A balcony is a platform attached to the house, but is not typically supported from the ground. Balconies may be built on the joists that extend from the floor joist system of the house, or they may be extensions of the interior floor joists that are cantilevered over the exterior foundation wall. It is important that a complete evaluation of the balconies be conducted, to ensure that they are structurally safe. Balconies can fail if their support, joists or fasteners deteriorate because of weather and lack of maintenance.
The flooring of the balcony area is vulnerable to deterioration, especially if it has been used to support plants that are frequently watered and seldom moved, or are located on the north side of the structure. As with the decks and landings, the balcony area should be properly secured with hand rails and guard rail sections. Evaluate the point where the cantilevered joist or flooring supports rest upon the foundation walls. Check for cracking of the foundation structure, as well as for sag, deterioration and other signs of failure in the structural supporting members of the balcony.
Inspect Porches, Decks, Balconies
The most common mistake found in the construction of porches and balconies is nailing them to houses and buildings instead of using proper anchors. Building to code, which requires a building permit and an inspection, will help ensure that the structure is safe. It is also advisable to contact a professional, licensed engineer to inspect the porch or balcony.
According to building safety codes published by the International Code Council, residential porches should withstand at least 40 pounds per square foot plus the weight of the porch itself. Balconies, which are only supported where they are connected to the building, are designed to withstand 60 pounds per square foot. "A rule of thumb is if people on the porch or balcony have difficulty moving, the structure probably exceeds capacity," explained International Code Council Vice President of Code Development Mike Pfeiffer, a licensed professional engineer. "Decks that sway are unstable too and should be inspected."
Inspect decks and balconies for the following:
- Split or rotting wood
- Loose or missing nails, screws or anchors where the porch attaches to the building
- Missing, damaged or loose support beams and planking
- Wobbly handrails or guardrails
If you find any of those problems with your porch or balcony, you should get a professional inspection, And when building or repairing a porch be sure to get a building permit from the local building department. Make sure the structure meets building safety codes and is inspected by a local official before it is used.
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A porch is an extension with a roof on the exterior of the residence. Porches differ in design and purpose from decks and landings. Railings, posts and other decorative elements provide character to a house, but they should be examined to ensure that they are free from deterioration and will provide the necessary structural support.
Porches that are open to the weather should have floors that slope away from the residence. The slope should be incorporated into the design so that water drains easily off of the porch. It's preferable to have entry underneath the porch area to examine the supporting structure and to be sure that the posts and columns are acceptable. Wood elements should have a separation from the ground or soil area. Brick and masonry components should be plumb, with their mortar joints in good condition.
Porches may also be an entrance to the residence. Wood stairways leading from the ground to the porch should be examined from underneath as well as from the top to ensure that the stringers and other supporting members are not deteriorating. Handrails should be examined to ensure that they are properly fastened to the supporting structures. If the stairway is masonry or concrete, examine it for cracking, settling, or tripping hazards.
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