Ever since Romeo and Juliet made them famous, balconies have been popular additions to our homes and living spaces. For condominium communities, balconies can add an extra perk, a few more feet of living space that allow us to enjoy the outdoors and some time in the sun.
As with any structure, balconies need a steady diet of care and maintenance to look their best and last their longest. What goes into caring for balconies and what happens when they need fixing? With proper planning and the right tools, maintenance and repair can add years of enjoyment and value to your homeowner association’s balconies.
For the most part these days, balconies are built out of steel and concrete, with a few wood and steel models mixed in here and there. There are two kinds of concrete balconies: continuous slab, which are simply an extension of a building’s concrete floor, and those with steel frames mounted to the structure’s exterior, with planks extending from the building’s frame and filled with concrete. On both types of balconies, railings are added after initial construction and are eitherembedded into the balcony or surface mounted.
Water is the Enemy
Concrete balconies can last for many years if they are properly maintained, but can develop problems quickly without proper maintenance. Engineer Ralph Noblin, with Noblin & Associates, L.C., a consulting engineering firm in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, says that most concrete deterioration, which actson the steel rods inside the material, can be traced to simple water infiltration. “Water will get into concrete, even if it’s not cracked and looks fine,” says Noblin. “Concrete is still somewhat porous or permeable.”
When water gets into concrete, says Noblin, “It causes the steel to rust, andwhen steel rusts it expands greatly just like when water freezes. When it expands it pushes outward and pushes the concrete away, oftentimes spalling the concrete.”