Among the most common claims we encounter are those relating to decks and balconies. The phrase decks and balconies” is intended to encompass structures built on ground level and those that are built as elevated platforms. materials used in constructing decks and balconies in residential dwellings typically include wood, metal or masonry, each of which, in our experience, is characterized by design and construction deficiencies if not given adequate consideration in the design phase and proper care in the construction phase of development.
- Masonry Decks– High rise and mid-rise buildings often use filigree slabs in constructing decks. The concrete filigree slabs can be cast in place in steel frames on site or be pre-cast off-site and transported to the site for erection. These types of decks have the advantage in construction of providing a working platform, thereby eliminating the need for erection of temporary wood planking in the construction of the high- or mid- rise building. Use of highly skilled and experienced structural engineers is necessary in designing such decks and testing is required to check the strength of the concrete used matches design specifications. Common deficiencies in masonry decks include: failure to ensure that the concrete used is mixed to the proper design strength; failure to ensure that the concrete filigree slabs are supported with scaffolding for the entire required period (typically 28 days) to allow the concrete to fully cure; failure to ensure that the framing is attached to the building correctly and is of sufficient design strength to support the weight of the slabs and live and dead loads superimposed on the slabs; and failure to ensure that the filigree slabs are properly pitched to allow water to drain off of the decks rather than pitch back towards the building.
- Wood Framed Decks–After roofing issues, this is probably the most common feature we deal with in our cases. The single most common deficiency is the failure to install flashings properly –or at all. Most wood decks attach to the building through use of a wood ledger board mounted on the side of the building. The deck is constructed off of the ledger board and is bolted through the ledger board into the framing of the building. If the interface between the ledger board and the building is not properly flashed, water will sometimes work itself behind the deck ledger board , through or behind the exterior cladding material and cause substantial damage to the framing and sheathing. This is particularly true where decks are attached to ledger boards that are found on buildings using EIFS, stucco or other exterior claddings that can be sensitiva to water infiltration if exacting detail is not followed in installing the cladding. Other common deficiencies include, among other things, failing to ensure that the decks are pitched in such a way that water flows off of the decks rather than back towards the building; failure to apply fiberglass decking materials over non-pressure treated wood decking material in accordance with manufacturer’s installation specifications; failing to ensure that EIFS used to cover decking materials has proper drainage; failing to ensure that railings which penetrate wood decking have been adequately sealed; failing to ensure that columns designed to bear the loads of multiple levels of decks are made of materials and installed so that they hold the live and dead loads imposed on those columns
- Concrete Decks–we have extensive experience with concrete decks made from filigree slabs that are pre-cast off site or that are poured in place in metal frames on site. Common deficiencies include failing to use concrete of the required strength; pouring concrete in freezing weather without using appropriate protection; and failing to allow the concrete to cure for a full 28 days before the scaffolding is removed. We have seen very severe damages cause by some of these conditions, including structural failure and potential collapse.
A careful evaluation of the building by a qualified expert is necessary in order for you to understand the condition of the building, the causes of any deficiencies in design, materials or construction methods, and the extent of the damages resulting therefrom. Once that information is compiled, counsel can help you determine what your options are for recovering your damages and getting your building fixed.