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Rot in Balcony - property managers beware

Property Managers need to be wary of balconies. 

There is a tendency to look at a balcony and see that its structure is either concrete or steel and feel safe. However, where the structure comprises a steel frame the infill floor may be of timber construction and herein lies the potential problem.

We recently surveyed a steel framed balcony and noted on opening up that the floor timbers were decayed and the joists were not spaced at a safe distance. This particular balcony was not safe for one person never mind a family of four.

While the balcony itself is not likely to collapse the floor is and this could cause serious injury to a person on the balcony or someone below from falling debris.

Anywhere you have a steel frame with timber infill floor check the following:

  • the structural joists for decay
    • the sizing of joists and spacing
    • check the underside for any lining coming loose
    • check also bolt/screw fixings to the wall of the steel frame
    • check the weathering to the balcony for damage, ponding or poor detailing at door threshold and upstand. These can all lead to water ingress resulting in mould and decay
  • Where glass panels are provided to the steel frame handrail check:

    • the fixings for corrosion,
    • that the glazing has a kite mark signifying it is toughened glass.

    Balconies are very much in vogue following the Berkeley balcony collapse. Balconies in the newer developments in Ireland are rarely formed in the same way as Berkeley where the joists cantilevered out to provide support for the balcony. However, we do have many cases of timber floors to balconies and these require regular maintenance and review. A planned maintenance programme is recommended for all developments and this must include the balconies.