Balcony Breakdown

Balcony Breakdown and Extra Efforts

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Brian and I kicked off the following Saturday with an early morning and a whole lot of optimism. We couldn’t wait to break down and tear out the old balcony flooring.

We thought removing the original plywood floor would be a piece of cake, especially since we pulled out all of those nails. And, even though we didn’t know how we were going to “slide” the new floors in, we figured that that wouldn’t be too difficult, either.

Oh man, did we ever underestimate this part of the project…

A Strong Support System

The balcony’s wrought iron railings are attached at the top and bottom. After removing the screws from the railing posts, we thought we could shimmy the old plywood out from underneath. We soon realized that was not going to happen without some creative engineering!

The weight of the railings combined with the swollen plywood made for a tricky removal process. After talking it over with Dad, we felt a little more comfortable with our direction. He suggested we support the weight of the railings using some D-rings and ratchet straps. A trip to the hardware store got us what we needed, and we were back in business!

We Have Lift-Off!

Tightening the ratchet straps lifted up the railings and gave us just enough space to work with. Even so, it took some serious patience and maneuvering to slowly shift the plywood from where it’s been for nearly 60 years. Brian and I found that the builders originally sealed the joint between the brick wall and floor with concrete. After knocking some of that out, the plywood still barely budged. As it turned out, we missed a few nails…

Attachment Issues

Once we pulled the stray nails out, Brian and I muscled the plywood sheet out from beneath the iron railings. Well, what do you know, we discovered TWO MORE NAILS hidden beneath the base of the corner column. It was a BEAR to push, pull, and twist the old floor out. The iron railings were installed after the balcony was built. We realized that all of the columns likely hid nails that we had not yet found.


Once we finally got the first sheet out, we were relieved to see the joists in great condition. Can you believe how good these look after almost 60 years??

I vacuumed between the joists before we brought in the new floor. Brian and I were feeling good; we were excited that our balcony had good bones! And now, we felt comfortable dealing with the “trouble spots” in removing the old plywood. After the first sheet, we knew we would probably encounter hidden nails beneath the iron columns. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was how difficult it would be to install the new flooring.

A Good Effort

Each sheet of plywood weighs over 60lbs. Rather than balancing on ladders at the front of the house, we figured the best course of action would be to install them from the top on the inside of the balcony. Brian and I removed the second sheet of old plywood for easier movement. We figured laying the first sheet down would be pretty seamless. It’s too bad that it didn’t go as smoothly as we imagined…

As the sun set and frustrations ran high, we stared at our brand new plywood, now covered in scratches and dents. No matter how we maneuvered, Brian and I could NOT clear the bottom of the railing. It was time to rethink our plans.

Helping Hands

Dad came over the next morning to help us strategize. Using ratchet straps to help support and lift the railings helped, but not enough for us to complete the project. No matter how much we tried, we couldn’t get the new floors completely past the railing posts so that they lay flat.

We decided to cut off the iron shoe (or foot) and repair it later with epoxy putty. Well, the good news is that that worked. The not-so-good news is that we had to remove and re-lay the plywood a couple of times. The concrete protruding from the brick wall kept complicating the installation! After knocking some of it out of the way, we finally got the first two sheets in place. Unfortunately, it wasn’t without a few scrapes along the way.

By installing our flooring from the inside of the balcony, we worked together on how to get the new sheets to lay flat and set in place. We had to:

  • Break off the iron foot of the railing post
  • Push out the “strapped” section of the railing for even more space to work
  • Remove bits of the concrete “seal” along the wall
  • Ensure correct placement of the plywood before pulling the railing back towards the house
  • Use a hammer and mallet to knock the iron post and columns back into place (tearing into the paint)

Third Time’s a Charm?

Brian and I closed out our second day feeling pretty tired. Though we made progress, it wasn’t as much as we had hoped. Progress is still progress, though, right?

Dad showed us how to apply leverage and direction by way of some old 2x4s and extra muscle. Brian and I used the tricks we learned to get the third board in before we went to bed. Unfortunately, we realized the next day that it wasn’t quite laying correctly. Guess why? Oh, that pesky concrete was in the way…

2x4 Creativity

Our third day of installation began with us shifting the third board out of place to chip away the concrete bits against the wall. We then discovered that the small strip of plywood in front of the door’s threshold wasn’t very well supported. Each time we stepped on this, it would bounce a bit. It turned out that there was no real support underneath!


As Brian and I worked on removing the fourth board from the balcony, Dad stepped in to add support. Originally, there was nothing but a small, single piece of 2×4 cut and barely nailed to help support the strip of plywood.

Old Balcony Floor - Poor Support

Dad removed this “support”, measured and cut stronger ones, and screwed them into the joists. This reinforcement was much more thorough and intentional than the last, that’s for sure!

Adding New Support

New Supports

No more bouncing!! One of the coolest things about this reinforcement is that these newly installed 2x4s are from the original build of our master bathroom.

Final Cut

Boy oh boy, it was tough to remove the remaining boards. Of course, there were a few hidden nails keeping the boards in place. We eventually managed to wrangle them out of there, but it wasn’t without some sweat equity.

Balcony Update - Removing the Final Two Sheets

The final piece of old plywood flooring took some time to remove. Not only were there hidden nails embedded in it, but it was also pretty swollen from water damage.

New Flooring

The final stages of installing our new floors were rife with feelings of anxious excitement, worry, and hope. At one point, we questioned whether or not the edge of the second to last sheet would actually line up correctly on a joist. Thankfully, it did. Barely.

The final board at the end of our balcony is located at the highest point from the ground. At three stories high, there was no convenient way to assist with flooring placement from the outside of the balcony. At least with the first board, we could use a ladder from the ground and even move onto the roof of our carport for additional vantage points.

A Deliberate Approach

Rather than continuing down the line and laying the last two sheets in order, we opted to place the sixth and last) sheet before the fifth. This gave us the ability to adjust as necessary. Without the second-to-last piece installed, we could freely move around to line up the plywood as best and as safely as we could.

Engineering support for the iron railings and learning how to leverage with 2x4s, a car jack, and extra muscle helped us get to the finish line. It was a thoughtful approach that involved creative tricks and trial and error.

It took us a while to get these boards in place. While they aren’t perfectly aligned, they are really close. We had a few issues setting them because of the annoying concrete snags along the way.

Thankfully, our favorite SDS Hammer Drill came in handy and helped save the day.

Taking on this balcony update was scary. Brian and I didn’t know the first thing about how we were going to remove the flooring, much less install a new one. And, honestly, we would have struggled so much more if it weren’t for Dad’s help and brainstorming.

Learning how to leverage was a great lesson. I’m not sure how we would have managed to lay down the new flooring without leveraging. Other than taking down the railing, which would have been crazy since it’s all welded together and very, very heavy, I can’t imagine another way we would have been successful.


It took four days, but we got there. Installing our new flooring took four days of teamwork, strategy, and uncomfortable guesswork. We managed to take down all six original plywood sheets and replace them with new and improved ones. Granted, we would have to clean up and repair the scratches next, but at least the flooring is in.

Check back next week for an overview of the finishing work and final reveal of our updated balcony!

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2 Responses

  1. I have to say that this project was more work than I would have thought. Hidden nails are a fact of life when you’re doing remodeling, however I didn’t anticipate the cement ‘caulking’ that frustrated attempts to get a sheet aligned with its neighbor. The scratches were also an unfortunate but unavoidable contingency of working in such tight spaces with such large sheets. Your commitment to heavily coating the plywood with epoxy should provide adequate protection from the elements for many years.
    All in all, this was a project that was successfully planned, prepared, and executed with effective results. You should be proud.

    1. Thank you! We are so proud of it. Thank you, especially, for being a part of it. I think we all underestimated the scope of the project in one way or another! What a combination of frustrations: hidden nails, concrete, iron railings, and waterproofing. This project offered a handful of lessons. I’m glad we took it on. It was a great success 😄

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