Balconies, Elevated Decks, Handrails and Guardrails

Balconies, Elevated Decks, Handrails and Guardrails

Balconies and Elevated Decks
As you are probably aware, there has been a rash of deck and balcony collapses that have been making headlines in recent months, including the Wood Ridge Apartments, Structures was called out to assess. In general, there is far more news of balconies and walkways collapsing than building collapses.  Here’s why…

Balconies, elevated decks and handrails introduce an entirely new level of structural consideration.  Balconies and decks are intended to be areas of a home or business that beckon for people to occupy because of a beautiful vista or a social gathering.  Because of this, these areas must be designed for a higher loading consideration.  Also, balconies and decks are subjected to extreme weather conditions that the interior of a structure is protected from. In many cases decks and handrails are not properly designed or constructed with these considerations in mind. Many connections on decks and guardrails are not inspected or reviewed by building officials or structural engineers and can lead to catastrophic failure.

At Structures we are well aware of the demands of areas such as these and because of it we are very diligent in providing an adequate design for such use.  Most people are unaware that live load requirements for balconies and decks are higher than that of the interior of a building where furnishings and normal occupancy occurs. Connections and interface conditions between interior and exterior floor assemblies must be well considered for short and long term performance.

 

Structures’ Handrail Detail

Handrails and Guardrails
Handrails and guardrails are a homeowner’s greatest liability.  It is the only barrier that separates an occupied balcony, deck or stairway from a potential tragedy. 
Handrails and guardrails are not a place to consider saving money.  Normally a homeowner will want to minimize the requirements of a guardrail in order to maximize views or lighten the look of the assembly; however the structural demand of the guardrails should not be overlooked.

A responsible homeowner must periodically inspect their handrails and guardrails; if any concerns arise feel free to contact our office for a structural evaluation. Evaluations can also be provided for balconies and elevated decks. Again, these areas are a homeowner’s greatest liability and should be seriously considered.

Feel free to call us, 512-499-0919 free of charge to discuss your existing or proposed deck, handrail or guardrail design.