Homeowner? How Often Should Your Deck or Balcony Be Inspected and Maintained?
Decks and Balconies provide residents with great enjoyment and direct access to fresh air and the outdoors. Like all other building components they require routine maintenance, inspection and repair by qualified contractors and consultants to ensure durable performance.
What are Decks and Balconies?
A deck is a horizontal surface exposed to the outdoors with a walking surface and located over an enclosed space below, so it is also a roof. A balcony is also a horizontal surface exposed to the outdoors with a walking surface, however, it typically projects from the building and is not located over an enclosed living space below.
What is a Deck or Balcony Membrane?
A deck or balcony membrane is a waterproof layer installed to protect the underlying structure from water leakage.
The expected service life is usually ten years, however, with lower traffic and less exposure to the elements these membranes could last longer if regularly maintained.
Why Must Deck and Balcony Membranes be Maintained?
Without proper maintenance, water may get in through holes and cracks in the membrane and joints that have separated and produce leaks to the interior, damage to the wall assembly and rotting of the deck or balcony structure. Holes caused by sharp heels, table and chair legs, and damage produced by placement of heavy objects and careless use of tools may also increase the risk of water entry. Moreover, hot barbeques, spilled gasoline or solvents can actually melt vinyl membranes. Shrinkage of the building frame can also cause the balcony slope to change, and ponding (standing water) at the wall to occur.
All these possible situations create a need for more diligent inspection within the first eighteen months of service.
David Kincaid from the Homeowner Protection Branch of BC Housing provides practical tips on proper inspection and maintenance of decks and balconies so they remain safe. Click here to watch the video “Maintenance Matters: Decks and Balconies”.
Other Deck and Balcony Maintenance Items
- Guardrails and Guardwalls
Guardrails and guardwalls are important safety features designed to prevent falls from balconies and decks. Attention needs to be paid to locations where the guardrail connects to the wall. All guardrail connections, either through the membrane or to the wall, should be regularly inspected and maintained to reduce the likelihood of water penetration into the wall assembly or building structure.
Depending on the type of construction, guardwalls are particularly susceptible to leaks at corners and intersections with the exterior wall (saddles).Regular inspection and maintenance attention is required including any sealants that may be used at these locations.
- Drains and Gutters
Drains and gutters are important parts of a deck or balcony system that require maintenance. A critical yet easy maintenance item is to keep drains and gutters working properly by regularly cleaning balcony and deck floor surfaces to remove any dirt or debris, e.g. leaves and twigs. This will ensure that drains and gutters are free-flowing and do not clog.
Keeping deck and balcony surfaces clear of dirt and debris is also important for continuous “edge wrap” drainage systems. Located at the perimeter of the deck or balcony, these systems drain the water into a continuous gutter. It is important that these systems remain free-draining to avoid clogs and water over-flow situations.
What Maintenance Must be Performed on Decks and Balconies?
When cleaning the membrane, use common household cleaners containing plastics friendly ingredients. Never use solvents, alcohol, paint thinner or lacquer thinner to clean the membrane because these products may degrade vinyl and urethane membranes.
If you have any doubts as to the proper approach to specific maintenance requirements, you should obtain professional advice from a building envelope consultant.
How Often Must Decks and Balconies be Inspected and Maintained?
Deck and balcony membranes should be inspected at least every two years for both new and existing buildings.
If you live in a new building, the condition of decks, balconies, railings and other related components should be inspected before the end of year one and year two to detect any possible problems stemming from wood shrinkage or structural movement of the building.
The condition and strength of the guardrails and guardwalls should be inspected every two years. Balcony and deck surfaces, including drains and gutters, should be cleaned at least twice a year (or as needed) to remove leaves and other debris and to prevent clogging and potential water build-up problems.
For more information about maintaining your home, please view the Spruceland Homes’ Home Owner’s Manual.