Zebra Construction Takes on Balcony Laws

Company growth attributed to trust, old school values

By Susan Payne

Every building with 3 or more units in the state of California with an exterior elevated element above six feet, requires an inspection per the new “Balcony Law”. The first inspection of these elements must be completed by a licensed architect, engineer or contractor by January 1, 2025. 

Passed in 2020, bills SB-721 and SB-326 commonly known as the “Balcony Laws” state that 15% of each type of elevated wood-constructed element must be inspected every six years to promote safety and prevent loss of life.

Zebra Construction is equipped and ready to help property owners and managers with inspections. General contractor Michelle Durey and Kevin Fanta cofounded Zebra in 2019 on the foundation of trust and old school values. These structural experts have already started the inspection process with a few of their clients.

“Six young people died and seven others were injured after a balcony collapsed in 2015. Evidence from the CSLB report pointed to dry rot, leading the balcony to become structurally compromised and collapse,” Durey said.

Balcony Laws require wood constructed elements that extend beyond exterior walls of the building to be inspected.  This can include balconies, decks, stairways, walkways and entry structures. After the initial inspection, subsequent inspections must be completed every six years. The building owner must keep record of inspection for two inspection cycles, equal to 12 years. 

If any exterior elevated elements pose an immediate threat to the occupant(s) the owner must receive the report within 15 days of the inspection and the local enforcement authority will be notified by the inspector. Zebra Construction will return a plan for repairs and cost to repair the elements at this time. Work can begin without a permit if it is an immediate threat, but a permit will still be needed by the end of the project.  If there is no immediate threat, the report must be returned to the property owner within 45 days of the inspection.

From inspection to repair, Zebra Construction has created an easy step-by-step process, so property owners are abiding by the law: 

  • Free consultation is completed by Zebra Construction to review how many exterior elevated elements need inspection.
  • Property owner or manager will be given a few different options on the inspection process. The first being to inspect only what is required, and the second to inspect all exterior elevated elements to further reduce owner’s liability.
  • Once hired, Zebra can install inspection vents, which have hinges and can be opened for future inspections. They allow 5 joist bays to be seen with one vent. The vents comply with building codes for fire ratings and allow air flow that prevents moisture from being trapped in wood members. The other option is a 3 inch hole which is plugged after and inspection is completed with a camera.
  • An engineer will complete a visual inspection of exposed elements.
  • Zebra Construction will return the engineer’s report to the property owner. 
  • Zebra’s engineers will then detail a plan for repairs (if needed) which must have a permit applied for within 120 days of the report. 
  • Zebra will complete any repairs necessary with a permit. This can include sistering joists or reframing balconies due to termite damage or dry rot and making sure balconies have correct fire ratings. Railings could possibly have new piers welded if steel on the railing system is corroded, and waterproofing systems may need replacement.

“We recommend a Pacific Polymer Elasto-Deck coating. It will require the least amount of maintenance,” Durey said. 

When new laws and ordinances come into effect, Durey and the Zebra team educate and inform themselves and their clients on the requirements, giving property owners full transparency of the laws and what is needed for compliance.

“I’ve seen so many people get taken advantage of when there’s a new law in place, so we stay involved with apartment owner associations and the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California. I want to help people in any way I can,” Durey said. 

Zebra currently works in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas and focuses on seismic retrofitting and structural repairs for commercial and residential properties. They have the team to make the process seamless and will give you the education you need to make an informed decision.

“Our biggest asset is that Kevin and I who are the principals of the company are directly involved in the construction process and that’s rare. We have a small family-like company and customers are appreciative of our consistent communication and on-site presence. We’re easy to get a hold of and have a great team,” Durey said.

To get connected with Zebra Construction, or request a free consultation, visit www.zebraconstruct.com.

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