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When is it time to replace (or at least repair) your building's balconies?

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No one wants their co-op's balcony to collapse, but on the flip side, no shareholder wants to shell out a bunch of money to replace the building's balconies unless it's strictly necessary. So what kind of damage warrants a full scale overhaul? 

A reader wrote into Habitat about the state of their building's balconiesand whether they should be repaired in tandem with unrelated facade work. Many suffer from "cracks and stains, and some have what look like icicles on the undersides that drip water," while the railings are starting to show "signs of wear," the reader writes. In other words, the types of problems that typically require major work to fix. (For more warning signs to look out for on a balcony, we've got tips here and here.)

Before the board makes any decisions, Habitat notes, it's key to have an engineer or architect do a survey of the balconies to determine if they're structurally sound—among other things, they should check into the balconies' steel reinforcement, the underlying conditions of the concrete, and the stability of the railings.

Problems with these elements will almost always require big-ticket repairs, and if the damage is more extensive, a total replacement. It'll be pricey, but look on the bright side: if you take on the balcony work at the same time as other facade repairs, you'll only have to pay once for the scaffolding and to get your contractor to the site.

Related:

Terrace test: make sure yours is safe

When is a balcony not a balcony? When it's storage

How to tell if your balcony is about to fall off

The great NYC outdoors: FAQs for those lucky enough to have terraces, roof decks, and gardens

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