Acting Fair Trading Commissioner Robert Vellar released a new NSW balcony and deck safety guide late last month. The new safety regulations have been announced after recent incidents involving balconies and decks have resulted in injury or death.
“Outdoor living is a popular part of Australian life and home owners have a responsibility to check their decks and balconies are safe for use and to prevent serious accidents,” Mr Vellar said.
“Like all parts of the home, decks and balconies can deteriorate over time. Exposure to weather, insects and heavy loads such as barbecues, pot plants and even people can cause structures to weaken.”
New balconies, decks, balustrades and railings must be built to meet the requirements of the Building Code of Australia and relevant Australian Standards. The Building Code requires the structure and materials used to build a balcony or deck withstand the loads and stresses that would be reasonably expected to be placed on it. Older buildings should have been built to the relevant codes and standards in force at the time they were built.
Easy checklist for your office
Fair Trading has produced a practical maintenance and safety guide for timber, concrete and masonry decks and balconies.
If there appears to be anything suspicious about the stability of a deck or balcony, avoid the area and get the structure inspected by an expert. Fair Trading recommends having structures inspected by a qualified expert and only using an appropriately licensed tradesperson to undertake repairs.
All decks and balconies
- Check the structure is properly fixed to the main building. Use a pushing and pulling action on the main supporting beams or joist to check for signs of movement.
- Think about the number of people and objects on a deck or balcony. Large loads placed on a deck regularly or on special occasions may exceed the load the deck or balcony was designed to hold.
- Think about the safety of children and visitors. Do not let people climb on the balustrades or handrails of decks. They may not be designed to withstand that load and falls from elevated decks or balconies can result in serious injury or death.
Stairs, handrails and balustrades
- Check for signs of rot, corrosion, looseness or instability.
- Stairs, handrails and balustrades should be securely fastened at all points. Pay particular attention to balustrades that are fixed to the balcony’s top surface and not fixed directly to the main supporting structure.
- Look for signs of sagging or loss of tightness where wire balustrading has been used.
Timber balconies and decks
- Check the timber for signs of decay, rot or insect attack. For example, is the timber spongy when probed with a sharp object?
- Look for signs of bending, warping, sagging and splitting. Pay close attention to beams that span long distances without any supporting posts and columns.
- Check to see if the timber needs a re-application of stains, oils or paints, remembering different timbers may need different treatment.
- Check bearers and joists are adequately supported.
- Check all connections for signs of deterioration, such as beam to post connections and for any loose or rusting fixings.
- Check for loose decking boards or flooring.
Concrete balconies and decks
- Look out for signs of deflection or leaning.
- Check for the presence of spalling, where chunks of concrete flake off or crack.
- Examine the underside and edge of the balcony for rust stains or exposed steel reinforcing.
To check if a tradesperson is licensed and holds the right type of licence with Fair Trading visit www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au or phone 13 32 20.