Balconies are beautiful additions and can provide bountiful views, but they can also pose a safety hazard if not maintained. In addition, they can pose a danger to small children or pets if steps aren’t taken to make them as safe as they can be. Keep reading to learn more about balcony safety and maintenance.
Maintain Your Balcony
Keeping your balcony in safe and sturdy working order is the most important step you can take to ensure that everyone who ventures out onto it won’t be injured. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Step 1: Inspect/Repair Damage or Deterioration
Check for splinters, and loose, warped or rotted boards. Sand down splinters or rough areas on boards. Refasten loose boards with wood screws and an electric screwdriver. Replace warped wood or rotted pieces with new lumber.
Concrete or stone balconies should be checked for cracks and crumbling. If you have thin cracks, you can usually use a cement-based patching compound or masonry crack filler to make the repair. Apply the crack filler as you would apply caulk, moving along the length of the crack. You may use a putty knife or trowel to apply vinyl concrete patching compound, as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions. Press it firmly in to the crack to force the initial layer into all nooks and crannies and allow drying time between layers. For cosmetic repairs, you may use a polymer premixed concrete patching compound. All of the repair materials will likely differ in color from the balcony. You may prepare some of the patching material and let it cure and dry in order to compare color. For best appearance, you may paint with an appropriate textured concrete coating.
For large cracks in the balcony floor, you may need the help of a professional, as structural issues can be very dangerous when concerning a balcony.
Inspect support posts, balusters and railings for any looseness, cracks, rotting, excessive rust or missing fasteners or other issues that can affect balcony structural integrity.
Check the balcony railing wall and floor brackets. If they are loose, screw loose brackets back into the wall and floor with an electric screwdriver. Refasten or replace screws at the base of loose balusters (vertical bars of the railing).
Replace any structural elements you cannot repair. When in doubt, call in a professional for help.
Step 2: Keep it Clean
Keeping your balcony clear of dirt and grime and water can make it last longer, especially with wood surfaces. Unchecked water and dirt only speed up the deterioration of balcony surfaces. Regularly clean it and keep it free of standing water and debris.
Start with a good scrubbing. Scrub the balcony floor until it's clean and free of algae or mildew using a scrub brush and either wood or concrete cleaner, depending on the type of surface. Follow all instructions on the label. Use a garden hose with high-power nozzle, and an old knife or similar tool to get out dirt and debris from between cracks between floor planks.
Wear goggles when spraying the balcony floor to avoid splashing yourself in the eye with debris or chemical cleaners that you’re using.
Protect your shoes and clothes and skin from the spray.
Wear kneepads, if you will be working on your knees.
There are a number of balcony safety issues outside of maintenance to mind, especially in a home with young children and pets. Here are a few tips to keep everyone safe and to have a great time enjoying the balcony:
Step 1: Watch Furniture Placement
Balcony furniture can pose a safety hazard to children and pets if it is placed near the railing and could allow kids or your dog to climb above the top of the railing. Keep furniture and other items away from the balcony railing or don’t allow children and pets onto the balcony unless they’re being supervised by an adult.
Check your balcony’s railing height. Usually balcony railings are around 36" to 42" from the balcony floor. But check with your local municipality on what their building codes require.
Talk to children about how the balcony can be dangerous if not used properly. Discourage them from playing on or around the railing and explain what can potentially happen if they aren’t safe.
Keep the entrance to the balcony locked or otherwise obstructed with a baby or pet gate, if you still feel like your children or pets may not be safe on the balcony.
If you have planters or other objects on your balcony railings, ensure that they are tightly secured to it so that they don’t accidentally fall from the balcony and potentially injure someone or damage something below.
Step 2: Check Bar Spacing
Ensure that your balcony railing has proper spacing between balusters. The bars are there to keep children or pets from accidentally falling through to the ground below or becoming stuck in between them. If they weren’t installed to code, allowing too much space in between, they are not as effective as a safety measure. Check with your city’s ordinances to see if your balcony is indeed meeting all codes and requirements. Typically, the gap between vertical bars is around 4" to 6".
Consider installing balcony netting (usually made of plastic mesh) for added fortification to protect anyone or anything from potentially falling through the space between the bars.
Step 3: Know Balcony’s Maximum Capacity
Overcrowding a balcony or deck can be dangerous if the weight on the balcony exceeds its maximum load capacity. If you don’t know your balcony’s max capacity, contact your local municipality to find out codes and regulations that relate to decks and balconies. This should give you an idea of how much weight your balcony can take, as long as it is in proper condition. Consider removing any heavy items, such as weighty furniture or appliances that might be adding too much weight.
That’s it! Now you know how to keep your balcony maintained and safe. Relax and take in the views.
Project Shopping List
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