• Lisa Gardener


Balconies are one of the most things that appear on almost everyone's wish-lists when planning a new project. They are seen as a high-end design feature, partly because they are very rarely seen on developer-led housing, which is where most people currently live. If, however, you are taking the bold decision to design your own home or to renovate an existing property, then you can create the features and spaces that are important to you.

Balconies come in two main forms: ones that are attached to the outside of the building, and those that are built into the house. In this article we are going to focus on the former option, which is the easier and more cost-effective of the two to implement.

The challenge of incorporating a balcony as part of the structure

If you plan to build a balcony into your house, then make sure you consider the design challenges involved. Where you place the balcony, part of what would have been a normal intermediate floor, becomes an exposed external feature. A normal floor is around 300mm deep and usually contains acoustic insulation and a floor deck. To extend this structure into an outside space to create a balcony, it needs to be insulated to a much higher standard, like a roof, which means a lot more insulation in a tight space. It may also need to be waterproofed and to have a means to drain water away. These features will tend to mean that the floor becomes an even thicker structure.

If these issues aren't addressed in the early stages of your design, the balcony could end up very deep compared to the floor it extends from. To accommodate this extra depth, you will either have to have a step up onto the balcony, or a step down in the ceiling of the room below. Working through these problems can also cost a significant amount of money, so plan your budget carefully!

Protruding balconies are more cost-effective

When building a protruding balcony you have two main decisions to make: whether it will provide a waterproof covering for a ground floor space, and how it will be attached to the building. Both of these decisions can have a big impact on your budget.

If funds are tight, then go for a balcony that isn't waterproof (you will start to get some protection from the elements when standing below) built on a simple metal or timber structure.

Key considerations

The images you see here are of a waterproof balcony, sheltering a small porch. This design was finalised at an early stage in the project, which allowed the design term to build in the correct structural and waterproofing solutions.

As you can see, the first-floor bedrooms looked out through the balcony, and frameless glass balustrades were a key feature of the overall effect.

It's crucial to consider how you will use your balcony. If space allows it, consider making sure it's at least 1.5m deep so it can accommodate a small table and chairs. If you have a larger space and you want a hot tub, then make sure your structural engineer knows so they can allow for the added weight of this feature and the water!

To avoid disappointment, consider from the outset whether the planners are going to support your designs. If your plot is tight or you already have issues with overlooking, then there's a good chance that they'll turn you down. If you think this could apply to your project, then design the balcony you want and hold a pre-application enquiry with the planners to feel things out.

Plan it right, and a balcony is a stunning architectural feature that creates extra space.