Deck and Balcony Safety

9 Apr 2014
EAC
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There has been a number of recent incidents in NSW and other States involving balconies and decks resulting in injury and death.

Balconies, decks, balustrades and railings must be built to meet the requirements of the Building Code of Australia and relevant Australian Standards.

The Building Code requires the structure and materials used to build a balcony or deck withstand the normal stresses that would be placed on it.

Decks and balconies, like all parts of our homes and other buildings, require routine and regular maintenance to keep them in good repair and to identify any emerging issues.

Under NSW tenancy laws, landlords must provide and maintain rented premises in a reasonable state of repair. At the beginning of a tenancy, any faults or damage should be noted on the condition report that must be completed and signed by both parties.

For simple tips about what to look for to ensure your deck is safe please refer to the Archicentre factsheet below.

Your Home – Balcony Safe Tips (Archicentre factsheet)

It’s critical to ascertain whether your balcony has been built properly. One way is by checking council records for proof of building approval. Another way is by having it checked out by a structural engineer or a specially trained architect.

The following tips may also be useful:

Timber Balconies

Identify the species of timber. Oregon may not be appropriate for external structures. It is
distinguishable by a broad softwood grain pattern and by a pinkish colour when fresh surfaces are exposed, like during a split, for instance.

  1. Observe for any compression or deformation of the structural members.
  2. Test the timber by probing with a sharp object like a screwdriver. Decayed timber may feel soft and spongy.
  3. Gain access underneath using a ladder.Check connection points at the beams with a screwdriver for deterioration. Timber generally rots where two pieces of timber join together. Examine brackets and bolts to make sure they are not rusted.
  4. Make sure the timber balcony is properly fixed to the house or that the members run int the house.
  5. Check base of timber posts for rot and again check brackets and bolts for signs of rust.
  6. Posts need to be securely anchored into the ground and not just bolted into the paving.
  7. Check handrails and vertical balustrade to make sure they are not rotted and unstable.

 

Concrete Balconies

  1. Look for signs of deflection. If the balcony leans, there is a problem.
  2. Examine the underside of the concrete balcony. Rust stains on exposed steel reinforcing are signs of a serious problem.
  3. Check handrails and balustrades to make sure they are not rotted, loose or unstable.
  4. The presence of spalling, where chunks of concrete are flaking off, may be a serious problem and needs to be inspected by an expert.

 
Don’t wait, if there is anything suspicious about a balcony’s stability, avoid the area until an
Architect is able to determine the full scale of the problem.

Source: NSW Fair Trading

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