A balcony is a valuable asset to have, enlarging the living space of your home, letting plenty of sunshine in and giving you somewhere to both relax and entertain. However, insurance statistics have shown that balconies are the most common source of waterproofing failures, with many buildings lacking the appropriate water control measures.
However, there’s more than one reason why your balcony might be leaking. A leaky balcony can have devastating impacts on your home, jeopardising its structural integrity and destroying your belongings. Here are 5 reasons why your balcony might be leaking and what you can do to stop it.
- Lack of Proper Drainage
A lack of proper drainage on your balcony can lead to water pooling, increasing the water pressure and potentially leading to leaks. Bad drainage can be caused by many factors, including:
- Too few or too small drain outlets
- Blocked drain outlets
- Improperly placed drain outlets
- Poor fall to drain outlets
In the event of heavy rainfall, many balconies lack proper provisions for water overflows to exit. Any one of these issues or a combination of them can lead to consistent water pooling and long-term damage occurring over time. For a balcony to have proper drainage, the floor should be built with a fall in one direction only and the joists should have a fall of 10mm per metre.
- Porous Masonry Surface
Many materials commonly used on balcony surfaces, such as tiles, concrete and grout, aren’t waterproof. Instead, they’re porous, which means that naturally, they allow water to penetrate and seep inside of them. This is why whenever porous materials are used, they need to be sealed in order to make them water-resistant. This will stop water from piercing through the surface and damaging the structure over an extended period.
- Building Movement
When a building heats up and then cools back down, it can expand and then extract. Over a long period of time, this can cause cracks and breaks in the structure, including in the balcony. This means that many components of the balcony, such as the surface, cladding and tiles, can break apart over time.
To compensate for this, most balconies often require expansion joints. These allow for the balcony to remain secure even when thermal expansion occurs, preventing it from buckling as the building slowly moves throughout the years.
- Membrane Failure
Your balcony’s membrane is a waterproof sheet that sits below its surface and stops water from soaking through the structure. Often made from rubber, polymers or bitumen, membranes tend to have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years once they’re installed. They’re required by law in Australia and are an integral part of the waterproofing process.
Whether due to poor workmanship, poor quality materials or simply due to wear and tear, membrane failure occurs quite often. Correctly applying membranes is difficult work, requiring intensive labour and a high level of knowledge and experience. This leaves a large margin of error and incorrect installation and coordination. When having your membrane installed, make sure to check the credentials of the experts involved and invest in the best of the best.
- Age of The Balcony
Over time, the membrane of your balcony can age due to exposure to the elements, the development of mould and water pooling. Building movement and interference from renovations or further building work can also impact your balcony, causing damage to slowly spread and impact both its functionality and its appearance.
Regular maintenance can prevent this, as well as investing in leaking balcony repairs at the first sign of any issues. Of course, it always helps to have a balcony that follows all relevant manufacturing and building regulations but this is often out of our hands.