Another functional advantage is an aluminum balcony can be constructed as one piece, integrating the guardrail and the floor. Unlike wood or steel that is built with flooring gaps (an ‘open floor’ construction), extruded aluminum planks can be installed in tongue-and-groove style for a solid floor, with no gaps between boards. For some residents, a solid floor makes them feel more comfortable while out on the balcony.
It isn’t just new construction that can benefit. Contractors have noted the trend towards the remodeling of older condos and apartments. This provides a ready market for aluminum to replace decaying balconies.
Due to degradation of the wood or steel balcony structures, moisture leaks into the building envelope, leading to all kinds of maintenance, safety and health headaches. As a result, building codes have gotten very strict to prevent waterproofing problems.
That can mean up to six different trades are involved in the activities required to properly waterproof a balcony. All it takes is one trade failing in their duties and water can begin to infiltrate the structure. With balconies in particular, wooden joists or steel beams penetrate the wall as a means of supporting the deck. This is the Achilles’ Heel of the building envelope. Once steel or wood degrade, moisture inevitably finds a way to leak into the internal structure, where it can wreak havoc.
Wood, typically, is never used above three or four storeys. There are also owner concerns over its waterproofing and maintenance liabilities. This brings the choice down to steel versus aluminum.