balcony gardening and landlord

CalicaCalica Registered User regular
Easiest way to explain the situation is to post the email conversation I've had with my landlord so far, so here it is:
Calica wrote:
Hi,

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.

Thank you,
Calica
Hi Calica,

What is the size of the garden container and the weight of it?

Thank you.

Landlord
Calica wrote:
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.
Hi Calica,

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.
Calica wrote:
Good to know. Thank you!
Calica wrote:
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?

Jedoc wrote: »
The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.

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  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    You are totally correct.

    You should definitely want to know whether the balcony/patio is up to code so that you can use it. It's a thing you're paying for. You should be allowed to plant things in pots as long as it's safe to do so- though I think 700lbs of dirt and water is something no landlord would be okay with. Weight aside, the water damage risk is pretty bad when you have a garden on a balcony and if it rains you're going to end out with more than 10lbs of water weight. You'd also need something to set them on, and they would have to drain somewhere so the concern isn't that crazy, it's just not really justified to just be about the weight.

    As much as you're in the right. I say drop it unless you're willing to move after the dust settles. There's not really a win here in the long run. They probably wont fix the balcony except to tear down the rails and bolt your door closed or not renew your lease. You probably wont get the OK to put the plants out there even if the balcony is totally up to code.

    My shitty advice is do an herb garden and some peppers or tomatoes in a small box and daydream about having a yard.

    EddyShadowfirezepherin
  • XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    how old is the house? odds are it is up to code from whenever is was built.

    If you want to container garden, maybe just do 4 pots and use the backyard for more.

    EncAbdhyiusDaenris
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Xaquin wrote: »
    how old is the house? odds are it is up to code from whenever is was built.

    If you want to container garden, maybe just do 4 pots and use the backyard for more.

    Yeah, it's likely not a code violation and as you are doing a fairly big ask right now starting accusing the landlord seems like a bad way to get what you are wanting, re a garden. Is there a reason not to just use the yard to hold your planters as suggested?

  • AbdhyiusAbdhyius Registered User regular
    The saturated weight of the soil is what you need to use to calculate, unless it literally never rains where you are.

    Asked my sister, who is doing a masters on specifically wet soil and the weight thereof, 1700 kg/m3 is a decent estimate for the saturated density of potting soil.

    10 gallons is 37.85 liters = 0.03785 m3

    which gives 63.75 kg per 10 gallon planter, which equals 140 lbs per.


    12 pots would give you 1680 pounds of garden which is far, far above the minimum load capacity - which is for the expected maximum capacity that a structure will see over its lifetime and should very much not be exceeded.

    ftOqU21.png
    CaedwyrMegaMan001
  • AbdhyiusAbdhyius Registered User regular
    edited March 21
    EDIT: wrong thread, sorry.

    Abdhyius on
    ftOqU21.png
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited March 22
    Are you within your rights to put 700+ lbs of plants on your balcony and expect it to hold? Probably.

    Should you? No. One the weight, two the sight of 12 pots on a balcony is probably not being a good neighborhood to those around you in terms of looks or upkeep.

    When we lived in our mixed-use complex, we'd see people work all kinds of plants up there and it just does not look good. We had a 8x4 balconies as well. We had just two pots and had squirrels digging in the pots, have rain washout, etc. all making a big mess for us and those below.

    That's just one of the drawbacks of apartment/condo living. So I'd get like 3 or 4 pots and see how those look.

    MichaelLC on
    "Never believe management about anything anywhere." -Aistan
  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    The house was built in the 1940s or '50s, probably; I'm not sure exactly. It has lath and plaster walls and architecture typical of that time period. The neighborhood I'm in is definitely pre-war.

    Shout out to all the people in this thread who clearly didn't read to the end of the OP, thanks so much.
    Calica wrote: »
    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?

    Jedoc wrote: »
    The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.
  • XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    I'd give it a rest personally and use the back yard.

    There is no 'up to code' for an existing residence. There's nothing you can do. Personally, I'd use it for lounging or reading or eating because any roof should hold the weight of a person or two.

    FeralKetarShadowfire
  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    edited March 23
    Xaquin wrote: »
    I'd give it a rest personally and use the back yard.

    There is no 'up to code' for an existing residence. There's nothing you can do. Personally, I'd use it for lounging or reading or eating because any roof should hold the weight of a person or two.

    The porch is original. The railing is not. You can't slap a railing on an existing porch roof/bay window/etc. and call it a balcony :razz:

    edit: to be clear, I don't know if that's what they did or not, which is the issue.

    Calica on
    Jedoc wrote: »
    The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.
  • XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    oh I see

    in that case, you'd have to somehow prove the current owner added the railing I guess

    regardless, the roof/balcony should at least hold the weight of two people since that's the usual amount that would be roofing =)

  • DaenrisDaenris Registered User regular
    When did they add the railing? Because it only had to meet the code that was current when it was built. If you really want to figure that out, you'd probably have to talk to your local government clerk's office about trying to pull old records or something. If they actually got a permit for the modification, then there should be a record of it somewhere, but depending on when it was added who knows how those records will be kept or indexed.

    Xaquin
  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    I'm pretty sure the railing was added when they renovated last summer. It's pretty dang new; the wood still looks lumberyard-fresh.

    I emailed my landlord to say I understand, thank you for making the backyard available, and may I hang a couple of decorative flower boxes on the railing?

    She asked where on the railing, in case they fall.

    I told her I'd respect her wishes if she doesn't want me to put anything directly above the front sidewalk/steps, but man, lesson learned: better to ask forgiveness than permission :rotate:

    (I looked again at the backyard; and while it's surrounded by trees and buildings, there's also a lot of open sky to the south, so I'm gonna give it a go. Worst case scenario, I don't get any peppers.)

    Jedoc wrote: »
    The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.
    XaquinDaenrisElvenshaeHappylilElfShadowfireAldo
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