Balconies were popular on grand Georgian houses then all but disappeared from the Victorian era onwards. As the footprint of new houses gets ever smaller and the number of stories increases to compensate, so the balcony is enjoying something of a renaissance.
As our name suggests, at Balconology we have turned the design, manufacture and installation of balconies into a science.
Supporting the Balcony
From a design perspective the biggest challenge is often how best to support the weight of the balcony.
The most elegant means of support is to cantilever the balcony from the existing building structure. This can involve introducing steel beams between the floor surface and the ceiling of the level below to counter-act the load of the balcony. Insulated connectors form an integral part of this design to prevent ‘cold-bridging’ - a phenomena whereby a cold balcony draws heat from the building. Our engineers have a wealth of experience in designing cantilevered balcony structures.
Columns fitted to the external corners of the balcony provide the most simple support system. Either two columns can be used on the outside corners with the rear of the balcony structure fitted top the wall of the building, or when the building has insufficient strength to support the balcony (e.g. some timber frame or cobb constructions) additional columns can be added at the rear of the balcony.
We use hollow section mild steel for columns because a high level of strength can be obtained from relatively small size. The columns are hot-dipped galvanised after manufacture and can be painted or powder-coated to suit the house. Supporting columns require a substantial concrete foundation which will be specified by our engineers.
Balconology has developed the Cantilevered Column to suit properties where a pure cantilever cannot be achieved but where columns on the external corners of the balcony will cause inconvenience or interrupt a view from windows below the balcony. Cantilevered columns are set against the wall of the house and have a substantial beam below ground to counteract the twisting moment of the balcony above. In some situations the cantilevered column can be recessed into the outer skin of blocks or bricks of a cavity wall then rendered over to completely conceal the steel supports.
We have developed bespoke supporting structures for unique projects including suspending balconies from cables attached to the walls of the building above - indeed we have yet to be defeated in designing a support solution. As a rule, the earlier that we are involved in a project, the easier and therefore most cost-effective the supporting structure will be.
The Balcony Chassis
The chassis is the almost invisible yet critically important component that provides structural integrity to the whole balcony. The chassis is usually attached to the walls of the house and/or to cantilevered beans or supporting columns. The chassis provides a platform to support the balcony floor and a secure footing for the balcony balustrades.
We use mild steel channel sections for balcony chassis as this material has good load-bearing capabilities. It is ductile, so easy and fast to work with so steel provides a very cost-effective material for the balcony chassis. All mild steel is hot-dipped galvanised after manufacture to provide corrosion resistance.
Balcony chassis can be left with the dull silver galvanised finish, which is sometimes very fashionable, or painted/powder-coated to suit other features on the house. We can also provide a host of materials to disguise the chassis including stainless steel, aluminium or oak panels.
The floor is usually the largest component of the balcony so it needs careful choice. It needs to be designed to support the load on the balcony, should be comfortable to walk on and offer some slip resistance when wet.
A solid balcony floor can cast a shadow over a window below so we have developed a range of flooring that allows light to penetrate, including steel open-mesh flooring and structural glass panels. Drainage needs to be considered carefully when designing the floor to ensure that water does not pool against the walls of the building. The floor alternatives include:-
Tanalised Timber is the most cost-effective floor. We use treated decking boards that are screwed to pressure treated joists with stainless steel woodscrews. The timber floor can be close-boarded with a plastic membrane below the deck to provide a water-proof shelter below, or a 6mm gap can be left between the boards to allow water to drain away quickly.
Hardwood decking boards have a more appealing look and develop a nice patina with age. Most of the hardwood that we use is either Balau or Iroko and all comes from sustainable sources.
Decking boards require regular cleaning to maintain their appearance and to prevent the growth of algae.
Concrete floors can be installed using a block and beam system, or by forming a shallow steel tray on top of the balcony chassis which is then filled with concrete. This method, which can also be used for stair treads provides a smooth solid floor that is only 50mm thick and has a smooth metal underside that can be painted to match the rest of the balcony. All of our concrete floors are designed with a fall away from the building to ensure efficient drainage. We can design concrete floors so that the supporting columns of the balcony act as drainpipes to avoid the need for unsightly gutters or downpipes.
Concrete floors can be left bare or finished with tiles or paving to achieve a sophisticated look.
We offer a range of steel mesh flooring which have up to 88% open area to allow light to penetrate. Mesh floors are usually left with a galvanised finish as foot traffic will quickly abrade a painted finish. The appearance is very contemporary or ‘sewage works chic’ to quote one architect! Careful thought needs to be given to the choice of furniture and footwear to be used on mesh floors, and the potential danger of hot drinks being spilled on people below needs to be considered together with the view from below!
Glass offers the ultimate solid floor when light needs to penetrate below. Balconology’s glass floors are manufactured from toughened and laminated glass and are usually supplied in panels of up to 1m square set into a steel frame. This size is dictated by the weight of the panels, rather than structural issues, and larger panels can be provided when there is access for a mobile crane.
External glass floors are sand-blasted to provide a non-slip coating which makes the glass opaque. Internal glass floors, which do not get wet, can be clear.
Balustrades are available in a wide of variety of styles in both steel and glass – please look at the Balustrades section for details of the options which we offer.