Hot Topics: Tearing Down a Balcony

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Tearing down something like a deck or balcony can initially seem like an easy task, but can quickly overwhelm a DIYer who is looking to do it in a safe and efficient manner. Recently a forum member turned to the community for the best approach to tearing down his balcony with his son, adding emphasis on safety.

Original Post: Tearing Down a Balcony

BlakeH Member

At our home we have an 8' x 16' balcony that needs to come down because of termites. I intend to tear it down myself along with my teenage son just for the time working together in addition to saving some money.

Some questions come up:

  1. What's the best approach for tearing it down? Disassembling it or just using a saw to cut the major pieces?
  2. What type of saw should I use? Would I dare use a chain saw?
  3. Is there any other advice to offer? Any cautions? We intend on wearing breathing masks and eyewear as a start.

Highlights from the Thread

aka pedro Member

A majority of times taking something apart is best handled by reversing the assembly process. So you will have to see how the connections are made, but most likely you will want to remove the railing, then the decking, then the framing. Particularly if you are going to rent a dumpster, a reciprocating saw would probably be your best friend, allowing you to cut it into sections that the two of you can handle. It's important to keep up with the debris, don't let it pile up where you're working, to avoid stepping on nails, screws, splinter, etc.

BridgeMan45 Member

In general, using a chain saw is grossly over-kill for cutting typical deck lumber--the exceptions would be if your deck has large, heavy timbers, in which case a chain saw is almost mandatory. When using a conventional skil-saw, remember to make the compression cut first, to avoid pinching the blade if done making the tension cut first.

If the termite infestation hasn't taken over ever single piece of wood, you could consider salvaging the decent stuff for use on a future project. If there's any evidence of termite intrusion, however, then it's time to utilize the dumpster or burn pile.

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

If it's safe enough to walk on I would tear it down from top to bottom. Cut the railing up into manageable pieces with a reciprocating saw. They try to pull up deck boards with a pry bar and hammer working your way back from the outer edge to the house. Then remove the joists from below working from ladders and finally take down the beams and posts. The key is to do what you are comfortable with and be safe. Nothing slows a project more than a road trip to get stitches or a cast.

Beachboy Member

The main beam will be very heavy. You might want to just unbolt it from the connectors and let it topple over to the ground, then cut it. Be very careful with a chainsaw. Plan your cuts to avoid binding. I would advise against using a chainsaw altogether. Most everything is manageable except for that one main beam.

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