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Inspecting Balconies

With so many custom homes being built, we are seeing more second story balconies. Balconies can be cantilevered directly from the house or supported by columns at the leading edge. This Tech Tip will address cantilevered balconies. One of the problems home inspectors have when inspecting balconies is that we are unable to see how far into the structure the joists supporting the balcony extend. This distance depends on the lumber used. Generally speaking for every inch of cantilever the joist should extend 2 to 3 times that amount into the structure. Also taking into account snow load: a 2×10 joist may extend up to 53 inches with a snow load of 30 psf. A maximum of 42 inches with a snow load of 70 psf.  Assuming that the joists are spaced 16 inches on center. Keep in mind that the calculation will also be dependent on the type or species of lumber, the size, spacing, and snow load used. We know that determining the proper distance is beyond the scope of a visual home inspection, however there are important issues that a home inspector should be looking for: MORE

  • Check the area where the cantilever joins the wall. This area should be properly flashed and sealed
  • Check the areas inside the wall and below the balcony for evidence of water / moisture penetration
  • The balcony should slope away from the house
  • The balcony should be at least 4 inches below the door opening
  • Deteriorated lumber & flooring
  • Loose areas / materials
  • Cantilevered distance is questionable
  • Proper & secure handrails are installed


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