Category Archives: balcony inspection

 SB 721 Will Force the Inspections of Decks-Who Should Perform the Inspections? supports the inspection bill for decks. The Berkeley tragedy, the lives lost and the survivors who are left with serious life long injuries, has brought us all to realize the need to implement an inspection & repair program on a statewide level. This “accident” was no accident. 

The collapse at Berkeley was on a path to occur somewhere-the building industry in California and beyond will argue against my points, but this tragedy was years in the making. There are many reasons for this-from architecture schools that don’t teach it’s students the basics of waterproofing.  For example, right here at Cal Poly SLO, many courses, not one on waterproofing. I’ve offered to give a lecture at Cal Poly; my offers have been meet with silence.

The architect who designed the balcony in Berkeley designed it poorly. The glue-lam beams, not supposed to be cut, but he called for them to be. The waterproofing membrane, not supposed to be used on low slope plywood decks, Few architects truly understand waterproofing principles in my opinion. There are those that specialize in repairing deficient buildings and decks, but they are the exception, not the rule.

General contractors don’t “get” deck waterproofing. To them it’s a minor thought, where the cheapest bid is the best for them, it puts more money onto their bottom line. Most I talked with as a waterproofing contractor didn’t understand sequencing/scheduling the waterproofing work. I give seminars at JLC Live Residential Construction show and my room is filled with general contractors who know they don’t know enough. With water intrusion issues the number one issue in construction defect litigation, it’s a serious problem.

Currently the CSLB does not have a license classification for waterproofing contractors. They did, but for some reason it went away. Currently 3 specialty license classifications can perform waterproofing services C-8, Concrete, C-33 Painters D-12 Synthetic Products and B licensed contractors can as well. Reviews of sample tests from CSLB reveal little if any knowledge of waterproofing is required as their tests don’t ask anything about waterproofing. Even more disturbing, D-12 contractors don’t even take a test on the trade portion like the other trades.

The biggest problem I see in the construction industry is the evil practice of “piece work” pay, where a worker is paid by his production rate, rather than being paid by the hour. In piece work, “Joe” is paid a set rate to install the framing for the deck. If it takes an average of 12 hours to frame a deck, piece work pay may be set arbitrarily and only gives “Joe” an incentive to finish faster. If he takes 12 hours to frame the deck he makes the same as he would if he framed it in 8 hours. “Joe’s” incentive is to get it done in 8 hours. If it passes inspection (meeting code is like getting a C- in school) the contractor is happy, Joe is to because he won’t get docked for a “go back” charge to fix the deficiency.

“Tom” also gets paid to waterproof the deck on a piece rate. “Tom’s” incentive is to get the deck waterproofed as fast as possible to maximize his take home pay.

From my experience in working for production waterproofing companies, it’s one big cheating cluster fuck of a mess. The workers cheat to max their pay. Want me to bring a few to a Senate hearing? They’ll tell you. It is not possible to perform the job and make a living wage under piece work pay without cheating.  The project manager? He’s getting a bonus if he delivers the project on time and under budget. On time means to damn bad the deck is wet, waterproof it anyway.

One big question stands out-were the employees of Segue Construction & R Brothers Waterproofing being paid piece rate when that balcony was built and waterproofed?

These problems must be addressed in tandem with implementing laws on decks and balcony inspections.

So who should inspect the thousands of  waterproofed decks and balconies in California? And at the same time, why aren’t wood balconies and decks being included? I read that in a five year period, over 33,000 people were injured in deck collapses.

I don’t believe that pest control inspectors or general contractors are the best qualified people to inspect decks. Architects and engineers are better qualified, but has anyone asked them if they want this job?

Several answers exist; first, a deck inspection checklist needs to be developed that every inspector will use and file with the appropriate authority.

NADRA (North American Deck & Railing Association,  has a comprehensive checklist for inspecting decks. Their annual deck safety month in May helps to illuminate the need for regular deck inspections. NADRA also has a course for qualifying inspectors as “deck inspectors”. These inspectors are capable pro’s who perform deck and home inspections on properties for sale. They certainly could, with some training on waterproof deck membranes, be qualified to inspect decks under SB 721.

The Roof Consultants Institute ( is an international association of building envelope consultants. It’s members specialize in design, investigation, repair and management of roofing exterior wall and waterproofing systems. As waterproof decks are indeed roofing systems keeping the interior dry, these consultants are well qualified to perform deck inspections.

Lets also not forget that there are the deck waterproofing companies themselves who inspect decks daily as I do as a deck inspector, who have personnel that are qualified to perform inspections.

It’s my belief that before the state arbitrarily designates who is “qualified” to inspect, that the state determines if in fact general contractors, pest control companies, architects and engineers are actually qualified.

To accomplish that, testing and certification is necessary.

I hope to enlist NADRA and RCI in this endeavor to develop and certify deck inspectors.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide my input. I hope that together we can all work towards ensuring that balcony collapses and the injuries and deaths that come with them become a thing of the past in California and nationwide.

CA Senator Jerry Hill Introduces SB-721 Contractors: decks and balconies: inspection Supports Requiring Deck Inspections

Bill Duplicates Berkeley Bill Langauge in Who Can Perform Inspections

Should structural pest control operators, general contractors, architects or engineers inspect deck inspections as the state of CA is proposing?

They will be if the consulting and inspection industry doesn’t act quickly and object. Senator Hill has just introduced a bill that uses much the same language Berkeley’s city ordinance does.

“The inspection shall be performed by a licensed general contractor, structural pest control licensee, licensed architect, licensed engineer, or other licensee as approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The purpose of the inspection is to verify that all of the balconies and other elevated walking surfaces covered by this section are in generally safe condition, adequate working order, and free from hazardous dry rot, fungus, deterioration, decay, or improper alteration to the extent that the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants is not endangered.”

My thoughts-

Structural Pest Control Licensee-pest control licensee’s inspect buildings for termites/wood destroying organisms. They do not test roofs (or balconies) for water tightness, nor are they qualified to do so. Roof contractors can do so, but generally exclude themselves from inspecting decks. Pest control licensee’s do not know about waterproof coated decks, how they are installed, what problems to look for when doing an inspection and even if they do see a problem, don’t understand what caused it, what degree of a problems it is or how to repair it.

General Contractors-Most GC’s I know don’t know much about waterproofed coated decks and even less about the problems they may have. Indeed, I give seminars on Best Building Practices Building & Waterproofing Decks where the room is filled with GC’s. Ask a GC about flashings and door pans and coating application procedures and their eyes will usually glaze over; they just don’t know. Think of a General Contractor as a Doctor practicing general medicine-they know enough to get by and enough to refer you to a specialist. You wouldn’t go see your general practitioner for a heart problem and you wouldn’t call a General Contractor to come fix your waterproof deck. You would call a specialist who practices waterproofing every day just like you’d call a heart specialist for an operation.

Architects- in my review of the plans for Berkeley, I found multiple design issues with the deck plans. I called a friend of mine who graduated from the Cal-Poly SLO school of architecture and asked him how many classes or lectures he had on waterproofing in general and deck waterproofing specifically. None was his answer. I checked various architecture schools websites for classes on waterproofing. I am still searching, there’s got to be one.  I’ve been on jobs arguing with the architect about his design and how I’m supposed to waterproof it in…they are asking me what I think. Listen you are the one with the degree you just threw in my face; you design the waterproofing system, I’m only the waterproofing contractor.  Either I walk off the job because they’re an egotist asshole or they admit they need my help and I help them. What makes anyone think they know what’s wrong with a waterproof deck?

Engineers- Unless the intent is to push business to the large waterproofing consulting firms, who charge fees that many can’t afford, few engineers are or want to be qualified to inspect waterproofing projects.

So Who Should Be Inspecting Waterproof Decks?

Answer-Qualified Deck Inspectors. What makes a “qualified” deck inspector? People who have been in the trade. People who actually have experience installing waterproof decks.

Members of NADRA, the North American Deck & Railing Association, has a deck inspection course and qualified deck inspectors many of whom are also home inspectors.

I believe a course on how to inspect waterproof decks, with a checklist of items to use during the inspection, should be developed. As with home inspectors, no license is required. This should be the case here as well. There are many qualified individuals who could perform deck inspections but would be removed from doing so if the bill passes with it’s current language. recommends changes to the bill in regards to who can perform the deck inspections. What do you think?

Waterproofing Classifications CSLB-Maybe a license classification for waterproofing contractors should be reinstated by CSLB, currently several classes of contractors can waterproof decks, inc roofers, painters and synthetic products contractors. This creates confusion and disparity in the industry as roofers even of they are exempt from workers comp because they have no employees, must still have a workers comp policy in place. A painter is exempt from being required to have workers comp as is the synthetic products contractor.


The full text of the bill is below. Please register and comment on the bill to add your thoughts.

An act to add Section 7071.20 to the Business and Professions Code, relating to contractors.



SB 721, as introduced, Hill. Contractors: decks and balconies: inspection.
Existing law provides authority for an enforcement agency to enter and inspect any buildings or premises whenever necessary to secure compliance with or prevent a violation of the building standards published in the California Building Standards Code and other rules and regulations that the enforcement agency has the power to enforce.
This bill would require the inspection of decks, balconies, and elevated walkways more than 6 feet above ground level in a building containing 3 or more multifamily units by a person licensed to perform these inspections by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The bill would require the inspections and any necessary repairs to be completed by January 1, 2021, and would require subsequent inspections every 5 years, except as specified. The bill would require a copy of the inspection report to be filed with the county recorder and made available, as specified. The repairs made under these provisions would be required to comply with the latest edition of the California Building Standards Code and all local jurisdictional requirements. The bill would authorize local enforcing agencies to recover enforcement costs associated with these requirements.
Because this bill would impose new duties upon local enforcement authorities, it would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.



Section 7071.20 is added to the Business and Professions Code, to read:


(a) All buildings containing three or more multifamily dwelling units, any existing balcony or other elevated walking surface exposed to water, including, but not limited to, rain, snow, or irrigation, with structural framing that is protected by an impervious moisture barrier shall be inspected. For purposes of this section, balconies or other elevated walking surfaces less than six feet above grade are not included. The inspection shall be performed by a licensed general contractor, structural pest control licensee, licensed architect, licensed engineer, or other licensee as approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The purpose of the inspection is to verify that all of the balconies and other elevated walking surfaces covered by this section are in generally safe condition, adequate working order, and free from hazardous dry rot, fungus, deterioration, decay, or improper alteration to the extent that the life, limb, health, property, safety, or welfare of the public or the occupants is not endangered.

Building elements, including the walking surface, structural frame and connector hardware, weatherproofing, landings, stairway systems, guardrails, handrails, and any other elements critical to the safety of the balcony or elevated walking surface, found to be in need of repair or replacement, hazardous, structurally deficient, or noncompliant shall, upon determination by the licensed professional, be immediately corrected by the property owner or individual responsible for management or operation of the building. All necessary permits for repair or replacement of exterior balconies and elevated walking surfaces shall be obtained from the local jurisdiction. All repair and replacement work, including installation and inspection of impervious moisture barrier systems, must be performed in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions, the latest edition of the California Building Standards Code, and all local jurisdictional requirements.
(b) The inspection and repairs shall be completed by January 1, 2021, and every five years thereafter. The licensed professional conducting the inspection shall produce an initial report that states the condition of the building features and recommendations for repair, conditioning, or replacement and a final report indicating that all of the required repairs have been completed. A copy of the final report shall be submitted to the county recorder for recordation. Local enforcing agencies may determine the information to be provided in the report and require a copy of the initial or final reports, or both, to be submitted to the local jurisdiction in lieu of recordation.
(c) Multifamily buildings of three units or more for which a building permit application has been submitted on or after February 1, 2017, are exempt from the inspection certification requirements for a period of five years following issuance of a certificate of occupancy from the local jurisdiction.
(d) The continued and ongoing maintenance of balconies and elevated walking surfaces and parts thereof, in a safe and sanitary condition, shall be the responsibility of the owner or the owner’s designated agent. To determine ongoing compliance with this subdivision, the enforcing agency shall have the authority to require reinspection of those structures.
(e) Local enforcing agencies shall have the ability to recover enforcement costs associated with the requirements of this section.

SEC. 2.

No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by this act, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code.

R Brothers Waterproofing Has POS Victim Blaming Lawyers

When I read %&@! like this I want to hit something! From the Irish Times  article found here

“The plaintiffs and/or cross-complainants’ own carelessness and negligence may have proximately contributed to the events and damages complained of…”   

Those are the words in a filing from R Brothers Waterproofing attorneys on why the balcony in Berkeley collapsed last year, killing 6 people and leaving seven more with serious injuries and a lifetime of horror. 

It gets worse, R Brothers lawyers is trying to blame everyone else too – here they throw the architect under the bus. They may have a point but you don’t follow shitty plans either…

 “R Brothers Waterproofing also claims the “designs of others” that it had no responsibility for were to blame for the injuries complained of.

“This answering defendant did not select, design or approve the allegedly defective components,” it says under the heading of “causation”.
It also said it had no notice of any alleged defects and that the injuries alleged “were caused by third parties’ deficient work or products”.
So in California when one is looking at plans and one knows, as the licensed expert waterproofing contractor that they are, that the design is wrong, you don’t bid it. Secondly if it did slip by that the design was wrong and you did bid it, when you got to the job and saw what you were doing, you stop and don’t do the work until an RFI is made and a decision is issued by the architect and the general contractor. R Brothers apparently covered wet substrate with moisture trapping membranes and wants to say they aren’t responsible? 
So if R Brothers is saying this detail is wrong, why did
they apparently follow it? Inquiring minds want to know. 
Even worse, they say in their filing if we are found negligent, it’s secondary to others negligence…excuse me but WTF? 
I see it fairly simply-you check the moisture content of your plywood with a simple moisture meter. If it’s higher than 14-16% then you say can’t do it…and the problem is especially compounded when/if it was a double layer of OSB that’s soaking wet. It would take weeks of dry weather if ever to get that moisture content down to acceptable levels. 
Simple moisture meter gives a general reading of the moisture content
of the plywood I have the probes pushed into. The moisture content
is to high for applying a coating to right now so this wood needs
to dry more. 
Bottom line, the attorneys are POS scumbags IMO for even suggesting the victims had anything to do with their deaths and injuries. 

BREAKING NEWS-No Criminal Charges in Berkeley Deck Tragedy Case

Just saw in several tweets from @mgafni that the Alameda DA’s office announced after nine months of investigation that no charges will be filed for criminal actions by the parties involved in building the deck that fell last summer.

If you recall, six died and seven Irish summer worker college students were injured after they fell 40+ feet to a concrete sidewalk in Berkeley last summer when a rotted balcony gave way. The images of that scene were horrible and left lasting wounds on the rescuers and survivors.

The DA’s office seized the fallen balcony and made it evidence from a crime scene. After investigating the case, no criminal charges will be filed, leaving civil action as the only real recourse. Although criminal intent was not found, it’s probably going to be easier to show negligence and construction defects for the plaintiff’s attorneys. Civil suits have been filed by attorney’s against the builder and the subs as well as the management company and others.

Watch for further news on the Berkeley case in the future as the civil cases move ahead.

These Words Should Send a Chill Down The Building Industries Back!

Maybe you didn’t feel it, but on November 12th, the building industry was shaken up. Hard, like they got punched, and punched and punched. The law firm of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger is representing Aoife Beary and another party who are suing for damages from the result of the balcony collapsing on June 16th of this year.  

The suit asks for damages, enough to make an example out of the defendants, enough so THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN! Every person involved in building decks, especially cantilevered, are now on notice that it better be done perfectly and correctly. OR YOU WILL PAY. Remember to, the DA’s office is investigating this too and criminal charges may still come!


So here you are building industry, property management industry, design industry etc; start designing, building, sequencing and use the right materials cause the deaths of these poor kids WILL NOT BE IN VAIN! READ THIS LIST, IT’S JUST A WHO’S WHO OF THE SINS I SEE DURING INSPECTIONS AND WHEN I WAS WATERPROOFING DECKS! 

Cigarette Believed to Be Trigger of Massive Condo Fire

A safety expert believes a cigarette is to blame for sparking a massive fire on a deck on a condo in Florida. We recommend the use of fire resistant Class A rated solid surface decking over wood and synthetics for superior protection.

Watch the news clip below