Balcony Inspection Checklist: Everything You Need to Know

Balcony inspection

Ensuring that balconies and decks meet safety standards is crucial for creating a secure space for everyone. California has established balconies laws that require building owners and managers to conduct regular checks on their decks, balconies, and elevated areas to prevent accidents.  

Regularly inspecting balconies helps find things that might be dangerous or need fixing, like problems with safety, structure, or maintenance. Balcony inspections look at different parts of the balcony, including railings, floors, waterproofing, drainage, and overall safety measures. The inspection’s main purpose is to ensure the balcony is in good shape and safe for people. 

What is a Balcony Inspection Checklist? 

A balcony inspection checklist ensures your balcony is safe for use. In recent times, California has mandated SB-326 inspections, along with SB-721 inspections for multifamily buildings. 

A reliable inspection checklist enables building managers and owners to check for signs of damage on EEEs and get balcony inspections properly done. An inspection checklist helps create standardized inspection methods and provides a documented record of findings and observations by outlining necessary steps and ensuring they are followed.  

1. Preliminary Information 

  • Property address  
  • Governing city 
  • Property owner or operator 
  • Management contact  
  • Inspection date and time 
  • Inspection prepared by 
  • Type of building 
  • Approximate age of building 
  • Number of levels 
  • Number of units with elevated elements 
  • Direction building faces 

2. Exterior Elevated Elements (EEEs) 

  • Number of walkways 
  • Number of elevated decks (more than 6 feet above ground) 
  • Number of stairways 
  • Number of stairway landings 
  • Number of balconies 

3. Structural Integrity and Condition 

  • Structural weaknesses such as visible cracks 
  • Missing screws or other necessary hardware 
  • Connections that are either loose or improperly secured 
  • Excessive wobbling, sagging, or instability 
  • Corrosion-affected metal components, such as fasteners 
  • Decaying or damaged wood elements, including dry rot 
  • Presence of wood dust  
  • Assessment of the condition of framing, ledger board, support posts, beams, and joists 

4. Decking and Walking Surfaces 

  • Examining the presence of cracking or loose tiles on the deck surface 
  • Assessing the walkways and entry points 
  • Checking the signs of damage on treads and risers on stairways 
  • Identifying tripping hazards or uneven surfaces in the area 
  • Evaluating the floor structure and ensuring its stability 

5. Flashing and Waterproofing Systems 

  • Evaluation of waterproofing materials  
  • Verification of correct placement of flashing and caulking 
  • Assessment of the effectiveness and condition of drainage systems 
  • Inspection of the deck’s waterproof coating 
  • Identification of gaps and cracks between the wall and balcony deck 
  • Signs of rust and corrosion 
  • Recognition of deteriorating wood elements 
  • Detection of any other signs indicating leakage 

6. Guardrails, handrails, and other elements 

  • Ensure balusters (the vertical parts of a guardrail) are closely spaced, preventing a 4-inch sphere from passing through. 
  • Triangle-shaped spaces between stairs and railings must block a 6-inch sphere from passing through. 
  • Guardrails and handrails should be free from any looseness, unfastening, or wobbling. 
  • According to the International Residential Code (IRC), guardrails for residential homes should be at least 36 inches tall. 
  • For commercial properties, the International Building Code (IBC) requires guardrails to be at least 42 inches tall. 
  • Confirm that all railings remain stable and do not yield under significant weight or pressure. 
  • Safety glass panels should be undamaged and free of cracks. 
  • Examine the condition of outdoor electrical components, such as power outlets and lighting fixtures. 

Why is It Important to Use a Balcony Inspection Checklist? 

The Balcony Inspection Checklist offers several benefits, including: 

1. Safety Assurance 

By conducting regular inspections using the checklist, balconies are ensured to be structurally stable and free from hazards. This process helps recognize possible risks like unstable railings, cracked flooring, damaged surfaces, or water leaks that could result in accidents or injuries. 

2. Compliance with Regulations 

Utilizing a balcony inspection checklist helps meet building codes, safety regulations, and industry standards relevant to balcony construction and maintenance. This ensures occupant safety and reduces the risk of legal liabilities linked to non-compliance. 

3. Maintenance Planning 

It helps in recognizing maintenance needs and repair requirements for balconies. Addressing issues, such as securing loose railings, resolving drainage problems, or replacing damaged flooring, extends the balcony’s lifespan and prevents expensive repairs or replacements in the future. 

4. Resident’s Satisfaction 

A balcony that is kept in good condition and is safe enhances the residents’ satisfaction & experience. Property owners or managers can ensure a comfortable and secure outdoor space for residents by conducting regular inspections and addressing any concerns. 

5. Property Value Preservation 

Consistent balcony inspections and maintenance play a role in preserving the property’s value. A secure and visually appealing balcony elevates both residential and commercial buildings’ curb appeal and market value. 

How Often is a Balcony Inspection Required? 

State regulations require scheduled formal balcony inspections. SB-721 inspections should occur every six years, while SB-326 inspections are mandated every nine years. More frequent informal inspections are still advised for a safer space. 

Clear signs of damage, like deteriorating wood, corrosion, missing screws, or visible instability, suggest the necessity of a professional balcony inspection. 

For EEEs in new buildings, inspecting within the initial two years to identify any signs of wood shrinkage or structural issues is recommended. 

Who Can Do a Balcony Inspection in California?  

Building owners and managers are advised to conduct informal inspections of decks and balconies annually. For SB-326 or SB-721 inspections, hiring a qualified professional is essential. 

Under SB-326, only licensed architects and structural engineers can inspect the deck and balcony. 

For SB-721, the list of qualified professionals includes licensed architects, licensed civil or structural engineers, certified building inspectors, and licensed contractors (holding an A, B, or C-5 license with a minimum of five years of experience). 

For any further queries related to properties or balcony inspection, feel free to contact us at BFPM.  

Read our related blogs here:

Understanding SB 326: California’s Balcony Bill and Inspection Laws


How Much Does a Balcony Inspection Cost

Trevor Henson

Trevor Henson is an experienced entrepreneur (10+ highly-successful start-ups) and property investor with a demonstrated history of building and leading teams in investment property management environments, maximizing returns for property owners, and optimizing properties through construction management and re-positioning. He…
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Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

In California, SB 721 and SB 326 are two laws governing the inspection of balconies and exterior elevated elements (EEE) in multifamily residential buildings. SB-326 is for condominiums, and SB-721 is for apartments and multifamily building’s balcony inspections.

The cost associated with an SB 721 inspection can vary based on factors like property size, complexity, the number of exterior elevated elements (EEE) to be examined, and the unique requirements of the inspection. Typically, SB 721 inspections range between $1,500 to $3,000 or higher.