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Decks and Balconies

18 December 2015

Many homes in Melbourne contain outdoor areas such as decks and balconies. With Christmas and New Year fast approaching the warmer weather brings thoughts of outdoor gatherings.

How often do you hear of a balcony collapse on new year’s eve? Unfortunately it’s not an uncommon occurrence. The combination of too many people and some funky dance moves can be too much for some structures. The problem is if the balcony is overloaded a collapse can happen all too quickly and if it’s an upper storey balcony there can be at least three metres to fall. The resulting harm and injury can result in serious injury or death.

Decks and balconies require special attention and maintenance. This is because generally they are exposed to the elements of sun, rain and wind. This is particularly the case if the structure is uncovered. If you are at a beach location like St Kilda or Elwood this can exacerbate the problem as the sea air can corrode bolts holding the structure together.

Basics of construction:

  • The deck or balcony must designed in accordance with the Timber Framing Manual and Australian Standard 1684.2-2010.
  • The structural engineer has to calculate for live loads (moving people/pets) as well as dead loads (furniture/planter boxes/BBQ’s).
  • If your house is in a bushfire prone area there are special rules for balconies and decks and they must comply with the relevant BAL rating.
  • Regular inspections and maintenance are essential.
  • If it’s an old structure consideration should be given to replacing it.

Some simple tips:

  • Regularly inspect the structure for rotting timbers. This includes the decking material and the supporting joists.
  • Examine bolts for corrosion, and use correct bolts for the conditions (eg stainless steel bolts).
  • Check handrails and balustrades are in stable condition to protect from the risk of falls.
  • Check that water does not gather on the surface, but rather drains away.
  • Signs of cladding moving from the structure is an indication that there may be problems with the substructure.
  • Be careful of material selection and make sure you get the right products for the job.

Regular Maintenance:

  • Scrubbing deck boards and recoating with decking oil.
  • Ensure you clean material between the decking material and the joist.
  • Check for unusual movement or signs of the structure not being rigid.
  • If you are thinking of having a party on a deck or balcony, make sure the numbers are appropriate for the structure.

If you find any faults you should take immediate action to fix the problem and restrict access to the area. If you have any doubts you should contact a professional and get a proper assessment done.

Supa Group’s Design Consultants are experienced at designing decks and balconies. If you are thinking of renovating make sure the program includes your deck or balcony. Or if you’re doing a house extension anywhere in Melbourne, discuss these matters with our design consultants and incorporate the right engineering and materials into the structure in the first place.

Then maintain it and enjoy.

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