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Old 08-18-2008, 08:53 AM   #1
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Is this a bad idea???

Hello forum,

I was thinking about an idea/solution to a problem and wondered if anyone had any input or experience with such.

My latest idea was to build a narrow sort of balcony/deck to an upper story small building. The entire building is about 12wx20l feet. It is about 25-30 feet high and narrowly situated between so many dangerous things.

This area already has an existing deck on one side. The issue is one of drainage and of height for maintaince things (like painting). The sides are narrow. I think I could accomodate about a 2 1/2', sort of slightly sloped/catwalk balcony thing and basically make a wrap around observation deck that would make future maintance less daunting. Not to mention if I sloped it just so that the drainage could be directed to a more desireable avenue of escape.

One of the many issues with this idea is that on one side of this, there is a 20 foot run that has a slab underneath. If I put a support/ledger board against the house and support the narrow balcony on either side would there still need to be a middle support or two on the slab?

Or, is this a silly idea all together? What do you think?

It would be so nice to just put a step ladder on a secure deck and paint away without worrying about plumeting to my death.


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Old 08-18-2008, 10:24 PM   #2
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Maybe it is a bad idea?

The 25-30 extension ladder needed would have to be situated so upright, between a base brick wall (connected to a slab) and the house that any pressure (or shifted weight) may tilt the ladder and person (i.e. me) back. 3 feet at the base versus 30 feet high. I got to about 15 feet and thought I needed to think of a better way.

Did I mention the power lines overhead?

Maybe my issue is too daunting?

I just want to be safe.


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Old 08-18-2008, 11:51 PM   #3
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Also, ladders are kinda scary if there's any wind. If there's only three feet between your house and the neighbor, then you can have a wind tunnel effect going on between those houses, making the wind between the houses stronger than if the neigbhor's house wasn't there.

But, if you have 30 inches at the bottom, you could use a narrow gauge scaffold. Here's a company selling a 19 foot high scaffold that's 28 inches wide and 7 feet long for just under $1000:

I don't know if the price above includes four 5 foot outriggers or not, but since the scaffolding can't fall away from your wall (because of the neighboring building) then you might not even need them. They say the scaffold with the 5 foot long outriggers is rock solid at 19 feet, so I expect you could add another 6 foot section to raise the platform to a 25 foot height, in which case you could do anything you want on a 30 foot high building. But, by that they mean the outriggers sticking out toward your house and the neighbor's house 5 feet for a total base dimension of over 12 feet. That's not gonna help you if you only have 30 inches or so to fit in. Sticking the outriggers out the other way for a total base dimension of 17 feet seems like overkill. Your base dimension is nearly as high as your scaffold in that case. But, if you want safe, that it will be in spades. It couldn't fall away from your house cuz of the neighbor's house, and it couldn't fall the other way because of that 17 foot long base dimension.

Even climbing up the side of that scaffolding would be scary at 25 feet, so it would be a good idea to invest in a body harness for another $50 to $100 to catch you in the event you slip climbing up or down the scaffold.

Also, with a good scaffolding platform, you don't climb up the OUTSIDE of the scaffolding, you climb up the inside until your head bumps the underside of the platform. The platform has a trap door in it that you open to climb up through the platform, and then close the door once you're standing on the platform. That way, there's no acrobatics 30 feet in the air to get from the outside of the scaffold onto the platform through the railings.

You say that you have a deck on one side of your house. In that case, the steel scaffold might be too heavy a weight to put in one area of your deck. You can also get narrow gauge ALUMINUM scaffolding:

It would be a lot lighter and much easier to assemble if you don't have a lot of upper body strength. But, it's also about 3 or 4 times the cost of steel scaffolding, so you'd be looking at up to $5,000.

An quick, cheap and effective alternative to opting for aluminum scaffolding would be to head down to your local auto wrecker and liberate four scizzor style car jacks for about $2 each. Get under your deck and put 12 inch square pieces of plywood down on the ground under where the feet of your steel scaffolding will be. Have a rail way tie cut into 4 pieces of equal length, and stand those on end on the plywood pads. Now set a scizzor jack on each rail way stump and raise it until it's pressing snugly against the underside of the decking. Now, erect your scaffold so that the feet of the scaffold are located above the scizzor jacks. That way, the weight of the steel scaffolding will largely be born by the structure under your deck. You might want to lay a 4 foot straight edge across your deck and give the scizzor jacks a half turn if you detect any bending of the wood at the scaffold feet locations.

28 inch is a standard size for narrow gauge scaffold. You might want to phone around to the places listed under Ladders and Scaffolding in your yellow pages to see if you can buy USED narrow gauge scaffold, too. The used stuff can be pretty dented up because guys will just throw it to the ground when disassembling it rather than lowering it down on a rope, but you still should be able to get used narrow gauge scaffold in good condition locally. Used narrow gauge aluminum scaffolding might be harder to find.

These web pages will give you an idea of the cost of the parts for steel scaffolding:

This web site gives you an idea of the cost of aluminum scaffolding:

Either that, or just hire out the repair and maintenance work you need done on the outside of your house, and the people you hire will rent the scaffolding and include the cost in their price.

Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 08-19-2008 at 01:38 AM.
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Old 08-19-2008, 09:14 AM   #4
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I Don't think the town or locale code will allow it. I would hire the job out to a company that has the equipment (like motorized rolling scaffold lifts.) and experience to perform this type of work. BOB.
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