Renovation & Design

Walk-out balcony a lofty project

It's basically a deck set at a higher elevation

Previously, the lower-level walk-out was the only backyard access.

The main opening for the patio door was from the previous window.

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The balcony now allows exterior access from the second-floor primary bedroom.

Some projects require a staggered approach. When the vision involves a design that is so grandiose, the changes cannot all be conveniently tackled at once. The homeowner at a rural property East of Selkirk has big plans in mind, which include the entire overhaul of the primary bedroom’s ensuite and walk-in closet. However, a drastic upgrade along the exterior wall would be first on the agenda.

When the weather allows, exterior projects take precedent during the summer months. As such, it made the most sense to address the dream of introducing a walk-out balcony from the primary bedroom set above the existing lower-level walk-out. After all, a balcony is basically a deck set at a higher elevation. It would require, however, a second task extremely pertinent to completing this goal — access from the second-storey.

When the 22-foot wide by 16-foot deep balcony project began, an existing 84-inch window unit along the exterior wall of the master bedroom would need to be replaced with a 72-inch sliding patio door. This could not easily nor safely occur until the balcony was constructed. Therefore, it was imperative to accurately determine the exact balcony top elevation by back-measuring the ledger-board placement using the interior sub-floor height as a guide. Pilot holes were drilled along the bottom edge of the interior wall framing through to the exterior. The ledger-board was then affixed to the exterior wall roughly 1.5-inches below to ensure that once the top decking was secured to the joists, the balcony surface was flush with the interior sub-floor.

With the ledger-board and joist hangers in place, the height of the main beam could be established. For this build, a triple-laminated 2x10 beam was set on four 6x6 posts, with 2x10 joists resting atop the beam. To stabilize the structure, 36-inch 4x4 segments set on 45-degree angles were included along the underside of the beam, secured to each respective post. Once the main framing was completed, the 2x6 top decking was installed prompting the placement of pre-notched side-mounted 4x4 posts, prompting the addition of 2x10 sections between every post as fascia. Before the 42-inch-high railings were fully addressed, the 72-inch sliding patio door was hoisted onto the balcony surface — a wise decision, as this was much easier to achieve before the fact. The 2x4 top and bottom baluster supports as well as the 2x6 railing caps were fastened to the posts along the entire perimeter of the deck surface, and the 2x2 balusters were then affixed at 3.5-inch intervals throughout, marking the end of Phase 1. The next phase would involve both interior and exterior prep – installing the sliding patio door.

The desired placement of the slider fell within the 84-inch window location. As such, the existing lintel would suffice, allowing a simple breach of the lower wall to accommodate the width of the 72-inch sliding door unit. The window was carefully dislodged and removed from the exterior wall. The interior drywall, vapour barrier and insulation were then removed in the lower area required for the door. The exterior sheathing and siding were then removed to match the newly introduced lower opening. A single electrical circuit was re-routed, allowing the introduction of an exterior GFCI outlet near the intended slider location.

The 72-inch sliding patio door was set into position, levelled and shimmed, before being properly secured along the exterior nailing fin on the door unit. The area along the side where the window opening exceeds the door width was re-framed using the studs that were removed below the window, sheathed and finished by recycling the recently removed plywood and siding, and the interior insulation, vapour barrier as well as drywall were re-introduced where required. Expandable foam was subsequently sprayed along the door jamb outer edge to fill any gaps. Although the interior is purposefully left unfinished until the main ensuite and walk-in closet project is set to commence sometime soon, the exterior side of the slider was adorned with a 2x6 casing. Although there are plans to replace the old aluminum siding, the homeowner is satisfied with this temporary finishing solution.

There is nothing more satisfying than access to a balcony from a second-floor primary bedroom. And although the interior remains unfinished it will soon receive its proper upgrades. In the meantime, returning to nature is now a daily event, only a few steps away from bedside — no doubt a wonderful reminder of how grand the ensuing interior enhancements will be as well.


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