Construction of apartment buildings is on the rise across Australia. Whilst this phenomenon is observed in every capital city, the boom is especially apparent in Sydney, where at the end of last year, there were more than 350 cranes at work in Sydney – more than half of the total in the entire country.
In 2016, for the first time in recorded history, more apartments than houses were built in Australia. In a construction sense, this has a number of implications. To build apartments as opposed to houses requires different tools and techniques, including cranes, new electrical requirements, and increased use of windows. It also means there is a bigger need for the construction of balconies.
Balcony maintenance is a hugely important aspect of keeping a whole apartment or apartment building safe. In order to find out more, Jobsite ANZ spoke to Hamish Anderson, marketing manager at Remedial Building Services, an Australian company specialising in building repair and upgrade services to commercial and large residential buildings since 1969.
A Gateway to Further Issues
Rather than being merely an addition to an existing structure, Anderson notes few people realise that balconies are often the gateway for further problems in a building.
“Being exposed to wind and rain, a balcony is often subject to a volume of water,” Anderson explains.
“Being exposed to wind and rain, a balcony is often subject to a volume of water,” Anderson explains. “If there is a faulty waterproof membrane on the balcony not all water may drain where it is supposed to. Instead, it can drain into cavity walls where it reacts with reinforcing steel, causing concrete cancer.”
Diagnosing these issues can often be tricky, as the visible issue is not always near the balcony at fault, according to Anderson. Keeping an eye on balconies to ensure they are in good condition is essential to the overall health of the building.
Consequences of Neglecting Balcony Repair
Ongoing neglect of balconies in need of repair has multiple repercussions.
“Like all things, prolonging the rectification of an issue is likely to exacerbate the issue, and will result in an increase in the eventual costs to rectify the situation,” says Anderson.
In the case of water ingress, Anderson notes there are multiple impacts of neglecting repairs, including:
Increased visible water damage
The increased chance of structural decay due to rusted steel members
The increased chance there will be further water damage to new areas as the water and displaced concrete gives new pathways for it
More concrete cancer which in turn requires extra remediation works to rectify it
Anderson concedes that given the increase across Australia in multi-dwelling housing, “there is likely to be a future and significant burden on strata management to undertake extensive and often expensive repairs to rectify (balcony issues.)”
Keeping a Lookout for Balcony Repair
With more Australians building and moving into apartment blocks, it is crucial for those in the construction industry to have a good knowledge about the signs of balcony decay and general maintenance.
To that end, Anderson notes some tips for assessing a balcony for damage – although he says it’s not always easy to identify.
“Things people can look out for are areas of ‘ponding,’ where water sits on the surface and does not drain away,” he says. “Water damage above internal doors is also a likely sign that water from an above balcony may be leaking is another sign to look for. Lastly, a tiled surface with cracks and other visible damage is often a precursor to eventual water issues as the water has no chance of draining to where it should.”
Balcony damage is a common occurrence, but can be extremely serious if left untreated. As a result, it is always important to seek professional help when identifying the origin of leaks or assessing other waterproofing strategies in the building process.