True and faux balconies are popular architectural features that add value and appeal to a home. However, the two fundamentally differ in their use, advantages, and disadvantages.
True balconies have a base deeper than 18", designed for people to safely stand on. This makes them ideal for outdoor living and entertaining, as they can be used for everything from dining and grilling to simply relaxing and enjoying the fresh air. For this type of balcony, 24" is the minimum depth commonly used.
Here are some of the advantages of true balconies:
- Increased living space: True balconies can add significant living space to a home, especially in urban areas where outdoor space is often limited.
- Enhanced curb appeal: A well-designed balcony can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to a home's exterior.
- Increased home value: True balconies can increase the value of a home by making it more attractive to potential buyers.
However, there are also some disadvantages to true balconies:
- Cost: True balconies are more expensive to build than faux balconies. True balconies should be made of Steel instead of aluminum to ensure better structural quality and longevity.
- Safety: True balconies must be adequately designed and constructed to ensure safety. Therefore, buying it from a specialized company that can guide you through the process is essential. Another point is that being a bolt-on balcony, they may require modifications and reinforcements in the receiving wall, and local authorities may require the stamp of a local structural engineer.
- Maintenance: True balconies require regular maintenance, such as cleaning and painting, to keep them looking their best. Therefore, ensure the manufacturer offers a weatherproof finish such as epoxy paint or double powder coating. This will provide many years of maintenance-free enjoyment.
Faux balconies have an in-depth base of 18 inches or less and are designed to hold planters. When a faux balcony does not include a base and is open at its bottom, it is called a guardrail balcony. This means that they are not intended for people to stand on. Instead, they are used to add visual interest to a home's exterior and to provide a space for plants and flowers or, in the case of guardrail balconies, to safely block the French door to enhance the view of a window.
Here are some of the advantages of faux balconies:
- Cost: Faux balconies are less expensive to build than true balconies. They are lighter, require fewer materials, and are easier to handle during manufacturing and installation. The cost of shipping is also reduced.
- Safety: Faux balconies pose different safety risks than true balconies since they are not intended for people to stand on. This makes it easier to get a permit from the local authorities.
- Maintenance: Faux balconies require less maintenance than true balconies.
However, there are also some disadvantages to faux balconies:
- Limited usability: Faux balconies cannot be used for outdoor living or entertaining.
- Reduced curb appeal: Faux balconies may not be as aesthetically pleasing as true balconies.
- Reduced home value: Faux balconies may add less value to a home than true balconies.
HOW TO SELECT YOUR BOLT-ON BALCONY
Here are some selection criteria for both true balconies and faux balconies.
- Material: Generally, bolt-on balconies are offered in Steel or aluminum. Time and use have proved that Steel is a better option for various reasons. First, it is a better material from a structural standpoint. Second, Steel retains the finish better than aluminum because it does expands and contracts less than aluminum. Although Steel has a "rusting reputation," with the proper process, the finish will stay beautiful longer than on an aluminum balcony. Third, due to its position in the electrolytic chart, the combination of aluminum material and steel anchors may produce galvanic corrosion, making the bolts lose with time. Fourth, aluminum is weaker than Steel, so it will require heavier gauges to comply with the structural requirements. Also, aluminum's prolonged welding process compared to Steel makes aluminum true balconies much more expensive.
- Finish: Regarding finish, there are some things to remember when shopping for a balcony: First, choose a long-lasting good finish. Epoxy paints offer an excellent finish used in many industrial applications; however, the cost is very high. Enamel paints with rust inhibitors are a good option, but the application process is paramount for a good result. Lousy paint jobs are widespread among fabricators, which has given Steel the "rusting reputation." Third, standard powder coating is a good and cheap process but depends on the cleaning and preparation's quality. Fourth, double powder coating consists of using a zinc primer powder first and the standard powder coating powder afterward to ensure perfect coverage and mechanical resistance; it is more expensive but still affordable than paints, and time and use have proven that it is the best for this application.
- Ease of installation: Some bolt-on balcony designs make them difficult to install. Check with your installer, watch the videos and literature of the manufacturer, and decide based on such observations. Installation could be a significant cost of your project; for that reason, communication is a crucial ingredient. Have your installer call the manufacturer to inquire about procedures and labor hours needed. When an installer is unsure of what a job entails, he charges more.
- Lead time: Lead time could be necessary, but remember, the most important thing is the quality of the product. Even more than its cost.
- Use: Think about how you are going to use the balcony. This is essential since the price difference between faux and true balconies is substantial.
Ultimately, the best choice for your home will depend on your individual needs and budget. A true balcony is the best option if you are looking for additional outdoor living space. However, a faux balcony may be a better choice if you are on a tight budget. Choosing a reputable manufacturer to ensure safety and product quality is also essential.
The cost of a true balcony is substantially greater than that of a faux balcony. For example, a typical 7'x3' balcony can cost about $5,000, while a faux balcony of the same size can be made for around $2,000.
It is important to note that the cost of a balcony can vary depending on several factors, such as the size and complexity of the balcony, the materials used, and the cost of labor in your area.
Pedro L. Sanchez