What Is a Balcony Inspection Checklist?
According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), there are over 40 million decks in the United States that are 20 years or older. The majority of them were built way before balcony code requirements were mandated. Thus, these decks are not durable enough to be used for a long period. The risks these structures pose are significant; the higher the balcony, the bigger the risk of serious injury. In fact, the number of reported accidents and deaths from 2003 to 2015 because of collapsed balconies and decks has amounted to 6,500 and, unfortunately, are still growing.
This is why the importance of balcony inspections is being emphasized by safety organizations. Decks and balconies require maintenance just like any other exterior building component and must meet safety standards for the protection of the inhabitants of the establishment or house. While homeowners can do their due diligence in checking their balconies for any signs of wear, it is highly recommended that a qualified professional be called in to conduct a more thorough evaluation of the structure’s condition. Even though the exterior may look okay, there could be hidden cracks or issues that only trained eyes will be able to catch.
Because every apartment balcony inspection is meant to ensure that the structure is built according to industry standards, a balcony inspection checklist is used. This tool helps ensure that nothing is missed, all the necessary steps are followed, and all essential parts of the balcony are checked. On top of this, it also serves as the record for all the findings and observations, along with recommendations for maintenance needs to improve the structural integrity of the balcony.
This article covers the following topics:
How Often Should a Deck Be Inspected?
Industry professionals like NADRA recommend that decks should be checked by homeowners every year to look for any sign of wear. Missing screws, corrosion, decaying wood, or excessive wobbling are indicators that a proper deck inspection is needed. However, the general recommendation for professional inspection is once every two years for maintenance and as needed for cleaning.
If the building is new, an inspection is recommended at the end of the first two years to check any wood shrinkage or structural movement of the building or house.
What Do Deck Inspectors Look For?
When conducting a deck or apartment balcony inspection, professional inspectors will take a look at these five things to check building compliance and safety.
1. Any Loose Connections
Balconies with unfastened or wobbly railings can be very dangerous because they can collapse or cause accidents. These can either be caused by improperly used connections or those that have degraded over time. So, inspectors will check these to make sure that any loose connection is addressed immediately.
Building codes require balcony connections to be used with fasteners to improve its durability and safety.
2. Signs of Corrosion
Frequent and prolonged exposure to elements can cause metal connectors and fasteners to eventually corrode, especially for high-rise apartment balconies and houses near moisture-prone areas. That’s why stainless steel connectors and fasteners are recommended as a safer option.
This is especially important for decks made out of wood, as rusted fasteners can also cause the surrounding wood to deteriorate. Corrosive materials must be addressed right away.
3. Cracks and Structural Weaknesses
It’s not uncommon for old buildings or structures to develop cracks over time. But whether it’s a small crack or a big one, these are tell-tale signs of structural weakness developing that must be repaired as soon as possible to prevent it from collapsing or potentially breaking off.
If a deck is made of wood, sawdust or wood dust are indications of a possible insect infestation. While soft or spongy wood might be any sign of wood decay especially for areas that are exposed to plenty of moisture. It would be good to include the following to check the structural integrity in the deck inspection checklist:
- Ledger board
- Support post and joist that is located underneath the deck
- Deck boards, railings, and stairs
4. Weak Railings
Railings are intended as added safety measures for fall protection, but when faulty, they can pose as a hazard rather than a control measure. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) reported that injuries from accidents caused by guard rail failure were more common than from complete deck collapse. Even worse, out of 45 million decks in the United States, only 40% of them are actually safe.
That’s why specific building codes are laid out to ensure optimal safety:
- The railing must be 36” for residential homes following the International Residential Code (IRC), and 42” for commercial establishments according to the International Building Code (IBC).
- The space between balusters must not be more than 4” for line sections and 4-3/8” for stairs to ensure that children or pets cannot squeeze through.
- The triangle-shaped opening created by the guard rail should be small enough to restrict a 6” sphere or object to pass through.
Typically, a deck inspection checklist will include a series of tests meant to evaluate the stability of the railings to ensure that it doesn’t give way when subject to a significant amount of weight or pressure. It’s also used to see if the railings have been properly installed following the relevant building codes.
5. Flashing of the Ledger Board
Flashing refers to the process of creating a barrier to prevent moisture from collecting between the establishment and the ledger board. This is important because water is one of wood and metal’s worst enemies; water leaks can cause connectors to erode, water to deteriorate, or cracks to worsen. The goal of flashing is to essentially create a barrier and is a critical part of the installation process.
Section 703.8 of the IRC provides a list of requirements for flashing. Some things that an apartment balcony inspection would check are:
- If the structure is attached to a wall or floor assembly of a wood frame, a flashing is required.
- If the flashing is installed behind the siding and over the top of the ledger board.
- If the flashing runs the whole length of the ledger board without any screw holes or contact with nails.
- If there is no water or debris collecting anywhere.
- If the materials used are corrosion-resistant flashing materials approved by the code: galvanized steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, vinyl, self-adhered membrane (compliant to AAMA 711)
Taking the time to be mindful of deck or balcony inspections will not just keep it aesthetically pleasing, but also safe and secure for people who will use it. Safety should always be a priority and following the recommended check-up schedules can make a difference in saving the lives of others.
What Are the Advantages of Using a Digital Checklist?
As already stated, the importance of properly maintained and up to code balconies and decks can mean the difference between able-bodied and injured, life and death. A staggering 40% of all decks and balconies are actually safe to tread on, and considering how they are usually at heights that exceed a safe falling distance, this number is highly concerning. That’s why it’s more important than ever to get your balcony or deck inspected by a certified professional.
The Lumiform app’s digital checklists can do these things for your business:
- Protect Your Brand – Ensure that all safety regulations are adhered to with scheduled inspections to protect your business from reputational damages. You can make sure that these inspections are carried out by your employees even when you can’t be on-site.
- Improve Quality And Safety – Conduct standardized inspections with Lumiform’s EHS software. You can automatically assign corrective actions to the responsible employee or colleague to ensure all safety and quality measures are adhered to.
- Data That’s Always Up To Date – The form construction kit enables all templates to be adapted to new legal requirements as soon as the federal or state government updates them. Keep track of what balconies and decks have already been inspected, which ones are awaiting maintenance and repairs, and which ones have already been completed.
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