Let me start by saying that I’m a member of CAI. That said I’m not one to fall in line. I don’t follow any party line. I march to the beat of my own drummer.
The balcony bill has no teeth behind it. Essentially it is a paper tiger. The bill says you have to inspect, but if you don’t, there isn’t any state agency that will come after you. The only consequences an HOA faces is if a deck fails and people are injured or killed and the HOA failed to have an inspection done. The insurance company will have to pay and then they won’t renew your policy and you’d be essentially uninsurable.
SB 721, the apartment inspection bill prevents inspectors from bidding to repair damages they may find. That’s a good thing. It keeps inspectors on the straight and narrow. Does SB 326 prevent inspectors from bidding on repairs? Nope. The result is a lot of grifters taking advantage of unsuspecting HOAs and stealing their money.
Now the ultimate insult is before us. The SB 326 balcony bill requires a licensed architect or a licensed structural engineer to perform the inspection and sign/stamp the report. But what happens if a civil engineer signs the report? The bill is clear, it must be a licensed architect or structural engineer. So if a civil engineer signs the report, they should lose their license right? Or at least have a complaint disclosure on their license right?
But the truth is a civil engineer who signed a SB 326 inspection report will be simply admonished for signing the report as the Board of Professional Engineers has no ability to discipline said engineer.
Case in point, Raffi Abkarian, a civil engineer who signed a balcony inspection report. After investigation by the Board of Professional Engineers, they sent this letter to me saying that civil code 5551 gave them no authority to discipline Abkarian even though he signed the report. They basically said he’s guilty as fuck but we can’t do anything.
CAI CLAC insisted on writing a bill for their HOAs because they didn’t like SB 721. They wrote their own bill, the state senate rubber stamped it and here we are. The very HOAs that CLAC professes to want to protect are exposed and are getting screwed by unsavory companies and there’s no recourse for HOAs.
CLAC, it’s time to UnFuck the balcony bill and rewrite it. Protect your HOAs, don’t expose them to grifters.
What does CLAC need to do? Simple, get the balcony bill rewritten to toughen it up. The answers are above… But I will put them below.
Ban inspectors from bidding any work for at least 18 months after an inspection. (Home Inspectors are, look it up). Require inspectors to divulge any ownership interest in any Waterproofing or contracting company in writing. They have conflicts of interest.
Give the Board of Professional Engineers the ability to discipline any engineer that is not a structural engineer who signs a report. Require the structural/ architect to attest that they were on site, inspected the structural elements and determined that they are ok. No robosigning reports. Any engineer that is not a structural engineer who signs a report should have their license suspended for at least one year.
Require HOAs to have their EEEs inspected or be scheduled to have inspections done by the deadline or face financial consequences.
If you’ve read this website much you know I speak a lot about problems with wood framed decks; dry-rot, termites, fungus, water intrusion, these all lead to shorter life spans and costly repairs. We’ve seen the results, Berkeley, 7 dead, 6 seriously injured…and frequently, all to frequently, we read about a deck collapse somewhere with numerous people taken to a hospital when a deck at a home fails and they all fall to the ground.
I’m on LinkedIn and one of my connections, Philip Purdy of Stonecroft Construction LLC is a deck contractor in Colorado Springs/El Paso County in Colorado. He’s been posting photo’s of his deck projects, many which are of his crew replacing a wood deck with a new deck. But Philip stands out because his new decks aren’t framed with wood. They’re framed with steel.
I checked out Stonecroft Construction on Google and found this gem- Philip’s company has a five star rating on Google. One of his clients said “Philip’s crew built my deck as if they were building their own.” 61 five star reviews out of 61 reviews. Another of his clients said “…and I was even told by one of the inspectors that the deck we received was very impressive and absolute quality work.” Outstanding and extremely impressive. Obviously Philips dedication to his craft pays off with reviews like these.
It hit me after I made a comment on a post of his that I asked why aren’t waterproof decks being built with steel framing? What are the advantages of using steel? So I asked Philip if I could ask some questions so I could write this post; he said yes and here we are. My questions are in bold italics with Philips answers following.
How long have you been a deck contractor?
Since 2014. We started as a general contractor and then slowly specialized into decks.
Were you framing decks with wood before going to steel?
We built about 75 wood frame decks before moving into steel. We have built close to 90 steel frame decks at this point and we are not looking back. We don’t even offer wood frame any more.
How/why did you start using steel framing?
I grew up on a family farm in Kansas. We built most things out of steel for the farm. I noticed anything my grandfather built out of wood had to be replaced. Anything he built out of steel was still around. I learned how to build things out of steel from boyhood. When I moved to Colorado Springs and found out about steel it was an easy choice. We were becoming increasingly frustrated with the wood frame problems. Finally, I had enough of the warping, cracking, shrinking and rotting. It was at that point, I decided we would install all steel all the time. At 90 decks with steel frame, we have not had any callbacks. It makes me sleep better at night knowing I am building on a solid foundation.
What are the advantages of steel framing over wood framing?
Steel is lighter to carry on the job site. It does not warp, shrink, crack or bow. It stays straight. It resists rot. It is more dimensionally stable than wood. It is more uniform. You do not have to crown it. It can do greater joist and beam spans with less material. Steel is stronger by weight. This leads to the need for less piers. Steel is easier to work with in my opinion. It goes together with self-tapping screws. Steel does not absorb water and get heavier to work with. If anyone wants to know the advantages of steel, they just need to look at the joist hangers on an old rotted deck. If the hangers are rusting, it is possible that is not a good location for steel. If they look like the day they were put on (most all of them do) then that tells you what steel does in that location. We use Fortress Evolution Steel Framing. It is additionally powder coated which adds another layer of protection from rust or corrosion.
What about cost differences between wood and steel framing?
The costs are hard to compare. By the linear ft steel is around 2.5 to 3 times more. If you consider sorting out the bad boards, needing more footings, crowning, planing the joist flat, taping the joists and beams, I believe they even out pretty quick. The lighter weight of steel means you are not as tired at the end of the day. How do you quantify those advantages?
How are the deck boards fastened to steel framing?
Wood framing usually gets clips or screws of some sort. There are several different clips that work well with steel deck framing. One is the Trex Hideaway Clip for Elevations. We use it exclusively at this point as it works with most decking brands. Camo is coming out with some interesting ideas with their new Edge Clip and X Clip that work well. We are constantly trying out new ideas. For screws, we use Cortex Drillers or Deckfast Metal Screws. We use these with one of their decking plug systems. Cortex seem to work the best for us with their specialized TTap bit system. We typically use the screws on stairs and picture frame. The hidden fasteners are for the decking field.
Can I screw plywood to the steel framing for waterproofing over?
We have not done this, but I imagine it would work just fine. There are a number of panhead screws available that self tap and should work fine for this purpose.
Can the steel framing be adjusted to have a slope to it of 2% per foot to drain water off?
You can do most anything with steel that you can with wood. We do not do this, but it is something that could be done.
Can a finished soffit be installed under the deck framing or do I have to look at steel framing?
Absolutely, you could add furring and your own boards if you have waterproofing above or an aluminum underdeck system like Underdeck Oasis. The Fortress Evolutions Steel offers a black joist that looks nice even if you don’t plan on covering it up.
What other advantages does steel framing offer over wood from your point of view?
Steel framing can be recycled if you are going to tear it down in the future. Because steel is put together with screws you can also take it apart easily to fix mistakes that inevitably happen. Then you can put it right back together again. Taking apart wood that has been nailed together requires considerably more effort. Commercial, industrial and agri-business have proven steel as a durable, viable building material over the last 100 years. The deck industry is catching on and steel’s time has come.
After talking with Philip I’m more interested than ever in exploring using steel to support pedestrian traffic coatings. Philip’s brand of choice for steel deck framing and stair framing is Fortress Building Products https://fortressbp.com/. A look at their website and specs shows a robust product that has an Intertek compliance report on its structural properties and non combustible properties.
Philip was kind enough to provide photograph’s of his work, which is here in the gallery below. Take a look at his decks and the framing supporting them.
So readers what do you think? Is steel the material to consider and select for your deck project? I’m definitely intrigued and will be exploring this option more for upcoming deck replacement projects my firm William Leys Waterproofing Consultants LLC is involved in.
We’ve seen a lot of hype over balcony inspection vents here in California. This new product is the result of the SB 326 & SB 721 Balcony Inspection bills that were passed after the deaths of 7 young adults and severe injuries to 6 who survived the collapse of a balcony in Berkeley in 2015.
Essentially balcony inspection vents are designed to be installed in a retrofit or on new construction across the bays on a deck, most are set up with a piano hinge that allows the vent to be opened and the joists and substrate can be observed. Several other less expensive types require the vent to be pulled down after removing several screws.
Well here it is folks, the proof of how dangerous a cigarette can be. Extinguish your butt and discard it properly. In water. Watch the video. Then read the article and see how this building narrowly escaped burning to the ground.
Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcán Miller, Eimear Walsh and Aiofe Beary, who was badly injured but survived the initial fall, sadly passed away recently. Seven lives cut short. Six lives permanently altered.
Last weekend I was in Berkeley. I stayed right around the corner from 2020 kittredge Street where the balcony collapsed. I was looking for a place to park my vehicle and they have a parking area there. It didn’t even strike me at the time when I drove in and parked that this was holy ground.
I walked outside of the garage and was on the sidewalk… I looked at it and then I looked up. When the place was library gardens there were two decks, one of which fell. As I walked down that sidewalk where they lay I trembled.
The Berkeley deck collapse was entirely preventable…and must not happen ever again. I call upon every state in the nation to implement deck inspections. Lives are at stake.
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