Easiest way to explain the situation is to post the email conversation I've had with my landlord so far, so here it is:
I would like to start a small container garden on the balcony. Do you know whether the balcony is compliant with Wisconsin building code, which requires a minimum live load capacity of 40 psf (pounds per square foot)?
The balcony railing is obviously newer than the porch, so I'm not sure if the porch roof was originally built for use as a balcony. I would *hope* so (or that it was reinforced when the railing was built), but I don't want to assume.
What is the size of the garden container and the weight of it?
It depends. I plan to get a number of 10 gallon fabric pots
and lightweight plastic plant saucers for drainage. The weight of the pots themselves is negligible, since they're fabric. I'd be using potting mix, which is much lighter than garden dirt - it depends on the mix, but many seem to be a little under 5 lbs per gallon? Google tells me it takes "up to" 1 gallon of water to water a 12-inch pot, so figure maximum 10 lbs moisture weight in each pot, right after watering; less than that most of the time. So, extremely ballpark estimate, probably an upper limit of 60-70 lbs per pot. I have plans/ideas for up to 12 pots. How many I actually plant depends mostly on what I hear from you.
I don’t think the balcony can hold up to 60*12=720 lbs weight. And with the rain season coming in, the weight will increase. it is a risk for people living downstairs.
But I will double check with the contractor for the weight limit.
Also if you need to plant something for yourself, you can use the backyard. I am ok with that.
Good to know. Thank you!
Thinking more about this: if the balcony is 4 x 8 feet (I think it's actually a little bigger, but I'm estimating conservatively here), then 4 x 8 x 40 = total *minimum* required live load capacity of 1280 lbs. So 700 pounds of garden should be no problem.
Assuming it's up to code.
I still don’t feel safe for something that has 700 lbs on the balcony, balcony is for people to stand and relax occasionally not for plant growing. As i said, feel free to use the backyard if you need space to grow plants.
I am strongly
tempted to reply something along the lines of, "Just so we're clear, are you saying the balcony was never inspected/permitted?" It's probably not a good idea to be needlessly antagonistic, though.
Ultimately, it's her property, and she can make whatever rules she wants, within reason. Such is tenant life. The backyard is heavily shaded, though. I'd like to ask permission to put 3-4 pots on the balcony where they'll actually get sunlight, but two things give me pause: one, how do I broach that diplomatically at this point? Should I just give it a rest?
Two - and more importantly - how do I find out whether the balcony is actually up to code (important to know if I want to use it at all, not just for gardening)? What should I do if it's not?
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