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Are you caring for your balustrades?

Are you caring for your balustrades

Are you caring for your balustrades?

Apartment architecture across Australia and indeed the world will often incorporate some form of balustrading in its design. Serving as both an ornamental and practical feature, it allows for small balconies to be built in a pleasing and safe manner.

When people decide to utilise their balcony to soak in the sun on a hot day or simply lean out and admire the view, they expect to be able to do so without having to worry about their balustrades collapsing. However, while many Body Corporate & Building Managers are aware of the importance of consistent roof maintenance and repair, balustrades can sometimes be left by the wayside – and this can result in catastrophic and potentially deadly failure.

Balustrades are a popular feature of many buildings in Australia
Balustrades are a popular feature of many buildings in Australia.

What can go wrong with your balustrades?

In Australia, balustrades are usually constructed from metal or aluminium – durable, tough, and expected to last for a significant amount of time. However, this durability can also be its weakness, as the average user may not expect such materials to require regular maintenance.

This is unfortunately not the case. Over time, and especially after a ten year period, even a metal baluster can be damaged by the elements and corrosion, most often caused by water – making them particularly at risk during the wet winter months. The water, reacting with the limes in the concrete that makes up a significant portion of many apartment structures, creates structural integrity issues that can cause the balustrade to become unsafe.

A demonstration of danger

One such example we have experienced at Roof and Building Service was in regards to a request for assistance received from the resident of an apartment building. This resident, an older woman, had potted plants placed in front of her balusters, and in the process of caring for them, had inadvertently exposed the balusters and the concrete they were cemented into to corrosive water.

Because the balusters were covered by the greenery, the resident only noticed the corrosion late in the process. After being inspected by one of the team at Roof and Building Service, she was asked how strong she thought the balustrade currently was. Trusting in the apparent unending durability of concrete and metal, she replied in a positive manner before lightly pushing the balustrade to demonstrate her point, at which stage, the entire balustrade gave way and fell to the ground three storeys below.

Are you being proactive with your concrete repairs?
Are you being proactive with your concrete repairs?

The impact on Body Corporate & Building Managers

For Body Corporate & Building Managers, circumstances like the above are extreme, but they do happen. Your duty of care means that such situations are directly within your purview, and it’s clear that in situations like these, an ounce is of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Body Corporate & Building Managers who choose to be proactive should be taking on regular inspections of all parts of their building – including the balustrades – from professional inspection services such as those at Roof and Building Service. However, regular visual inspections can and should also be conducted yourself.

Balustrades that are exhibiting any level of corrosion in the metal or spalling in the concrete should be immediately considered for repairs or even replacement in some cases. There are a number of different ways to fix balustrading, each with different prerequisites and results depending on the level of damage.

Ultimately, balustrades are as integral a piece of the structure of an apartment building as the floor, the roofing and the walls. Ignoring it can result in lengthy repairs at best and dangerous conditions for your users at worst. Do yourself, your building and your residents a favour: get your balustrades inspected and maintained regularly. Being proactive is the first step towards success in safely maintaining your building.