Balcony Maintenance on High-Rise Buildings
Good design must always consider easy balcony maintenance and regular safety checks. These checks should be carried out systematically with maintenance done in line with manufacturers’ recommendations. To facilitate this, balcony manufacturers should provide an operations and maintenance manual which includes a schedule for cleaning and maintenance. Checks should include identification of premature ageing, deterioration, material build up from the environment, component tightness and damage.
Quality control before occupation
It is a good idea to have robust quality control checks throughout manufacture and at completion, as well as site delivery and installation checks. Equally as important, a system should be in place to carry out checks after installation.
Tests that can be done at these stages are long life weather testing and structural testing of components to destruction. These ensure the longevity of a product in line with British, EU or other regions standards/codes.
To ensure that the design of the balcony is manufactured, installed and can be used, maintained and replaced safely, a principal designer must write a Construction Design and Management (CDM) risk assessment and ensure they are held to account by the CDM Regulations 2015.
Balcony maintenance: key areas to check
On many modern balconies the decking and soffit drainage are often the main areas for regular maintenance. Decking can get slippery during the autumn and winter months and deck gaps can get blocked. Keeping decks clean and safe for those occupying needs to include checking that leaves, food and other debris haven’t dropped through the decking gaps so they become blocked.
Of course, it does depend on the surrounding environment as to how much maintenance is necessary. A lower floor balcony surrounded by trees, for example, will need regular maintenance for green growth and leaf clearing, which is less of an issue for a high-rise balcony.
Bolts and clamps, drip trays and decking blockage should all be part of the inspection process, as well as checking the balcony as a whole for corrosion and deterioration of materials. Also important is adhering to the standard of deflection on a balcony, so that bounce doesn’t weaken the balcony and its attachments over time. NHBC compliance is key here to ensure drainage outlets don’t become blocked. During such checks, resident added furnishings etc should be considered. For example, hot tubs, BBQs and combustible furnishings could be adding to safety risks.
Removal and Replacement
Residents can maintain their balconies to keep them safe, but it’s important that qualified and experienced professionals who are familiar with its design are employed to replace any parts.
CDM responsibilities include a replacement plan should components or the whole balcony need to be changed. The plan should include how works are to be carried out, accompanied by a thorough risk assessment. With regular checks, the possibility of replacement will be picked up quickly to avoid any danger to residents. Also, consideration should be made as to how a safety compromise would be desired by locking down or temporary barriers etc.
Ensuring balconies remain safe is not only important to residents and neighbours in the immediate term, it is vital that they remain maintained and safe for the future.