Do balconies need to be waterproofed?

The balcony is an integral part of many homes and can serve many aesthetic and functional purposes. If you’re adding a balcony to your home, you might have some questions. One is, do balconies need to be waterproofed?

Balcony waterproofing is essential for the structural integrity of the building. It’ll reduce the safety risks, save costs, and preserve the balcony aesthetics. If you want to waterproof your balcony, you need to complete all-penetrating work, ensure you use the right materials, and add drainage.

However, it’s best to use a professional when waterproofing your balcony. This may cost you more, but it’s worth it. Here, we discuss whether balconies need to be waterproofed and how to do it.

What is Waterproofing?

Waterproofing creates an impervious layer over the surface of a part of the building. Generally, several areas of the building that could be directly exposed to water are waterproofed. This includes foundations, walls, roofing, etc. Balconies also require waterproofing.

Waterproofing a balcony isn’t a simple thing. It has to be well thought out and properly done because failure to do so could result in significant damage. The form of waterproofing you use will depend on the construction material for the balcony surface. It’s usually concrete, steel, or timber, and each has its way of waterproofing methods.

There are several methods of waterproofing the balcony surfaces. The best is to waterproof them above and below the screed. Doing this will prevent moisture from getting into the tiles and screed. It gives the surface a better capacity to withstand any movement. You can seal all the tile and grout joints on the outside.


Why Do Balconies Need Waterproofing?

Waterproofing the balcony can save you from several structural problems. Here are reasons to waterproof the balcony:

1.  Reduce Safety Risks

When there is heavy rain and water pools on the balcony, the water will leak into the lower floor if there’s no adequate waterproofing. Once this starts happening, you can expect chips and cracks. These critical leakages lead to unsafe joints. If your house’s structural integrity is compromised, the safety of those living there is at risk. So, waterproofing your house is essential to protect your loved ones and anyone who might live in the house.

Wood-framed balconies are especially at risk. They have a higher rate of failures if not waterproof. They easily experience leaks and will have both visible and invisible damage. The invisible damages are mostly structural in both dry rots. They’re not visible but can turn a hardwood into a soft and spongy material from the inside.

2.  Saves Cost

When building your home, waterproofing the balcony might cost you extra. But that extra cost is nothing compared to what you save. Beyond the strong chance of structural damage, repairing a balcony deck to prevent water damage will cost you more than waterproofing it.

Waterproofing costs about 2% of the total cost of construction. But a report claims it causes over 80% of building defects. So, spending extra to waterproof your balcony could save you a lot in the future.

3.  Preserve the Aesthetics

Not waterproofing your balcony can spoil its appearance. No matter the quality of materials you use for the balcony, it becomes an eyesore once the water starts seeping in. Mildew and mold soon start forming on it.

Tips for Waterproofing the Balcony

Before waterproofing the balcony, there are preliminary steps. These includes:

1.  Add all Necessary Fixtures to the Balcony First

If you install a balustrade on the balcony, you need to ensure the baluster posts are already erected in the building’s structural element. Any sealant or waterproofing material should also bond with the balustrade posts. Complete all-penetrating work before waterproofing

2.  Use The Right Materials

The material should be strong enough to remain bonded to the steel, even when the steel expands. The advisable materials for this type of sealing are polyurethane-based sealants. They’re very strong sealants capable of bonding with materials such as rubber, stone, glass, steel, wood, etc.

They also resist high and low temperatures and are UV resistant. So, no matter the season and exposure to sunlight. It’s also important to note water ingression when fixing anything to the finished roof. Go for a material that’ll seal properly.

There are other materials too. But make sure you select a membrane or sealant material ideal for the roof and balustrade materials and the balcony structure. Go for a material capable of resisting chemical substances, stagnant water, bad weather, and temperature changes. You should apply an additional sealant on every penetrating material.

3.  Install a Drainage

Beyond that, it’s important to channel water properly. It’s not enough to seal. Water must have somewhere it’s going. If it rains, water shouldn’t just settle on the floor. If this is the case, no matter how strong the waterproofing is, it’s only a matter of time before the pool of water breaks apart the waterproofing material and starts seeping into the surface.

So, having a drainage system is essential. It’ll also reduce efflorescence and limit the likelihood of water leaking into the tiling. A balcony should have a slope of at least ¼ inch per foot (2 percent) to have positive drainage.

How to Waterproof the Balcony?

Before choosing the right waterproofing method for an existing balcony, you need to check the floor to see if there are holes or cracks. You’ll have to remove the finished floor layer to inspect the substrate if there is. Then fix the issue. You can detect that your balcony has water issues if you notice cracks, salt stains, discoloration, or rust stains, on the flooring. 

There are usually two options for waterproofing a balcony. It could be a wet/liquid membrane or rolled/sheet membrane. The wet membrane is cost-effective, but the application could be quite complex. It’s also not very effective for creating an even surface. The best option is usually the rolled membranes. These are adhesive sheets you lay on the subfloor. They ensure an even surface and additional reinforcements for the subfloor. They’re also faster to install.

In Conclusion 

Waterproofing your balcony is a must if you want to live in a safe building. So, if your balcony isn’t waterproof, it’s time to do it. Although you may be able to waterproof a balcony on your own, it’s advisable to call a professional. This project is too important to fail.

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