Pest damage, water rot, corrosion, or other physical damage to your decking or rails can occur in obscure locations.
Timber can fail for a number of reasons including incorrect timber selected (ie not suitable for an external structure), poor maintenance, or insect attack by the European House Borers or termites.
Concrete balconies can also be affected by cracking, flaking, or corrosion of reinforcement. If well maintained, they should generally last 40-50 years.
All balconies and entertainment areas should be checked to ensure their safety:
- Spongy timber could be wood rot or termite attack. This timber must be replaced and termite inspection and treatment done to ensure the termites have not bridged into the home via the deck.
- Sagging boards/decking could be a sign of subfloor problems, so check the floor frame, or look for warped boards and loose connections.
- Check connection points and fixings for rigidity and evidence of corrosion or cracking and seek professional advice on how to remedy the situation. Seaside properties are particularly vulnerable.
- Keep treatments on timber to preserve and increase its lifespan. These products not only keep timber looking good they protect it from the weather so follow manufacturer instructions for the recommended reapplication of your treatment of choice.
It is important to note that the structure may not have been built correctly to start with, so if you have any doubt, have it inspected by a competent person such as a registered builder or structural engineer.
With elevated areas, care must also be taken with balustrade safety. Ensure the balustrade has been installed correctly and fixed to the structural elements (i.e. wall or structural beams) and not superficially to the decking or floor. Wire balustrades lose their tension with time so tighten wires periodically to maintain the maximum 125mm spacing required where the floor is greater than one metre above the surface below.
You should also be aware that under many household insurance policies a balcony or deck collapse may not be an insured event, so owners could be hit by costly law suits where a failure causes damage to people or property.
We have heard about a number of balcony failures both in WA and in other states – many resulting in serious injuries and some even death. Although overcrowding can be the cause of a failure, it is often due to lack of maintenance. Regardless of the reason for a balcony failure, ensuring balconies and decks are maintained and safe is the responsibility of the building owner. So protect yourself and visitors to your home and ensure your deck or balcony are safe.
The Building Commission of WA has a great publication Balconies and Decks a guide to maintenance. Clike here to download the article.
If you have any cause for concern, use a Master Builders member to conduct an inspection.