Security measures on balconies and terraces

How many times have we heard of small kids falling through balconies or terraces? We have a Spanish saying, "accidents never occur.... until they do".


Terraces, balconies, attics and roofs terraces are greatly used in this part of the world, especially in urbanizations and properties around the Costa, because their design are mostly orientated for people to enjoy sunbathing on them. To enjoy these places without problems, it is essential to attend a series of recommendations, especially if there are children around the house or even if they visit us occasionally.


Before the year 2007 there was no regulation that governs the security on these places, but with the Technical Code of Construction (Código Técnico de la Construcción or "CTE") a new Spanish Building Regulations became obligatory with strict norms to be used on houses designed since them. Unfortunately there are many properties built before 2007, so we will take a look at the different aspects that may potentially dangerous.

It is essential to keep balconies and terraces fairly organized, even in cold season when we do not make much use of them, and turn them into a kind of storeroom, where we accumulate domestic piece and pieces.

If there are children at home it is essential to concentrate on a series of recommendations, any carelessness can lead to serious situations of risk for them.

According to a report by the European Union, the majority of injuries and deaths of children younger than four years old, correspond to accidents at home; falls from balconies and terraces are one of the main causes, along with burns, poisonings, suffocation and drowning.

First, you should review the conditions of all and each one of the parts of the terrace or balcony. Rusted banisters, walls with chips and moisture, floor finishes with some  irregularities, loose handrails and light points in poor condition may result from minor wounds or unnecessary scratches to serious accidents. All these problems should be resolved immediately to avoid future risks.

Children under the age of ten should not remain unattended in this area of the house.


It is very important to also restrain the access to these places in the house, installing locks on windows and doors to be made inaccessible to children. Below are a series of specific recommendations, tips that may be worthless if adults do not respect the primary rule: children under the age of ten years should not remain unattended in these areas of the house, although you have inspected inch by inch and everything is seemingly in good condition:


Let us take a look at situations that may turn into potential danger.

  • Balconies windows and balconies balusters should be quite close to prevent children from introducing their bodies between them. The separation between each rail should not exceed 10cm.
  • Balcony railings must have a minimum height. It is established that the height of handrails may not be less than 100 cm for a fall between 0,55m and 6 m, and shall not be less than 110 cm for any heights higher than 6m.
  • Avoid proximity to handrail of objects that children can use to climb, such as tables, banquets, planters, flowerpots and other decorative elements.
  • Assure yourself that floor tiles are free from holes or without loose tiles. Do not use waxes or slippery finishes in your cleaning products.
  • Keep an eye with plants and substrates. If there are very small children they may try to eat these products.
  • Pots and the planters should never be placed so that they may fall on children. It will be better to put them on the floor, on tables or auxiliary furniture. This recommendation also applies to all objects and decorative elements: lamps, table, ashtrays, tableware etc.
  • If the terrace is large, it will be convenient to allocate a children's area. The clearer this area it is the better, children soon learn that this is protected space for them.

We now will look at other elements that it may pass inadvertently but it could certainly be dangerous.


Let us take for instance the placement of those popular inflatable swimming pools. Some years ago the models available were few and usually used for toddlers. Now days I have seen swimming pools capable of sustaining many tons of water, think that 1 cubic metre is approximately 1 tone, so you can calculate yourself the weight of these pools.


1 cubic metre of water equal to 1 tone.

Consequently, be in the lookout for pools models with capacities that may not be supported by the terrace structure. Before placing a swimming pool of this kind, it is advisable to consult with an architect, because in principle it may cause all kind of problems, including making the terrace or balcony to collapse. Some time ago a similar event took place in Barcelona's property where a swimming pool (between 2,000 and 3,000 litres capacity, equivalent to 2-3 tones) was placed on a terrace. A six year old girl died and other three minors had minor injuries when the terrace ceded


Other aspects that are overlooked are the maintenance of balconies and terraces balustrades and railings. I have observed that while the interior of houses and apartments are reasonably well maintained external balconies and terraces are not.


Maintenance of balcony`s balusters.

A hand of lead base paint and another coat of finishing paint will suffice.


The same manner that we can repair any damage around windows, is also recommended to do the same with the balconies balusters to prevent rusting or eliminate any existing rust stains and renew the balusters.


If you live in an apartment, the first thing we must take into account is the colour from the balconies of our neighbours, since we must respect the prevailing colours not being the case if you live in a single-family house in that case we can paint any colour or colours that we like most.  


The first thing we must do is to remove the layers of any existing paint, which may have been neglected and deteriorated with the passage of time.


Usually balconies are metal manufactured, although they can also be made out of wood, something very common in bungalows and some single-family homes, so the painting removal process will be different in these cases.


A question of elbow grease.

For metal balconies a good strong emery cloth and a little bit of elbow grease will be sufficient. With the wood you must be more careful, and may use a bristle brush, for example, or simply sanding paper, or it may be sufficient to scrape the surface with a spatula. You may also use paint stripper products suitable to the material on which the paint is to be fixed.


After removing the paint, any rust stains and you have provided a coat of rust resistant base paint the surface is ready to proceed with the finish paint.


It is advisable not to evade a coat of rust resistant paint first, if the balcony is ferrous metallic material.


In the case of wood materials I normally use myself a wood protection coat called "Xilamon Fondo" followed by one or more coats of Xiladecor depending of the type of wood it porosity and the final colour required.


I normally use two coats of each minimum as I sand down the surface after each coat because the paint tends to raise the grain and it make the wood to look quite rough so a soft pass with sand paper machine after each coat will make the timber look much nicer. After having protected the railing you can paint with the chosen colour, using a small brush, and removing excess paint to avoid staining the floor of the balcony. The idea to remember here is that the maintenance done to the railings or balusters will increase the safety of the balcony or terrace substantially.


Write a comment

Comments: 14
  • #1

    Kimberli Santo (Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:58)

    We're a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with valuable information to work on. You have done a formidable job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  • #2

    Juan Pacheco (Sunday, 22 January 2017 21:47)

    Hello Kimberti,
    Thank you for your comments.

    Please share this website with others so that they can benefit from the information too.



  • #3

    Helena Ferrer (Tuesday, 24 January 2017)

    Hello! Quick question that's completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone. I'm trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve this issue. If you have any recommendations, please share. Appreciate it!

  • #4

    Juan Pacheco (Tuesday, 24 January 2017 18:19)

    Hi Helena,
    My website is done from a template from Jimdo, Jimdo has an inbuilt code to adapt to mobile and tablets.
    I hope that helps.


  • #5

    Kim Davey (Friday, 16 February 2018 22:52)

    I'm looking at renting an apartment with has an unsafe (wobbly) wooden balcony area on the solarium. Are there any laws, legislation for the owner to secure areas before renting their property? Many thanks

  • #6

    Juan Pacheco (Saturday, 17 February 2018 12:17)

    Hi Kim,
    Independently of any Spanish regulations on balconies, safety should be above all other considerations. If any one knows about a "wobbly" balcony he or she must secure it or prevent entrance to that area, specially if the balcony in question is a storey or higher, because should an accident happen we are talking about a negligent act punished under Spanish criminal law.
    Having said that, the regulation that covers safety on balconies in Spain is the Basic Document on Use and Safety on Buildings chapter 1 section 3 "Levels"" paragraph 3.1 Security on falls" (Documento Básico sobre Seguridad de Utilización y Accesibilidad, Seguridad frente al riesgo de caídas, capítulo 1 sección 3 párrafo 3.1 Desniveles ).
    Basically it states as follow:
    Characteristics of protection barriers
    3.2.1 Height
    1 The protection barriers shall have, as a minimum, a height of 0.90 m when the height difference that protect does not exceed 6 m and 1.10 m in the rest of the cases, except in the case of stairs well of less than 40 cm width, in which the barrier will have a height of 0.90 m, as minimum (see figure 3.1).
    The height will be measured vertically from the ground level or, in the case of stairs, from the line of inclination defined by the vertices of the steps, up to the upper limit of the barrier.
    3.2.2 Resistance
    1 Protective barriers shall have sufficient strength and stiffness to withstand the force
    established in section 3.2.1 of the Basic Document SE-AE, depending on the area
    which may be situated.
    If we examine the section 3.2.1 of the Basic Document SE-AE we obtain the following information:
    3.2 Actions on guardrails and dividing elements
    1 The proper structure of the railings, breastplates, parapets or guardrails of terraces, viewpoints, balconies or stairs must resist a horizontal force, uniformly distributed, and whose characteristic value will be obtained from table 3.3. The force will be considered applied to 1.2 m or above of the superior edge of the element, if this is located at less height.
    Then it provides us a table depending the type of use of the balustrade or hand rail, i.e. if it is on a public, commercial or residential etc building, but the minimum force that any bacony must withstan it varies from a minimum of 0.8KN/m. to 3kN/m.
    I hope that this information have been of help

    Juan Pacheco

  • #7

    Robert Tempelmans Plat (Sunday, 12 July 2020 06:41)

    We are on a hill/mountain side and we want to build a retaining wall on the lower part of the plot in order to build a pool and terrace area. Consequently the remainder of the garden further down will be approx 2m lower. Is fencing required? What regulations do apply (if any)? Many thanks in advance

  • #8

    Juan Pacheco (Sunday, 12 July 2020 10:22)

    Hi Robert.
    Although you don't mention the size of the retaining wall I presume that it is related to a plot of land and the length will be less than 30 long.
    There are two types of regulations that will apply. The first one is related to planning regulation i.e. you will need a minors building licence (Licencia de Obra Menor) which you can obtain yourself directly from the building department of your local town hall (Departamento de Urbanismo) you will need a small sketch showing the length and height of the wall and some sort of quotation for the job, sometimes the staff will work out for you on the spot. Secondly, you need to comply with the structural building regulation, this is more interpretable depending who will be at the town hall. Sometimes will allow you to build it without any structural calculation and for 2m high a well built concrete block wall 20cm wide and some steel reinforcement will suffice. I will take into account the rain water. If in your area there are occasional down fall I will allow some gargoyles to allow the water that filter down the earth to scape by making holes every 1,5m or so and will place them abou 30 to 40 cm from the foundations.
    I hope that will be useful to you.

  • #9

    Robert Tempelmans Plat (Wednesday, 15 July 2020 08:15)

    Hi Juan,

    Thanks for your reply and very useful info!!
    If I may I have an additional question related to safety.
    In case of terrace on the edge of the wall are their requirements to have a ballustrade/fence?

  • #10

    Juan Pacheco (Wednesday, 15 July 2020 10:07)

    Hi Robert,

    The requirements are:
    Balcony or any drop from ground level, railings must have a minimum height being established that the height of handrails may not be less than 100 cm for a fall between 0,55m and 6 m, and shall not be less than 110 cm for any heights of more than 6m.


  • #11

    Marye (Thursday, 28 April 2022 19:35)

    Hello is it a legal requirement to have handrails on stairs in Spanish houses? We rent a house with 3 floors and marble stairs that lead from the front door right up to the roof terrace but there are no hand rails at all.

  • #12

    Juan Pacheco (Thursday, 12 May 2022 12:02)

    Hello Marye,

    It is not compulsory to have handrails in individual houses as long as they have balustrading or solid walls on both sides of the stairs . A stairs it is considered a flight with 3 or more steps.
    I hope that that is of help.


  • #13

    Lee breck (Monday, 20 February 2023 19:27)

    My neighbour is building another two stories to his house which will completely overlook my pool and garden. Anybody know what the laws are regarding this? Thanks. Lee

  • #14

    Juan Pacheco (Tuesday, 21 February 2023 10:54)

    Hi, lee.

    The law you are referring to is the Spanish Civil Code and in particular to article 581 of that law which says:
    Right of views
    The Spanish Civil Code establishes the possibility of having windows, balconies or projections that have a view of the adjoining property. This implies that there could be no opposition to the hearing if the legal requirements are met.

    View Easement Requirements
    They are located on a non-party wall.
    A minimum distance of 2 meters between the wall and the property, when it comes to straight views.
    There is a minimum distance of 60cm between the wall and the property regarding oblique views.
    You cannot open windows with straight views, or balconies or other similar overhangs, on the neighbour's property, if there are not two meters of distance between the wall on which they are built and the said property.

    Nor can there be side or oblique views of the same property, if there is not a distance of 60 centimetres.

    Article 582 of the Civil Code
    The distances mentioned in the previous article will be counted in straight views from the exterior line of the wall in the holes where there are no projections, from the line of these where there are, and for the oblique ones from the line of separation of the two properties.

    Article 583 of the Civil Code
    Exceptions are determined in the same regulations. In other words, these minimum distances between the non-dividing wall and the property will not be applied when:

    The properties are separated by a public road (article 584 of the Civil Code).
    The constitution of the views was carried out by means of a contract or a title. In this case, the owner of the servient estate may build a wall three meters away (article 585 of the Civil Code).
    It is a right of sight acquired by prescription of 20 years from the moment of its execution.
    When it comes to party walls, the construction of views is only possible with the other party's consent.

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As it is impossible to know in detail every case asked in this blog, all our replies are given in good faith but we strongly suggest that you obtain private advice from a solicitor /and /or  architect who will be able to study in depth your own particular case.

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