Check outdoor structures for rot and wear before storm season!

Check outdoor structures for rot and wear before storm season!

Far Northern homeowners are being urged to put their decks and balconies on "safety watch" to avoid any "party bloomers" this silly season.

After experiencing floods, cyclone Yasi and increased storms, Archicentre, the building advisory service of the Australian Institute of Architects, Queensland state manager Ian Agnew said there was a chance the "crazy’’ weather had weakened structures. With the wet season and summer holidays just around the corner, home owners should be checking their decks and balconies.

"It is important to take action now to allow time to fix any problems before the holiday period," Mr Agnew said.

"December through to January, including Christmas gatherings and New Year’s Eve parties, are times where deck or balcony collapses are likely to occur because of the sheer weight of the number of people who may go out on to the deck or balcony to party.

"Balconies and decks, whether constructed of timber, steel or concrete, are exposed to the extremes of climate and need to be periodically checked for deterioration because of their height and deterioration of materials, or in some cases illegal and poor building practices."

Karl Maxa of Maxa Constructions Cairns said it was important for Far Northerners to especially check their decks.

"Everyone uses their outdoor areas up here so people should be sticking their head under the deck and having a look," he said.

"The weather is very harsh on our timber in the tropics so it’s very important homeowners with timber decking keep up with the maintenance.

"The banisters of the handrails is something that should also be checked as they will rot away. It’s something that can sneak up on you and it’s not until someone goes to grab hold of it one day that it will give way on them."

FNQ Carpentry and Decking owner Todd Milbourne said it was common for mould to grow on decks in the tropics without people realising and that could be a wet season hazard.

"People need to pay attention to mould that’s grown on top on the decking, especially if they have plants or vegetation that’s growing over the top of the decking, as mould becomes very slippery when wet," Mr Milbourne said.

"This can often be a hidden danger. I would recommend all decks to be re-oiled and cleaned thoroughly before the wet season sets in. People should also make sure the strapping underneath the deck is structurally sound in preparation for the cyclone season."

Mr Agnew said if unsure of the condition of the balcony or deck, home owners should request a safety report by a qualified registered person such as an architect, engineer or someone who is qualified to work with decking.

"In the past few years with ongoing injuries and deaths of people involved in collapsing balconies and decks, each event has left a potential trail of expensive legal and medical expenses for home owners and people involved," he said.

"These cases have highlighted the need for home owners to have regular checks on the safety of their decks or balconies to avoid injury and potentially costly court cases.

The challenge to home owners, property owners and building managers, when responsible for balconies or decks, is to find out which ones present a safety hazard before a collapse occurs.

1. Check documentation:

Buyers should ask to see evidence of building approval before purchasing a property as decks can easily be built without the statutory checks and balances.

2. Check timber:

Have timber decks checked for rot and rust as timber or metal-fixing failure can trigger a collapse.

3. Check concrete:

Have concrete balconies checked for cracking or flaking as water may penetrate and corrode steel reinforcing, particularly in coastal areas.

4. Be wary of loads:

Large, well-watered pot-plants can accelerate timber deterioration while a large group of guests gathered for a photo in one corner of a deck or balcony can bring a party to an abrupt end.

As well as the trauma of a collapse and the injuries, there is the cost to repair damage and even the possibility of legal action as claims are taken out against the home owner or owner’s corporation, so make sure your decks and balconies are checked.


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