Why do balconies leak?

While balconies are a highly popular feature in apartment buildings, they can sometimes cause major headaches rather than being places of relaxation and enjoyment. This is because they are the most common sites for water leakages on a property. In a worst-case scenario, this leakage can cause the balcony to become unsafe, which is the nightmare of every strata owner. Today, we will discuss why leakages happen, what you can do to prevent them from getting worse and who is responsible for repairs.

According to insurance statistics, the highest number of waterproofing failures are found in balconies and terraces. Although the design criteria in many of these structures lack appreciation for water control, not all leaking balconies are caused by a waterproofing membrane fault. Without proper inspection or planning, leaking balconies can have devastating consequences, and should be of concern to any homeowner or builder.

There’s nothing more damaging to the value of your home than a leaking balcony. Well, it’s only water, you think, shrugging off the slowly cracking grout as something to deal with later; the longer you delay, the more you may pay – nobody likes losing money. Although the how and when are very important, knowing why will prevent future damage – let’s lift the tiles and see what’s underneath.

Insurance statistics have shown the highest number of waterproofing failures are balconies, terraces, rooftops in high rise dwellings and commercial buildings. The design criteria in many of these buildings lack appreciation for water control.

  • Water ingress into dwelling spaces below causes disputes between neighbours and often ends in litigation.
  • The widespread problem of mould spoors from damp affected areas, which are detrimental to people’s health.
  • Water ingress is affecting concrete structures with an eventual demise of the critical structural components.

And it is not always the waterproof membrane at fault.

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

Why balconies leak

Most balconies will leak in their lifetime. Considerable changes that have occurred in construction and waterproofing methods over time have impacted the effectiveness of waterproofing membranes. Many balconies are being constructed with minimal falls to the substrate, especially in multi-level apartments. Such balconies are susceptible to water pooling and moisture between the membrane and tiles, known as ‘ponding’. If the waterproofing membrane cannot withstand ponding water, over time the membrane will break down, causing water leaks. Waterlogging can also cause joint failure, leading to leaks.


Common causes of balcony leaks

Common causes of balcony leaks include lack of planning before construction; absence of building maintenance; rainwater causing pooling and breakdown of membranes; lack of drainage; and natural building movement leading to cracks and leakage.

When balconies are constructed, proper care and supervision must be ensured in the preparation stage. The contractor must be aware of the correct installation of components, and the use of waterproofing membranes in compliance with current manufacturing and building codes to minimise the risk of a leaking balcony. Taking shortcuts during the build or lack of expertise can result in an improper waterproofing installation, leading to leaks, damage to the structural component of the balcony and building, and possible collapse or breakdown of the structure, not to speak of potential health risks that may occur due to mould formation.

Rectification of the waterproofing system involving reinstallation of membranes and associated finishes can be very expensive. Leaks can also lead to disputes between neighbours or homeowners and landlords, resulting in possible litigation.

All these risks can lead to various challenges, including financial loss, reduced property value, and health and safety hazards.

What is Building Movement

Building movement occurs every day, across cities, towns and suburban developments; every structure will experience expansion and contraction, as Australia’s harsh seasons batter the integrity of your home, workplace and weekend amenities. Swollen walls/ architraves cracked tiles and paint, and sagging floors can all be related to building movement, either directly or symptomatically.

Your home or rental property may be new, old or middle-aged; it doesn’t matter. Although your investment is holding up its end of the bargain in other areas, a leaking balcony can be a sign of inferior craftsmanship. Not all movement is bad, but the balcony and bathroom leaks can be dangerous.

What Building Movement Does to Your Balcony

There are many different types of building structures, including timber, metal & concrete, all are prone to building movement. Fast Fact: Almost all balconies are tiled, wherever tiling is involved grouting follows.

Because your home is constantly moving ever so slightly, causing cracks to form in the tile grout (and eventually the tiles themselves), vulnerabilities need to exist all ready to be exploited. Once fissures form, the Australian elements creep in and create a wet, humid paradise in which mould can thrive; one weakness leads to another. It’s a vicious cycle.

When Do You Have a Problem?

As we said before, building movement is not inherently bad, nor is it good, it just is. However, the combination of building movement, poor choice of materials, poor workmanship and the harsh Australian elements can spell disaster within a matter of months. An accident could be lurking just around the corner, so how do you tell if you have a problem?

Obvious Damage/Change in Appearance: 

Although it may be too late to take pictures, note any details included in the pre-purchase inspection or tenancy report. How was the balcony rated? Were there any signs of deterioration noted? Make an honest assessment of your continually damp balcony. Are there cracks in the grout? Has efflorescence occurred? Use our photo gallery (under the Resources) and match-up our listed symptoms.

Presence of Silicone: 

The presence of silicone on balconies, in many cases, may have been applied as a solution to stopping water from travelling below the tile surface. Such sealants will degrade if they are not applied properly or meet industry and environment standards, including UV and general weather. A Megasealed service is a preventative measure from water and moisture travelling below the tiled surface and uses the appropriate materials in doing so. Perfect for Australian homes and businesses.

Inspirations turned to Nightmares. When Leaking Balconies are ignored

Leaking Balcony repairs should not be ignored. Can you spot if your balcony has a leak? With the increase in high density living across metropolitan cities. The humble balcony provides a welcome outdoor space. Where we can enjoy a humble bbq or be surrounded by greenery to provide peace and calm to our hectic lives, in stark contrast, an ongoing issue with balcony leaks can quickly turn that serenity to chaos and headaches.

Not to mention leaks in elevated balconies can affect the living space or apartment directly beneath the balcony. So it’s important to realise that any inaction in delaying balcony repairs will not only affect your home but your neighbours as well. Water leaks can be catastrophic to the substructure underneath. Balcony defects can have serious detrimental effects on the use, enjoyment, and value of a property.

Assessing your Balcony & Determining the cause for a leaking balcony

The best approach for repairing a leaking balcony is to have a professional and licensed waterproofing person assess the cause of the balcony leakage. Licensed professionals know and understand the construction methods and Australian Building Codes. There can be a number of reasons why a waterproofed balcony has failed. Consequently identifying the cause, the integrity of the structure, and the duration of the leak will indicate the type of repair required.

A correct assessment of leaking balconies is an important step in the final results, along with recommendations and solutions provided by an experienced professional.

Looking for balcony repairs Melbourne? Look no further. Hitch Property Constructions has you covered.

Waterproof Membrane Failure

Most balcony leaks are caused by a waterproofing membrane that has failed. The membrane system of a balcony offers a barrier against water. The correct application should be made at all wall upturns, drains, around balustrade and other areas of the balcony where water could penetrate. A professional contractor is trained to examine the waterproofing membrane and determine whether it is causing the leak. If leaks are left undetected or uncorrected, they can lead to even larger leaks that result in considerable damage and costly repairs. In some cases, the balcony structure could be the cause of the leak. Your contractor will identify issues with the structure of the balcony and advise on recommendations for a fix.

Although waterproofing accounts for less than 3% of the building costs, according to insurance companies, the largest number of waterproofing failures are with balconies. When balconies are constructed, the preparation stage is crucial for the integrity of the balcony. Defects in balconies can be a result of poor design or poor construction by the builder. Builders may feel pressure to keep construction costs low or speed up the build by homeowners. Which, in turn, may lead them to use cheaper and inferior waterproofing products or not leaving enough time for the waterproofing to cure. Also, poor design with an inadequate slope that doesn’t drain water properly can lead to rainwater ponding on the balcony, in time affecting the waterproof membrane.

What to look out for to prevent balcony leaks?

Balconies are vulnerable to water seepage since they’re constantly exposed to the elements. Construction of each balcony is unique, and the risk of water intrusion is more likely if waterproofing methods don’t accommodate the balcony design. Balconies require proper drainage and isolation from the internal elements of a building, with the correct waterproofing membrane installed to stop leaking. The failure of the waterproofing is usually at the fault of an inexperienced contractor, incorrect membrane selection, or occurs if the homeowner or contractor wants to reduce costs.

The first thing to do if you’re experiencing a leaky balcony is to perform a thorough check and assessment to identify any abnormalities or maintenance issues. If you pour water over the tiles and notice some leakage, it’s an indication that the membrane is breached/faulty allowing water seepage. Other things to look out for include:

  • Cracked or missing grout.
  • Water stains on the underside of the balcony or internal ceiling.
  • Problems with opening and closing the balcony doors.
  • Peeling or splitting paint.
  • Weak structural joints in the balcony railing and posts.

If you suspect your balcony is leaking, the best thing to do is hire a contractor to come and inspect the area to determine what the source of the issue is. They can determine if any of the above apply, or if the membrane has failed.

Unless you are directly responsible for the contractor hired to build your balcony – which is highly unlikely – there is little, you can do to prevent these construction errors. However, you can make sure that leakages do not have far-reaching consequences by spotting issues early and reaching out to professionals.

The most common signs are cracked or missing grout, peeling paint, and, of course, water stains and leaks on the balcony’s underside – which is a good reason for why you should chat with your downstairs neighbours every once in a while. If you spot any of these, you should bring it to the attention of your strata committee or strata management and ask them to have a professional assess the issue. As it is likely that all the units in your strata scheme were constructed at the same time by the same contractor, this assessment will also be of interest for the other owners.

Preventing balcony leaks

Balconies are constantly exposed to the elements, making them vulnerable to water seepage. Balcony designs vary from building to building, and construction of each balcony is unique. The risk of water intrusion is more likely if waterproofing methods don’t accommodate the balcony design. Drainage is important and so is proper isolation from the internal elements of the building, with the correct waterproofing membrane installed to prevent leaks. Waterproofing failures occur mostly due to inexperienced contractors, incorrect membrane selection or cost-cutting during construction.

When you spot a water leak on your balcony, get a professional to perform a thorough check and assessment to identify any abnormalities or maintenance issues. Indications include cracked or missing grout; water stains on the underside of the balcony or internal ceiling; problems with opening and closing balcony doors; peeling or splitting paint; and weak structural joints in balcony railings and posts.

Who is responsible for repairs?

According to Fair Trading NSW, balcony leakages are usually the responsibility of the owner’s corporation. However, each strata scheme has its bylaws, so it is highly recommended that you look over them to check what is and isn’t defined as common property in your scheme.

Nonetheless, suppose your strata scheme has adopted model bylaws from after 1974. In that case, it is very likely that balconies are part of common property and thus the responsibility of the owner’s corporation to repair.

Dangers of a leaking balcony

You should never delay the repair of a leaking balcony. The leak can cause significant damage to not only the structure of the balcony but also the surrounding parts of your home. Seepage from balcony leaks leads to deterioration and decay. The leak can easily spread to other areas of your home, affecting external walls. You may begin to notice that the paint on your walls or ceiling chips or discolours over time. Moreover, the leaks can cause damage to the electrical system within your home, which can be particularly dangerous, resulting in power outages or harmful charges. Imagine your living room is situated under the balcony. The leak has penetrated to the substructure and now has gotten to the electrical wiring of your lights. Touch the light switch, and you might be in for a rude shock. Finally, if the water is able to seep into your external walls or the area below the balcony, the entire structure can collapse. Delaying balcony leak repairs is extremely dangerous. Thus typically resulting in more complicated and time-consuming construction work.

As soon as you become aware of a potential balcony leak, it is imperative that you contact a professional. Your licensed contractor can start repairs quickly to mitigate the damage.

Waterproof Membranes to Australian Standards

The best way to prevent balcony leaks is to properly waterproof the balcony during initial construction. Contractors should follow standards as per AS4654.2 when waterproofing membranes are applied.

Certain measures must be taken in order to prevent leaking issues and seepage over time. The most recommended way to protect your balcony from leaks is to install a waterproofing membrane. The membrane must be of high quality and built to last in order to be effective.

A membrane system protects various areas of your balcony that are exposed to water penetration. By preventing water from leaking beneath the balcony, you can protect the structure for long periods of time and avoid costly repairs.

Most importantly, the waterproof membrane must be flexible. A professional contractor understands that building materials expand and contract over time, due to different factors such as the environment. A flexible waterproofing membrane can accommodate the movement—both of your structure and the building that connects to your balcony.

Waterproofing a balcony is not a time to cut corners or speed through quickly. Improper application leads to leaks and damage. Only high-quality materials and correct application techniques. Will result in a proper membrane system that waterproofs a balcony.

Hitch Property Constructions has a wide range of the Melbourne balcony repairs right here. 

Fix a Leaking Balcony with professional help

Homeowners should avoid do-it-yourself projects when it comes to repairing balcony leaks. Balcony leaks are not just nuisances, and they can be very dangerous for your property and your person. The process of repairing a leaking balcony and properly waterproofing it involves complicated techniques and specialised tools best left to trained professionals.

The best approach to repair a balcony leak is to hire a licensed and professional waterproofing company. An experienced professional knows how to test for leaks and identify the weakest point of your balcony for water penetrations. When carrying out works, they will also remove any structures like air conditioning units to ensure that the entire balcony is sealed properly. Licensed professionals have the skillset and experience to carry out comprehensive repairs. Moreover, they will inspect the entire balcony and advise on other potential problems such as drainage and overflows.

Caught early balcony leaks can be fixed quite simply and inexpensively. Left for an extended period of time and you are left with no choice but for a rebuild. The cost of rebuilding a balcony can be exorbitant. So remedial action is always advised.

The best approach to repairing a leaking balcony is to hire a professional waterproofing service. There are many procedures involved that only a professional has the skillset to carry out. They will choose the best waterproofing membrane solution to withstand the balconies structural movement and seal it from the elements. They’ll also inspect the balcony and advise any additional work that can alleviate other potential problems such as drainage, overflows, etc. Projex supply the highest quality membrane systems (Wolfin & Cosmofin) that can withstand the building movements and offer excellent longevity for the rectification of leaking balconies and terraces.

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