how are balconies supported

How are balconies supported?

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    The aesthetic value of the exterior of your home as a whole can be elevated to a higher level of sophistication by the addition of a balcony. Balconies are wonderful places for getting together with friends and family, having barbecues on the weekends, unwinding, taking in the scenery, and watching the world go by.

    Do you already have a plan for the balcony structure you want to add to your house if you are thinking about doing so? Or, do you have any idea what kind of balcony decking layout would work best for your house?

    The following is a rundown of the various kinds of balconies that exist, with the goal of assisting you in designing the balcony structure that will be most suitable for your house.

    Recent news articles have shown that structural damage to decks and balconies, such as rotting wood or weakening supports, can have expensive repercussions. It is essential for the safe performance of decks and balconies that the structural design and construction of their guardrails (or handrails), as well as the decks and balconies themselves, be done correctly in order to prevent structural failure.

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    Decks vs. Balconies

    The amount of weight that is being supported simultaneously by the balcony, also known as the "live load," is one of the primary factors that can lead to its collapse. Between the 2006 and 2009 editions of the International Building Code (IBC), there was a change made to the loading criteria for balconies and decks. The International Building Code of 2006 specified varying live loads for decks and balconies.

    The International Building Code of 2006 (IBC) describes a balcony as an exterior floor that projects from and is supported by a structure but does not have any additional independent supports. In other words, an extension of the floor that cantilevers out from a wall that is located outside. An outdoor floor that is supported on at least two opposing sides by an adjacent structure or posts, piers, or other independent supports is known as a deck. The 2009 International Building Code does not make a distinction between live loads for decks and balconies and does not provide definitions for either one.

    According to the International Building Code from 2006, the majority of residential buildings, both single-family homes and multi-family structures, have decks rather than balconies.

    Balconies Supported

    A Self Supporting Balcony System is the Safest Balcony System

    When compared to wooden cantilever balconies, self-supporting balcony systems, also known as bolt-on balconies, are the most secure balcony systems available. The tragic event that occurred on a cantilever balcony in Berkeley, California serves as an illustration of why self-supporting balcony systems are safer. This tragedy illustrates how hidden wood cantilever joists can hide dangerous structural rotting conditions, whereas self-supporting balcony systems have visible building connections to ensure the safety of life and property.

    The recent tragedy that occurred in Berkeley, California, involving the wooden balcony system, brings attention to the potentially catastrophic failure of wooden cantilever balconies. According to the findings of the engineers who inspected the property, there were unmistakable indications that the wood beams that supported the deck had deteriorated as a result of prolonged contact with water.

    Visual Inspections are Important for Balcony Safety

    A fundamental visual inspection can be carried out by anyone to ensure the ongoing and permanent safety of a bolt-on balcony. The most challenging aspect of constructing a cantilevered balcony is ensuring that the weather joint at the point where the joists penetrate the wall is watertight. 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. Caulk is frequently used as a weather sealant to protect against water damage; however, caulk deteriorates rapidly when exposed to outdoor elements. Rebuilding, repairing the inside joists, removing the drywall, and making interior repairs are typically required in order to make an unsafe wooden balcony safe again. These fixes can be time-consuming and expensive.

    A Safer Balcony Option

    Because they do not require additional support from the building, bolt-on balconies are considered to be the more secure option. Behind the interior structure, there are no joists to be found. Installation time is cut in half to three times what it would be for a wooden cantilever balcony (if prefabricated and shipped complete by Midwest Stairs & Iron.) Secure connections, construction from aluminium metal, and powder coating all contribute to an item's increased longevity. A bolt-on balcony is typically constructed out of steel or aluminium, and it can be adorned with a handrail made of glass, acrylic, cable, or any number of other materials. Powder coating allows for a wide variety of colours to be applied to metals like steel or aluminium. Because of their longevity and increased resistance to the effects of the weather, aluminium balconies are quickly becoming the material of choice for new construction. One of the best things about bolt-on balconies is the ability to quickly remove and reinstall them in the event that they are damaged in any way, be it because someone used a sledgehammer or because you simply want to give them a new colour or style. Tenants place a high value on both aesthetics and visual safety. The practically endless opportunities for design appeal greatly to architects. The cost value and the enhancement to life safety are appealing to property developers.

    How to test your current wooden balcony for safety?

    Call an expert. An expert will perform an inspection, which may involve climbing a ladder to inspect the exterior and interior wood cantilevered joists of the structure. In a standard safety inspection, a screwdriver or an awl is used to punch a small hole in the joists, check for gaps, and probe the joists in order to look for rot. It is possible that the interior of the building has sustained water damage, as evidenced by a bump in the floor. Traditional wooden cantilever construction at low-rise apartment and condominium complexes often presents ongoing challenges, one of which is the existence of a weak frame, which poses a risk to human life.

    The Different Types Of Balcony Structures

    Hung balconies

    Cables made of stainless steel are used in the construction of this type of balcony structure. These cables are fastened to the perimeter of the balcony. The large plate is fastened to the structure at a right angle, making the angle 45 degrees.

    Fixing the steel cables to the walls, attaching the plate, and then hanging the balcony is all that is required to complete the process. The method is effective because it utilises the bolt strength at the wall to generate pull out forces that are equal in magnitude to the shear forces. The design is simple and is not one that is used very frequently.

    Stacked balconies

    Due to the fact that it is so easy to construct, balconies that are supported by pillars are the most common and well-liked type of balcony decking. Aside from that, the building or structure can only support a light load because these stacked balconies are stacked on top of one another. The building is not connected to the stacked balconies; rather, the stacked balconies are a separate structure from the building itself.

    The vertical posts or pillars that support stacked balconies are known as "posts." On the ground, concrete pads are erected, and the weight of the stacked balconies is transferred from the vertical posts or pillars that support them to the pads.

    Some balconies on pillars or stacked balconies are made of aluminium materials, which give a smooth and uniform appearance on buildings or apartments. These materials can be found in some apartment complexes.

    It is common practise to stack balconies in apartment and residential buildings because of the unified appearance it provides, the ease with which it can be constructed, and the speed with which it can be installed.

    Cantilever or projecting balconies

    Cantilever balconies are platforms that are attached to a building in such a way that when viewed from the front of the building, the balcony appears to float away from the building without any visible support. Cantilevering the structure off the wall provides support for the weight of the balcony decking that is being used.

    Cantilever balconies are pre-designed and cannot be added to an existing building or structure. This is because projecting balconies require larger point loads on the building that they are going to be attached to. Cantilever balconies, on the other hand, are not subject to this requirement.

    Steel or concrete are the materials typically used to construct cantilever balconies. However, contemporary designs, innovative building materials, and creative implementations of these projecting balconies lead to more aesthetically pleasing results.

    The typical depth range for projecting balconies is between 1500 and 1800 millimetres. Users of this kind of balcony structure often complain about the movement that they feel when they step out onto the platform, despite the fact that this kind of balcony structure produces the most artistic result.

    Because of its depth, a cantilevered balcony has a tendency to bounce. When the depth is reduced, the amount of bounce that can be anticipated also decreases.

    Balcony Decking

    Decking for a balcony requires multiple considerations to be made in order to achieve the best and most appropriate design. These factors include the type of material, the colour, the requirements of the government and the local code, who is going to use it, and how it will ultimately complement the building.

    Because all of these factors will play a role in the completed design of your balcony installation project, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced balcony contractor.

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    Site manufactured reinforced concrete balconies and hanging corridors.

    At the close of the nineteenth century. Reinforced concrete structures made their debut at the turn of the 20th century, ushering in an era of revolutionary and long-lasting change in our built environment. These structures were initially almost entirely fabricated on-site.

    In the beginning, the use of the new material consisted of imitating traditional forms and structural dispositions. When discussing balconies, this referred to the placement of horizontal slabs atop consoles. The consoles, which were previously only attached through weigh-down now, could now be connected to the structure of the pillar or the beam using the possibilities allowed by the monolithic technology. Steel bars were laid into the reinforced concrete, and they were connected to the consoles. It wasn't until much later in history that the solution of using cantilevered reinforced concrete slabs became widely popular and widely available.

    The early structures made of reinforced concrete were, for the most part, well constructed. The majority of flaws and damages are brought on by moisture penetrating the concrete through microscopic cracks and corroding the steel underneath. In turn, corrosion will cause volume expansion, which will result in the surface of the concrete breaking apart. Fortunately, in the case of consoles, the real load-bearing tension-steel elements are located at the top, underneath the slab, and as a result, they are less susceptible to the damages that have been described.

    The consoled balconies (and the consequently less abundantly built hanging corridors) were made of monolithic concrete slabs in the case of prefabricated reinforced concrete beam slab types that were abundant after the end of the second world war (typical examples include: soft steel ÉTI beams with brick and concrete tray inlays, later: tensioned beams with concrete or ceramic block inlays). In reinforced concrete balconies with a small outcrop, the steel was frequently only connected to the ring beam (which results in a torsion load), or it was led into the overlaying concrete of the slab (if there was such). In the best of the cases, the steel was fastened down behind a slab beam, and in the less common of the two solutions, it was embedded in a reinforcement bar that ran across the beams.

    In many instances (in family homes or small apartment buildings), these solutions were made without or regardless of the construction plans, inconsiderate to the rules and regulations of the time, and as a result, with inadequate load-bearing capacity. This is especially the case when the slab is only connected to the ring beam. This creates a risk that is especially difficult to assess during the refurbishment or reconstruction work being done (in these cases, we may only be certain of the applied solution through exploration of instrumental investigation). Since this solution (would have) required thoughtful design and (prefabricated slab-based) relatively intricate fabrication work, the professional solution, which consisted of an internal, slab-high, reinforced concrete cantilever slab section in the prefabricated slab, was rarely used. Because this did not interfere with the prefabricated slab sections of the building, it was a solution that was used relatively frequently. It consisted of an outcropping consoled site-fabricated beam that was weighed down by the load-bearing wall that was located above it. In these particular situations, the slab of the balcony was either resting directly on the consoled beams or on an edge beam that was positioned in between the consoled beams and the ring beam of the building itself. The two balcony solutions that have been described more recently are typically adequately safe, and in some cases even more than adequately safe, from a statical point of view.

    Before the 1990s, the effects of thermal bridges caused by site-manufactured reinforced concrete balconies were either not considered at all or were only considered on an ad hoc basis. The new tendencies took their sweet time making their way into design practise, and the construction industry was even slower to catch on to them. Thermal bridge gap utilisation became usual only at the turn of the millennium. However, even their use was not always significant in the grand scheme of things. Only in recent years has the absence of thermal bridges in their entirety become a practically necessary requirement.

    Prefabricated reinforced concrete balconies and hanging corridors

    Elements made of prefabricated reinforced concrete in the structural group that was the focus of the investigation were never typical. Nevertheless, there were some difficulties. In the early period (the beginning decades of the 20th century), we might mention prefabricated reinforced concrete console elements. These were meant to replace stone consoles in a way that was functionally identical to how stone consoles were used (e.g. inner slab beams as consoles) István Medgyaszay was the one responsible for the design. In more recent times, we might mention some console ready slab beam or slab plank solutions (such as Fk-beams, Ytong, DE planks, and so on), or the pre-fabrication that is used in the panel structures (loggia elements).

    Pillar supported structures (loggias, circular corridors)

    In the interest of providing a comprehensive overview, it is necessary for us to say a few words about pillar-supported structures, such as upper floor terraces, multi-story loggias, and circular corridors, which are commonly referred to as balconies or hanging corridors. This is a common misconception. These can also be crafted from stone, cast iron, steel, reinforced concrete, wood, or a combination of the aforementioned materials. With the exception of the obvious differences that are inherent to the various statics plays, we are able to state approximately the same as we did before in the case of the previously detailed consoled structures on the basis of the various materials and structural components. The most significant distinction is that the more advantageous statics models (those with dual or multiple supports) have a greater reserve of stability, which means that damages cause less frequently life-threatening situations.

    Iconic examples of the group include brick or stone pillar resting beam-, or laid vault supported multi-story loggias, and slender cast-iron pillar supported circular courtyard corridors, both of which can be seen in a number of representative buildings from the 19th century and the early 20th century.

    An evaluation concerning the adequacy for requirements:

    As was previously mentioned, historical structures (roughly those built between 1850 and 1990) that comply with the rules and regulations of the time period in which they were built are – if not according to the standards of today, but on the basis of experience based on use – generally considered safe for use (until the appearance of structural damage). The majority of the time, sudden deterioration can be anticipated as the breaking of the stone supports (or, on occasion, the stone slabs), or as the breaking of the slag-concrete slabs.

    Although at the time of their construction, thermodynamical considerations were not important in any of the cases described above, the level to which thermal bridge effects manifest themselves is in no way uniform across all circumstances: Stone consoles that are built into the wall create an effect similar to a thermal bridge but on a much smaller scale (at least until the wall is insulated). In contrast, the monolithic reinforced concrete slab console is a source of thermal bridges, which results in a significant amount of heat loss.

    Because, in these circumstances, only the consoles themselves are responsible for transmitting structure-borne noise, we can also say that the spot-like wall connection offered by the consoled solutions is superior from an acoustic point of view.

    Insulation that is waterproof and resistant to precipitation was not manufactured for the vast majority of buildings until relatively recent times. An adequately inclined layer of frost-proof stone slabs or a surface finish that may be considered as homogeneous (such as artificial stone) are much better from this point of view than tiles laid in mortar because water infiltration and the consequential damages are typically only a question of time with the latter option. It is also essential to consider the construction of the outer edge of the balcony or hanging corridor, including whether or not it has a drip edge and whether or not water is directed away from the edge in an appropriate manner. In the absence of a drip edge, the water that reaches the bottom line will not freely drop but will instead flow back towards the interior, causing the plastering to deteriorate. From the perspective of this later consideration, the U-profiled steel edge beam constructions of hanging corridors are the most perilous. The majority of the time, water will easily be able to get to this location and will infiltrate its way under the upper segment of the U beam that is located at the edge of the tiling, causing extensive damage.

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    What are the critical components for long term performance of decks and balconies?

    Support columns 

    It is imperative that support columns be designed to accommodate the maximum load that is anticipated in addition to the unsupported height of the column. In order to provide safe support for decks, notching of columns, which is sometimes done at beam or girder connections, needs to be properly designed, detailed, and constructed.

    Ledger connections 

    The performance of a deck is dependent upon the ledgers, which are the members that are attached to the exterior walls and to which the joists of the deck are connected. In most cases, ledgers are attached to the exterior walls using lag bolts. Because the maximum loads that can be supported by lag bolts are relatively low, it is necessary to use multiple lag bolts for each joist in a typical deck. Metal joist hangers are typically used to provide support for deck joists from the ledger boards. These hangers have high allowable loads and pose very little risk as long as they are installed in accordance with the instructions provided by the manufacturer. In addition, ledgers present additional challenges for the support of decks. The installation of ledgers results in openings being created within the exterior walls. These openings allow water to enter the interior of the walls, which leads to the deterioration of the wall components. For decks to perform well over the course of their lifetime, proper flashing and water management details must be implemented.


    At any point along the top of the guardrail, the guardrail must be able to safely support a load of two hundred and fifty pounds acting in any direction. Additionally, the top of the guardrail must be able to safely support a load of fifty pounds per foot acting in any direction. It is necessary for these loads to be transferred through the structure's supports in a secure manner. The connection of the handrail posts is an essential part of the guardrails that are being installed. It is required by code that guardrails be installed at a height of 42 inches above the deck surface. When this height is added to the necessary load of 200 pounds, there is a significant amount of bending force created at the bottom of the handrail posts. Handrail posts that are bolted to the joists typically do not have the design strength necessary to withstand these loads in the absence of additional blocking or straps to secure the posts.

    Decks and balconies are popular additions to residential buildings because of their aesthetic value and practical utility. On the other hand, if their design, construction, and maintenance are not carefully considered, they have the potential to be fatal. They are vulnerable to the corrosive effects of the environment because of the very nature of their existence, and their connections to the structure typically disrupt the weather-resistant cladding that covers the structure. Decks and balconies should be subjected to regular inspections and maintenance routines, and the boards of homeowners associations and condominium complexes should be aware of the potential risks involved.

    FAQs About Balcony Repair

    There are balconies available on a wide variety of property types, including homes, apartments, restaurants, theatres, and concert halls for music. It is possible for the balcony to fall apart if the railings are not properly maintained. When something like this takes place, victims may sustain serious injuries.

    In residential or commercial buildings, a structure known as a cantilevered balcony is one that protrudes outward and away from a wall. It is built with a cantilevered design, which means that the beams that support the balcony are only attached at one end. This leaves the other end, which protrudes away from the main structure, without any support.

    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.

    Comparable to a deck that lacks posts

    The far end of the balcony could be supported by posts that bear on footings, but metal rods, cables, or brackets are typically used because they have a more classic appearance. You have the freedom to make any of the three choices utilitarian, decorative, or somewhere in between; however, the safest option should be the one you choose.

    According to the author's observations made over the course of the past fifteen years, there has been no report of the collapse of a concrete slab balcony as a result of live load. It is possible that there have been some instances of excessive deflection, but this is not the case.

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