How can I tell if a cantilevered balcony safe?

I am purchasing a home with a cantilevered balcony, built in 1960. T

The balcony runs the entire length of the house (42 ft) and is 5 ft wide. The floor of the balcony is covered with plywood which is topped with outdoor carpet.

The roof completely overhangs the balcony and the underside of the balcony is also enclosed with plywood. Therefore the joists are pretty well sealed up.

My question is....how can I be sure this balcony is safe without being able to see the joists?

Could the joists be rotted even though they're sealed up? How would I know? Could water be getting into the house? Would there be any signs?

I'm afraid of getting stuck with a huge problem safety-wise and money-wise. Any advice? Would it be difficult to convert the balcony to a larger deck?

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Aug 29, 2012
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You are right to be concerned
by: Editor-Rich Bergman

The quick answer is you can't. There is no way to know what shape those joists are in without looking. And what concerns me most is that outdoor carpeting is the deck covering material. This is like a sponge and will retain moisture after each rain fall guaranteeing the plywood and the joists stay moist. Perfect scenario for rot and mold.

Where do you live? Do you get a lot of rain? All of these things matter. This to me was poorly built and is a risk you must accept or use as a bargaining chip in the transaction.

If I had to accept this unknown in the purchase I would knock off the value to inspect and repair the entire structure.

That is the only thing that is fair and you are buying a complete unknown risk and any fair seller would understand this or do whatever it takes to prove there is no risk to you.

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