Repairs needed for more than 150 decks after balcony collapse

After a balcony collapse at a condominium community the city ordered inspections, and then repairs for more than 150 decks (WSYX/WTTE)

More than 150 condominium decks will have to be repaired after they were deemed unsafe, and an engineering firm found concerns over brackets and fastener, corrosion and parts like nails not properly installed or missing.

Homeowners in the Falls at Hayden Run community were ordered to vacate their decks in early June by the City of Columbus Department of Building and Zoning.

The order was prompted by a balcony collapse at that complex where a father and daughter were seriously hurt. They are still recovering.

ABC 6/FOX 28 Investigates reported on how the deck gave way and slammed into an SUV, after it broke away from the main structure.

After consulting Karin Cash, construction professor from Columbus State Community College, it was found the treated wood containing copper used to construct some of the decks, could negatively react with the iron nails and brackets causing corrosion and separation.

“I strongly suspect the fasteners are being eaten by the chemical in the wood,” Cash said. “It could also be a construction design issue because I’m used to seeing lag bolts, not nails, holding in that ledger board.”

Homeowners have been frustrated and fearful that the fix is going to be a cost to them. They also wonder what is going to happen next.

“I think it’s about the fall at any second because of what happened,” Maggie McGinty said. “Someone screwed up and I’m not understanding how that happened.”

The condo community was built about 12 years ago and managed by Lifestyle Property Management. That company has not responded to ABC 6/FOX 28 Investigates, despite repeat requests.

The City of Columbus building department officials claim to no longer have the original blueprints for the condos and there’s no evidence of who signed off on the balconies after they were built or if they went under a final inspection.

Two weeks following the collapse incident, the city issued a building order to vacate 156 decks it determined were unsafe explaining there were signs of failure with the structural support system.

“Somehow, there was a mistake made,” Brandon Mechtly with Archadeck said. “The biggest failure with decks is the attachment of the ledger plate.”

Mechtly has numerous years’ experience building decks and said it’s important to know how the deck is connected to the main structure and what it’s connected to.

On the collapsed balcony, only roughly two dozen nails were holding it up. Mechtly too said there should have been lag bolts helping secure and hold the deck in place.

ABC 6/FOX 28 Investigates obtained emails from condo owners complaining to Lifestyle Communities about the stability of their decks a year and a half ago. Minor repairs, some said, were made at a later date. However, there’s no evidence the city has had any complaints about balconies in the last year.

“If it were my deck, I don’t know if I would feel comfortable repairing it,” Mechtly said.

The engineer’s report, recently released to ABC 6/FOX 28 by the city, found different problems on different decks. Some decks didn’t have the proper lag bolts, nails were not properly installed or there were concerns over the ledger board. Corrosion, shifting brackets and decks pulling away from the main structure were also observed, according to the report.

Across the street and around the corner from the complex, new homes and condominiums are going up with a similar balcony design. They span out over the garage and use similar weight distribution. ABC 6/FOX 28 pulled the blueprints and spoke with contractors who promise the newly built decks are safe and up to code.

“The biggest key is the proper footer, proper beam and attached to the house in the correct way,” Mechtly said.

However, still when ABC 6/FOX 28 Investigates asked for answers to fixes being made to the unsafe balconies, our calls and emails to both Lifestyle Communities and the condo association went unreturned and visits went unanswered.

“It’s sad because we love our community, we love living here and we just want to be safe,” McGinty said.

In an email to the homeowners, the Falls at Hayden Run Condominium Association said:

“The Board of Directors and Lifestyle Property Management would like to ensure everyone in The Association that we are working diligently to resolve this issue.

The Board has received a report from an engineering firm that was commissioned to inspect the elevated decking systems in the community. Per the report, additional repairs were recommended for the decking systems in the community. The Association is currently seeking bids from qualified professionals to make the repairs, per the engineering report. These repairs will be made as quickly as possible, and as safely as possible for our homeowners. The City of Columbus has been updated as to the project status.

Please continue to remain off of your decks until you receive a notice from either Lifestyle Property Management or The City of Columbus regarding the safety notice being lifted at your address.

At this time, no action is needed on the homeowners part. The Association will be coordinating any and all needed repairs for the units.”

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