An improvement that provides significant visual improvement to your condominium unit is the addition of tile on balconies. While aesthetically pleasing, the maintenance and subsequent problems associated with a tiled balcony could be significant.
There are any number of tiles that we’ve seen added to balconies and yes, they look great. But what you should consider is the impact it will have over the long term to the concrete surface and support structure underneath. Tile and grout are inherently porous materials to begin with. With balconies exposed to rain and salt air the destruction of the materials underneath goes unnoticed for a number of years until a very serious problem develops such as concrete spalling. If the tile wasn’t there to begin with, the damage could have been addressed and resolved earlier in the process.
Another problem, one that develops in the short term, is the amount of water that exists between the tile and mastic. Water will sit in these grooved areas and eventually cause the tile to lose its adhesion to the mastic. This results in the tile buckling and cracking. While on a cursory inspection it could go unnoticed, closer inspection will reveal cracked grout and a hollow sound under the tile. With all the water that begins to accumulate under the tile, it will eventually look for a place to drain to. Typically, if the balcony is pitched away from the building correctly, this water will leach out over the sides of the balcony and take on the appearance of the grout with it. Imagine a light colored building with black stains leaking over the side, similar to mildew.
One more consideration is the availability of replacement tiles should one of your tiles become damaged. While white and off white ceramic tiles are always available, granite, travertine and marble are difficult to match after the fact. How much tile do you want to store away for future use?
For condominium owners its important to know and understand the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions as well as the adopted Rules and Regulations related to floor coverings for your balcony. Because the balcony is considered a limited common element (check your particular association covenants), the association should, could and would have a say it what you can and cannot do because ultimately, the association is responsible for its upkeep.
While a tile balcony looks great, the maintenance and problems associated with it far outweigh the benefits. Before putting tile on your balcony, consult with your condominium Board of Directors, an attorney familiar with condominium laws in your state, and a certified contractor.