Balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., prompts an examination of codes

Steps beyond code can promote deck safety.

June 24, 2015 |
Balcony collapse in Berkeley, Calif., prompts an examination of codes

The fatal accident in Berkeley, Calif., has led to a call for the review of codes and standards regarding balconies. Image: Pixabay

Dry rot and too much weight appear to be the causes of a fatal accident at an eight-year-old building in Berkeley, Calif. The tragedy has prompted at look at codes governing the structures.

Builders could take extra steps that go beyond what’s outlined in building codes. For example, advise owners that decks do not last forever and even the best-made structures have a lifespan of 15 years.

The North American Deck and Railing Association estimates that at least 40 million residential decks and 10 million commercial decks in the U.S. are at least 20 years old.

Educating the building’s owners about the importance of weight limits and maintenance can help keep the structures safe. Leaving a sign behind that posts the maximum capacity for the balcony or deck will inform the building owner. 

Other steps include: Advising the owner that a pileup of snow on a deck can be heavier than a group of people, and can lead an otherwise empty deck to collapse.

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