Boards and Architectural Committees need to be aware that allowing owners to tile their balconies may lead to water damage, dry rot and mold to their balcony, the owner's unit and units below.
Damage to Membrane. Tile is not a waterproofing system. Tile and the grout used to install tile are porous. As a result, water will become trapped between these materials and the waterproofing membrane underneath. This will void the waterproofing manufacturer's warranty and accelerate the breakdown of the waterproofing materials. The resultant seepage of water into the balcony structure will lead to wood rot and attract termites. Frequently, the damage is undetectable. Sometimes, the first sign of trouble is when the owner walks onto the deck and his/her foot goes through the flooring material. The structural repairs that follow are quite costly.
Water Drainage. Another problem caused by tile is that it reduces the amount of space between the top of the deck surface and the threshold of the sliding glass door. That means a heavy rain that overwhelms balcony drains will quickly spill over the threshold into the owner's unit and the unit below. In addition, tile can cover the weep screed in the stucco thereby blocking drainage from the walls, leading to dry rot and mold in the walls.
Define Duties. Associations should amend their CC&Rs to clearly define maintenance responsibilities for balconies and decks. In addition, they should include maintenance guidelines in their rules. Finally, architectural guidelines need to be adopted that either prohibit the installation of materials over the top of waterproofing membranes (Cathedral Hill v. Garbar) or adopt stringent guidelines for the installation of such materials.
Installation Guidelines. According to Bill Leys, The Deck Expert, the minimum requirements for a tile waterproofing job: (a) deck must have 2x10" joists spaced 10" or 12" on center, (b) the plywood must be 1 1/8" T&G plywood or 2 sheets of 3/4" plywood, (c) it must be sloped to the drain or edge with 1/4" per foot of fall (1" in 4'), and (d) deflection must be <720. Then, a suitable waterproofing membrane approved (by IAMPO, ICC or ASTM) for use under tile must be used. For decks over living spaces, TCNA standards require a dual waterproofing membrane, a mortar bed 1" thick minimum,a drainage membrane and all appropriate flashing and door pans and terminations of membranes to the flashing. NOTE: Boards should follow specifications for their particular development as established by architects/contractors retained by the board.
Recorded Covenant. If owners are allowed to install tile on their balconies, minimum standards need to be established by the board. They need to be in writing and made part of the Architectural Standards or Rules & Regulations for the association. In addition, the owner should be required to sign a recordable covenant obligating the current owner and all future owners to maintain the balcony deck and any damage that may result.
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