Everyone wants a place where they can enjoy the outdoors during nice weather. Some homeowners decide to build a deck where they can have entertainment outdoors. However, if you do not have the space, a balcony is the perfect solution. The balcony is the must-have accessory for many urban homes today.

According to Dickson Mbaziira, a civil engineer in Kajjansi, while it is a small space, it can hold big designs and there are plenty balcony design ideas for every design choice of your second floor balcony.

“There was a time when we wanted our homes to simply be safe and have a place where we could feel warm, unwind and lock out the outside world. But all new developments, especially ones in urban areas, have one feature in common that marks a move away from this way of thinking,” he says.

Mbaziira adds that obviously, size and materials will dictate cost, but one should be sure to consult a few builders about the work, and ask to see their previous work. “A poorly-installed balcony could easily damage your home, while a well-executed one will add value to your home.”

What to look out for
While getting a construction plan, it is important that the engineer sticks to the original plan from the architect.
Benard Ssozi, an architect, says balconies provide a stylish appearance to the house. They are a place of relaxation and flood your room with natural light and fresh air. “For one to add a balcony to their house, they require permission from the local authorities especially if their balcony projects out from the building.

Adding a balcony to an old building will raise concerns of bonding or joining the new to the already existing structure,” he says.

Considerations
Roselyn Nalugo, a civil engineer in Mengo, says the structural strength of the existing building is key, especially for the different kinds of balconies such as a cantilever balcony. Cantilever construction allows for overhanging structures without external bracing, in contrast to constructions supported at both ends with loads applied between the supports. “The building materials should be carefully selected.

The purpose of the balcony is critical, some balconies are designed for beauty while others serve as part of the living room. It is paramount to know if they are to be cantilevered or supported by columns,” Nalugo explains.

Waterproofing
Moses Kitone, an architect in Kawempe, says some builders address the wicking problem by installing plywood on the exterior floor, followed by a waterproof surface material such as fiberglass. This works better than surface boards with drainage gaps, but still leaves a tricky problem at the door edge.

“The cantilevered beams guarantee that the interior flooring and the balcony surface are at the same level, it is hard to prevent rain from entering. The best water management details call for a balcony or floor to be one step lower than the interior flooring which is an impossibility if the beams are cantilevered,” he explains.

Kitone adds that it is best to space the ledger away from the sheathing to allow for drainage and to flash diligently to keep moisture from penetrating the house.

“The far end of the balcony could be supported by posts that bear on footings, but a more traditional aesthetic is achieved with metal rods, cables, or brackets. All three options can be as useful and decorative as one would like, but they should be engineered for safety.”

How safe is it?
Ismail Mutagubya, a businessman downtown Kampala, says after he added a balcony to his country home, it started developing cracks from the foundation, a problem he first attributed to poor mixture of building materials. “After various consultations, engineers told me the balcony’s weight had become too heavy to be contained by the foundation, which wasn’t well supported,” says Mutagubya.

Nalugo says: “Consult an engineer who will carry out thorough checks to establish whether it is safe to add a balcony to your house.”

Cost
According to Eriasa Nkoyoyo Kiwana, an engineer, cost depends on material used and columns. However, most of them range between Shs350,000 to Shs4m. when you choose to have it per square metre, it can cost Shs150,000 per square meter for a normal building and Shs200,000 for a storeyed building. Nkoyoyo adds that it also depends on the size of the house for you cannot put a bungalow balcony to a flat house.
Commercial buildings cannot have balconies for residential property.

Types of balconies
There are different types on the market one can choose depending on their structure and aesthetics:
True balcony. This has a deck floor and railings, which give your house elegance.
French Juliet balcony. Just like the true balcony, this has the railings but are more interior and would work for people with ample space.
Mezzanie balcony. This is built for bigger houses and malls or hotels. They are found inside the house and offer room for people to relax during evening hours and free time.
Faux. This one has rails but no floor, which acts as a protective measure for families that have children.
False balcony. It has a small bit of decking and a rail to help give beauty to the house.

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