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Should I replace my wooden balcony?

25 August 2022


Balconies provide a versatile space for you home, allowing you to relax in the sun, entertain friends, dry clothes and even grow your own veg. With all these benefits, it’s no surprise that balconies have been added to numerous UK homes over time. Often, these balconies were made from wood. Unlike the modern timber balconies, which have to be built to high standards with properly treated materials, many older balconies were constructed from cheaper materials which have a more limited lifespan and could pose a safety risk.

In this blog, we’ll look at some of the points to check if you have an older timber balcony, and why it can make sense to replace it with a metal alternative.

Is my timber balcony safe?

The most obvious concern, particularly on a raised balcony, is whether it is structurally sound and strong enough to take your weight. The National House Building Council (NHBC) has created a quick reference guide regarding timber balconies and terraces. This sets out all the requirements that a deck should meet, including treating all of the structural elements to ensure they have a service life of 60 years.

It is generally recommended that if timber supports are used, these should be pillars rather than wall fixed brackets. The NHBC guidance also clearly states that if the deck of the balcony is more than 2.4 m from ground level, timber should not be used for brackets, columns or guardrails on the balcony. Additionally, in all cases, the railing around the balcony should be at least 1100 mm tall with no gaps large enough for a 100 mm sphere to pass through.

It’s also important to look at the condition of the structure as even treated timber can be vulnerable to rot if it isn’t properly maintained over time. Take a look at the structure from above and below for any obvious signs of damp or rot such as dark patches or flaking timber – particularly near joints. If you spot these, you should not use the balcony until it has been properly assessed.

If you have concerns, it is a good idea to ask a structural engineer to check the space is safe.

Are timber balconies a fire risk?

All timber balconies are combustible meaning they could act as the source of a fire, or help to spread it. On typical family homes, you can minimise this risk by taking sensible precautions. This includes never using a barbeque either on, or on the ground below the balcony, and avoiding smoking or lighting candles on it.

Here in the UK, there are stricter requirements for multi-occupancy buildings such as flats which limit the use of combustible materials as part of “specified attachments” to the building. This includes balconies. This is because they can potentially act as a route for fire to move quickly up the building. This may mean that if timber balconies are present on these buildings, they will need to be replaced with non-combustible alternatives. Guidance for these buildings is contained in Part B of the Building Regulations in England and Wales and Section 2 of the Building Standards in Scotland. You should be able to get specific guidance from your local building control office.

What are the benefits of metal balconies?

external balcony white

We’ve replaced many existing timber balconies with metal alternatives over the years.  All our balconies are designed bespoke to your home or building and manufactured from cast aluminium which is cast at our specialist foundry in Staffordshire before being finished by our experienced workshop team here in Derbyshire.

Our custom-built cast aluminium balconies offer a range of benefits:

  • Lower weight than cast iron – One of the draw backs with cast iron is its considerable weight. This means there can be a lot of structural considerations when adding these to an existing building. Our cast aluminium balconies recreate the look and feel of cast iron but are much lighter. This means the foundation or structural support requirements are far lower. We can also assist with the structural calculations to help deliver the best solution for you.
  • Improved aesthetics – Cast metal balconies are generally much more in keeping with the style of period homes here in the UK. We can work with you to develop a design which really matches the aesthetics of your property with a finished result which looks like it has always been there. For example, on a recent project at a Victorian mansion we replaced a tired timber and metal balcony, which had been added to the structure in the late 90s with a larger and more decorative balcony featuring intricate railing panels to reflect the original architecture of the building.
  • Range of support options – we work flexibly with existing structures, developing supports which match your desired look and feel as well as the requirements of the project. The available options include gallows brackets (you can see a specially customised version of these in the image below) and pillars.
  • Reduced maintenance – All our balconies are finished to the highest standard to ensure they not only look beautiful, but also need minimal maintenance over time. We offer a dedicated powder coating service in-house and also work with trusted partners who can provide specialist finishes for staircases and balconies located near the coast – protecting them from the sea air.
  • Improved light and drainage – we offer a range of different perforated patterns for our treads and decking plates. These provide a high quality look and feel and ensure the balcony quickly drains after any rain or snow. They also help light to pass through into the rooms below, ensuring they are still bright and well lit.staircase metal tread
  • Custom designs – In addition to our standard patterns, we can also create entirely bespoke designs based off your own drawings or those supplied by your architect. We will typically laser cut these from steel which provides an exceptional look and finish. These panels can be especially useful if your planning application requires that the balcony does not over look the neighbours such as the custom example below.custom balcony panel

If you are interested in having a bespoke staircase or balcony installed in your own property, visit our gallery to view some of the options and submit a quote or get in touch via phone or email.

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