SB-326 HOA Deck Inspections

OUR INSPECTION PROCESS UNDER SB-326

To help our clients understand the inspection process under SB-326 we’ve put together this short outline. We’ve found that there is a lot of confusion about the process. This is the process that we’ve found works best for our clients.  If our process meets your criteria, get in touch today for a free EEE evaluation of your Association.

On every EEE inspection under SB 326, a structural engineer or an architect must perform the inspection. With our firm we have partnered with a structural engineering firm who stamps and signs your reports that are issued. Engineers or architects MAY NOT robosign inspection reports for projects they did not personally inspect. Some of our competitors will tell you otherwise. Remember, a general contractor is not able to perform balcony inspections under SB-326.

Stage 1 Inspections– Are done by the “least invasive” method, that being a visual inspection, using a moisture meter or by borescope camera. Visual and use of a moisture meter are “non-invasive” in that no building materials are disturbed at all. Using a borescope camera requires drilling holes through building materials in order to put a remote camera into the building cavity and see the area and document it with photographs. 

A Visual Inspection Reveals a Large Crack Under a Deck. This would become a Stage 2 inspection. 

A visual inspection, confirmed by probing with an awl, finds this damage. A Stage 2 inspection is not needed as all areas are exposed to inspection during Stage 1. 

We typically don’t do borescope camera inspections during Stage 1, finding that many decks and the patios below them aren’t clear of owners possessions. This causes difficulties in accessing work areas, as we will not touch or move anyone’s personal belongings. 

Stage 2 Inspections- Even if every EEE we visually inspect during Stage 1 inspections looks “clean”, the truth is that further inspections need to be made on a limited basis by the Structural Engineer to confirm that there are no problems behind stucco and other building materials.

  So you should be prepared for some costs for your inspector to further inspect your EEE’s in a Stage 2 inspection, by means of “Destructive Testing”.

 Destructive testing is what it sounds like-destructive. Exterior building materials need to be removed to allow us to view the structural framing. The fact is that stucco and other building finishes-siding such as Hardiboard or T-111 siding, can hide water damage behind them in the structural components. 

In a Stage 2 destructive testing inspection, building finishes are removed to expose the framing behind it that holds everything up. We perform borescope inspections as much as we can, finding that this method reduces costs to the Association. Destructive testing costs more. In limited circumstances after borescope camera work is done, we may want further destructive testing performed. 

It is generally at Stage 2 Inspections  where decisions are made on whether decks are determined to be “OK’, or if they are in one of two other categories.

 Category 1 is that the EEE is designated as a “non-emergency repair” in that maintenance and/or repairs are necessary. However, these non-emergency repairs can be done at the discretion of the Board and are not reportable to the building department as hazardous to life safety. 

Category 2 is designated as an “Emergency Repair” where, by the determination of the structural engineer that risk to life or property exists. Here, the EEE must be closed to use and needs to be repaired ASAP. This condition must be reported to the building department. Further inspections may be required to clear the EEE at additional costs. 

A WORD ON “STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT INSPECTIONS TO

 REACH A 95% CONFIDENCE LEVEL” and WHY YOUR BIDS MAY BE VERY DIFFERENT

There is a lot of confusion over the wording in the balcony bill. To be clear, every different EEE identified as needing inspecting, must be separated from other EEE’s. In other words, if you have 3 different balcony styles on your building, a second and third floor walkways and 2 sets of stairs, that adds up to 5 different types of EEE’s that each must be sampled to meet the criteria. so if you have 20 of each size deck, statistically 19 of each must be inspected. If you have 2 sets of stairs, both will need to be inspected. If you had 200 decks that are all one size, statistically 132 of those would need to be inspected to meet the bills requirements.  

We separate out each different EEE and run our calculations on each to come up with the statistically significant number that must be inspected. 

This table below will help you to better understand sampling and statistically significant percentages. 

 MINIMUM NUMBER OF EEE’s  REQUIRED TO BE INSPECTED UNDER SB326

       # Of EEE’s                                      # To Be Inspected                         %

        4          4        100%
        10          10        100%
        20          19          95%
        50          44          88%
      100          80          80%
      200          132          66%
      500          217          43%
      1000          278          28% 

Our bid tells you how many of each type of EEE you have; ie “we identified 20 cantilevered balconies, 4 stairs and 2 walkways supported by wood structural framing that are EEE’s requiring inspection.” 

Our bid then tells you how many of each EEE identified we are proposing to inspect. When the number of EEE’s is 50 or less, we propose to inspect every EEE. We think you’ll agree that this makes the most sense. The cost difference is minimal; if it takes 2 ½  days to inspect 44 balconies, another ¼ or ½ day of time is well worth having a report on every Exterior Elevated Element. 

If other bids do not break down the types and number of EEE’s you have, and how many of each that will be inspected, you can’t compare whether the bid is competitive or not.  

Destructive testing has revealed damage to framing and the substrate. 

Destructive testing in progress. 

Checking the moisture content of the structural framing. 

The borescope camera shows clean dry wood but also reveals a defect! The lag bolts aren’t fastened into wood and air doesn’t give them any gripping power!

Stage 3 & 4- Generally speaking these two stages combine into one. Repairs that are an emergency must go into full swing pretty quickly. Boards must act, even if that means making emergency special assessments, taking out loans, borrowing against reserves or taking money from operating expenses. Discussions should be opened with your Reserve Specialist. You’ll need to find a contractor or contractors. 

We can help you with all this if it should get to these stages. For some Associations it does happen that large scale emergency repairs are necessary, for others no repairs are needed at all. Most fall somewhere in the middle, needing mainly non-emergency repairs and maintenance.  

Don’t forget, non-emergency repairs, left to their own devices, usually evolve into emergency repairs later. The sooner the repairs are made, the less the costs are. 

We can guide you through the process. Our services in developing specifications and performing quality control gives Associations control of the job and results in a positive return on your investment. 

Incredible damage can occur over a period of time. Don’t delay in making small repairs. 

Contact us today for a free EEE evaluation and proposal to inspect your decks under SB-326.

We are SB-326 Balcony inspection experts & roofing & waterproofing consultants specializing in working with HOA's.

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