of the repairs completed at the same time. If this procedure is carried out on a regular basis, it should be possible to reduce the number of maintenance projects and the costs associated with those projects.

    Why Seek Out a Professional?

    Even if they are done with the best of intentions, repairs carried out by a handyman or staff member of the association could end up creating even bigger issues. If the repair is not carried out correctly, it may become loose and fall, resulting in personal injury or property damage for which the association may be held liable. Concrete repairs are governed by a set of published standards and codes, which will be thoroughly understood by professionals in the field. When assessing and repairing concrete, it is frequently necessary to employ the services of two distinct professionals. To begin, a qualified engineer ought to be contacted so that the area in question can be inspected and an appropriate method of repair can be drafted.

    The following step entails making a choice regarding a qualified builder who possesses a valid General Contractor (GC) licence. According to Terri, "having an engineering survey performed, followed by the writing of specifications and a bid package, is an efficient way to achieve comparable bids." "This package may be distributed to a number of different contractors. These surveys and specifications, which can also be used in the future to apply for a building permit for the work, can be provided by an engineering company if that company has been granted a Certificate of Authorization by the state."

    Carpet on Balconies

    According to Donald, even though there may be some pushback against the idea of removing carpet from balconies in order to conduct inspections, it is necessary. He says, "I have seen a lot of evidence of the harm carpeting on balconies has caused in Florida, where chloride infusion into concrete is the main cause of deterioration." "I have seen a lot of evidence of the harm carpeting on balconies has caused in Florida."

    Because carpeting speeds up the process of concrete corrosion and cracking, he recommends avoiding installing it on exterior balconies. Following a rain shower, the carpet will continue to be wet for a significant amount of time after other smooth surfaces have dried. In addition, rains are unable to remove the salt from carpets as effectively as it can from other surfaces.

    Ponding Water

    Another issue that can speed up the process of deterioration is the accumulation of water in low spots caused by insufficient slopes or excessive waveiness. According to Donald, "every drop of water that falls onto balcony surfaces should have a path for runoff." The water in ponds that are exposed to a lot of wind and sun will eventually evaporate, but it will take longer for the water to evaporate in areas that are shaded or hidden. According to Donald, ponding areas that are covered by tile or pavers almost never evaporate.

    What Precautions Can You Take to Avoid Potential Dangers and Problems Associated with Your Balconies?

    For adequate maintenance of the balcony and railing, Young suggests following a number of straightforward steps.

    • To begin, it is recommended to hire an engineer to inspect the balconies and provide recommendations on any necessary repairs.
    • Employ an engineer to carry out the necessary inspections at regular intervals of between two and five years.
    • Every balcony should be waterproofed.
    • Include an engineer in the bidding process while you are looking for qualified contractors to submit bids.
    • Request that an engineer inspect all of the repair work being done as it is being completed.
    • When you are installing shutters, you need to make sure that the concrete-penetrating fastener is properly sealed so that water won't be able to get into the concrete.

    In the event that tiles are used to cover a balcony:

    • Before covering the balcony in tiles, it needs to be waterproofed first.
    • If the tiles on the balcony need to be replaced, the facilities manager should check the balcony both after the old tiles have been removed and before the new tiles are put down.
    • Be aware that tiles can cover up potential issues, which can lead to more extensive issues and higher restoration costs.

    Residents and guests of your community will be able to utilise the balconies in a risk-free manner if you put in place a few straightforward preventative measures, are aware of what to look for, and have a regular inspection and maintenance plan in place.

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    Tips To Help Keep Your Balcony Safe & Sturdy

    Get Regular Inspections

    Of course, it is the responsibility of property owners to conduct routine checks on the condition of their buildings and balconies. However, it is also beneficial to hire a professional once a year to carry out a thorough inspection that is of a high quality and level of detail. This should be done in the early spring, before there is heavy use of the balconies, because freezing temperatures in the winter can cause structural instabilities. In general, this should be done before there is heavy use of the balconies.

    Check for pieces that have rotted away and warped wood. Re-attach any boards that have become loose by using fresh screws and anchors. In addition to that, check for any areas that are splintering. It is important to keep an eye out for cracks in the cement or any other material, particularly if the cracks have been widening over time. The following is supplementary information that should be known:

    • Repairing large cracks in stone and concrete requires the expertise of a professional. If any of these are present on the floor of the balcony, you will need the assistance of a professional in order to restore the balcony's structural integrity.
    • The support posts and balusters on a balcony are also susceptible to deterioration over time and can present the same level of danger to the person using the balcony. Check for any signs of rot, excessive rusting, as well as any areas of damage.
    • One of the most common places for deterioration to occur is along the railings. Rust, rotten wood, and looseness are all significant factors in this situation. Check to see that these are properly fastened.
    • Over time, the floor brackets and wall brackets that support the railing may become dislodged. Someone could easily trip and fall as a result of this circumstance. Perform a safety check on these at regular intervals.

    Can You Make Repairs Yourself?

    If you notice small cracks or crumbling cement, it may be possible to do some work yourself. It is always wise, though, to hire a professional to handle the repairs for you instead.

    Crack fillers, which are generally applied using a caulk gun, work well for minor problems. You will require selecting the appropriate product for the surface as well as the material. In addition to this, you will need to properly prepare the area and then use a putty knife to level it. In addition to this, any concrete patching product needs ample time to dry and set. It will take time to make these repairs.

    Take corrective measures immediately in any circumstance in which the surface, railings, or support structures of a balcony exhibit any signs of damage or deterioration. What you see on the surface is also an indication of what is happening deep within the cement pad or other structure. For this reason, you should hire a qualified and experienced professional to inspect your balcony (for a balcony checklist, click here), as well as handle any and all necessary repairs for you. Do this on a regular basis to ensure the safety of anyone who uses it.

    What Are the Dangers of Second-Floor Balconies?

    Accidental Falls

    Children and pets should not play on balconies located on upper floors. A child who is overly curious or daring could potentially climb up onto a balcony, go over the railing, and then fall to the ground below. Even falls from relatively low heights have the potential to kill or seriously injure young children. It is possible for pets to escape through open windows or the door to the balcony, where they may then attempt to jump or fall to the ground below, which may result in serious injury or even death. You can lessen the likelihood of this happening by ensuring that the door to your balcony is equipped with a lock and by taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of your children and pets, such as installing railings that are free of holes.

    Instability

    It may take some time before any damage to a balcony on the second floor is noticed. The structural components of the balcony are vulnerable to the effects of the environment and the passage of time. For instance, if a person walks out onto a balcony on the second floor that has rotting floor wood, they put themselves in jeopardy. The cracks in the wood could cause the person to lose their balance and fall. Even concrete balconies will eventually deteriorate and develop surface cracks if they are left exposed to high winds and other severe weather conditions.

    Collapse

    Under the additional pressure, a balcony on the second floor that has suffered significant wear and tear or has weak spots in strategic locations could give way. The second-floor balconies have weight limits because they aren't anchored directly into the ground for support like the balconies on the first floor are. It is possible for the balcony to give way if subjected to an excessive amount of weight, such as if a large number of people entered all at once. It's possible that an improperly constructed balcony on the second floor could collapse due to a structural flaw in the building.

    Use

    There could be additional hidden dangers on a balcony located on the second floor. If you keep heavy items on the balcony, for example, and there is a strong wind, one of those items could fall onto the ground below and cause injury to someone walking by. A child could injure themselves by tripping over objects that are placed on a balcony or by falling over a railing that is too low. It is important to store items on the balcony so they are not in the way of the walking space and are close to the railings. If you intend to place heavy objects, such as large garden planters, on your balcony, you should be aware that there are weight limits.

    Safety

    The safety of balconies is an important topic of discussion, particularly with regard to falling concrete. On balconies, it is common to see places where the concrete has been removed. In most cases, the pieces of concrete that have broken off and fallen to the ground can be seen; however, they have merely been discarded at this point. It is essential to keep in mind that even a fragment of concrete the size of a rock can cause serious harm or death to people below. In addition to the concrete, railings ensure the safety and security of the tenants as well as the items that are placed in the space. The balcony's perimeter is where the greatest number of reinforcing steel elements can be found. In addition, this is the location where the railings are installed. Mounted on the concrete surface of the balcony's perimeter or welded to plates embedded in the concrete, balcony railings can be surface-mounted or welded. If the perimeter reinforcing steel were to deteriorate for an extended period of time, this could lead to the railing falling apart, which would create significant safety concerns.

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    Prevention

    There are repercussions that result from neglect. First and foremost, the protection of human life, in addition to the responsibility and potential for legal action that follows in its wake for any unintended consequences that may arise. These kinds of predicaments are simple to steer clear of. Inspecting concrete balconies ought to be done by qualified engineering professionals who have a proven track record of examining and restoring balconies. The condition of a building should only be assessed by the owner, who should have an experienced eye. It is strongly suggested that a qualified engineering consultant who specialises in concrete restoration be hired in order to perform continuous inspections of the balconies of a building. In an ideal world, something like this ought to take place on at least an annual basis.

    When conducting a condition review, the first step is to remove all items from the balcony. Each balcony is subjected to chain dragging or hammer sounding by the consultant in order to identify concrete delaminations. In addition to this, a trained consultant will be able to visually inspect the balconies to look for any problems. The appropriate parties should be provided with a comprehensive report that summarises the findings as well as an estimated budget to address any of the findings that have been defined. The reports get their official stamp from the engineer of record.

    It should be brought to your attention that the Occupational, Health and Safety Department has sealed off unsafe balcony spaces that posed dangers to the general public. The aforementioned scenario typically results in immediate repairs, and for building owners to address this issue can become much more expensive than if the repairs were identified and undertaken beforehand. An approach that is proactive results in a safer outdoor space for tenants and the general public, as well as increased certainty and peace of mind for the owners, operators, and managers of the building.

    A balcony can last for many years if it is properly maintained and cared for. It is the ideal place for residents of an apartment building to congregate and socialise while taking in the fresh air and the company of their neighbours. The contentment that comes from preserving a valuable investment will make the expenditure of every dollar on maintenance and repair more than worthwhile. Who could say? Things might have gone differently for Romeo and Juliet if the balcony they were standing on had been of higher quality.

    FAQs About Balcony Repair

    A cantilevered extension of the living room floor slab, the balcony concrete of residential and commercial structures is an integral part of the structure. Different sized and arranged configurations of reinforcing steel are scattered throughout the balcony's concrete. There are typically two mats (layers) of reinforcing steel present, but there is also the possibility of there being only one mat present.

    The thickness of a balcony slab is typically 1 foot, and the surface area of the slab is proportional to the size of the balcony that the builder intends to create. Slabs for balconies are frequently left unfinished, which causes them to be grey in colour; however, it is possible to paint them in any colour you like.

    If you overload a balcony, you run the risk of creating a safety hazard that could put you or another person in harm's way. Having said that, the load-bearing capacity of balconies is typically between 50 and 100 pounds per square foot. However, there is a possibility that the structure of your balcony was originally built as a patio, which could result in a change in the load rating capacity of the balcony.

    If the work was done correctly, it should not require repairs for 10–20 years; however, it is likely that repairs will be required every few years in any given association.

    Maintaining a weather-tight joint at the point where the joists pass through the wall is the cantilever balcony design challenge that presents the greatest amount of difficulty. As a consequence of expansion and contraction brought on by shifts in both moisture and temperature, joists are subject to movement. The end result is hidden rot and water damage, which poses a significant threat to the building's structural integrity.

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