Balconies are one of the most romantic architectural nuances. They bring to mind secret meetings between star-crossed lovers, beautiful views of nature, and intimate conversations with loved ones over cups of coffee. But on a practical level, they can increase your outdoor living space for less than the cost of ground-floor deck.
If you’re considering adding a balcony to your second story, you’ll want to select the best design, materials, and contractor for your budget and your goals. Here are a few things to think about as you start this fun project.
Designing Your Second-Story Balcony
A small second-story balcony is a fairly simple project, but is best left to the pros. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t have control over the finished product. Here are the design aspects you’ll want to consider before hiring a contractor:
When you choose the spot for your balcony, you don’t want to just look at the outside. You’re going to need to build a doorway and access point from your bedroom (or whatever room you choose to connect it to). It’s important to locate the access point in a convenient place, e.g., not smack in the middle of the only wall in your room big enough to fit your dresser without blocking the closet.
You may want to create two access points so that the balcony is accessible from two rooms—for example, a bedroom and master bath or two sibling bedrooms. Also consider whether you’ll want an exterior access point via a stairway, since this will affect the initial design.
Typical balcony materials include wood, cement, wood composite, and vinyl. Cement is structurally sound and holds up well to the elements, but it doesn’t match everyone’s idea of a relaxing outdoor oasis. However, it can be painted or stained to match your home, so don’t rule it out based on the thought of a chalky gray color. Wood is, of course, a classic balcony material that can be sealed against the elements, but it may need to be resealed every couple of years anyway. Wood composite requires slightly less maintenance than wood but also tends to be a little pricier. Vinyl is easy to install, reasonably priced, and can mimic the look of wood. Both composite and vinyl can be scrubbed when they start to look a little discolored.
Size is an important factor, especially because you don’t want to create an overhang that blocks the sunlight from reaching the ground floor. A balcony that extends four feet outward is a reasonable size for accommodating a few chairs and two to three people. But if you’re planning to use your balcony for storage or to extend your entertaining space, you may want look into a bigger structure or opt for a ground-floor deck.
The style of your balustrade very much defines the aesthetic of your balcony. Wood, metal, vinyl, glass panes, and concrete are common railing types. Choose a balustrade that forms a decorative semi-circle, angular lines, or a single straight line.
Permits can be a bit of a buzzkill when you’re excited about a project and want to get moving. But they’re an important part of maintaining the architectural integrity of your home and keeping you and your loved ones safe. A second-story balcony will require a permit from your city before construction can begin.
If you’ve chosen a contractor with the appropriate credentials and licenses, he or she will be able to guide you through the permitting process and give you valuable design advice. Before selecting your contractor, make sure you’ve requested multiple estimates and have verified the credentials of each candidate. You don’t want someone completing a potentially dangerous project on your property if they lack experience or the requisite insurance.
Second-Story Balcony Costs
It’s difficult to estimate a realistic price range without taking materials, size, height, cost of local labor, and access points into account. However, it’s a safe bet that your finished balcony will have cost somewhere between $15 and $35 per square foot. Keep in mind that you may recoup the cost of this project in home value, should you want to sell it in the future.
A second-story balcony can increase your access to nature and expand your living space without sacrificing privacy and intimacy. Finding the right contractor will help you have a smooth experience from start to finish so that you can feel content with your balcony and confident that it will add value—and a cozy addition—to your home.