Regulations and uses: differences between balcony, terrace and deck


Emma Potter

When it comes to outdoor living spaces, terms like balcony, terrace, and deck are often used interchangeably. However, there are significant differences between these structures that are important to know, especially if you are considering building or purchasing a property.

But what are these differences and what characteristics define each of these areas?

Let’s find out together.

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The balcony

A balcony is a structure that protrudes from the facade of a building, supported by brackets or supports. It is usually small in size and can be accessed from one or more rooms in the apartment. Balconies are often equipped with parapets or railings and are ideal for adding private outdoor space without requiring major structural work.

They can vary in size, but typically do not exceed a depth of 1-1.5 meters.

According to Italian law, balconies can be considered a common part of the building only when they perform a function of covering, decoration or support of the facade. In these cases, maintenance and related expenses can be paid by the condominium.

However, if the balcony does not perform such functions, it is considered the private property of the owner of the apartment to which it is attached.

In terms of safety, the Consolidated Law on Construction (Presidential Decree 380/2001) requires that balcony parapets or railings must have a minimum height of 1 metre and must not have openings that would allow the passage of a 10 cm diameter sphere, to ensure the safety of children.

Furthermore, any intervention on the balcony that involves significant structural or aesthetic modifications must respect the architectural decorum of the building and requires condominium authorization, as established by art. 1122-bis of the Civil Code.

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The terrace

A terrace is a larger outdoor space, usually located on the ground floor or on the roof of a building, differing from a balcony in size and use. Terraces are flat structures that can be an integral part of a building or an accessible flat roof.

They can be equipped with furniture, hanging gardens, and other leisure facilities, becoming real outdoor living spaces.

From a regulatory perspective, terraces are regulated similarly to balconies in terms of architectural decorum and safety. However, given their size and potential use, safety regulations may be more stringent.

For example, if the terrace is used as a hanging garden, it is necessary to comply with specific technical standards relating to the maximum weight that the structure can bear and the waterproofing methods to prevent water infiltration (Presidential Decree 380/2001).

Terraces are also subject to the Civil Code, which defines their common or exclusive use depending on the specifics of the condominium regulations. If the terrace is for the exclusive use of an apartment, the owner must still comply with the condominium and municipal regulations for any modification or maintenance work.

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The terrace

The terrace, often confused with the terrace, is a large outdoor area, usually located on the upper floors of a building, such as the attic. It can be partially or completely uncovered and offers a larger living space than a balcony or terrace.

Terraces are ideal for installing hanging gardens, dining areas, relaxation areas with pergolas and other leisure facilities, transforming them into real outdoor living environments.

From a regulatory point of view, the terrace is subject to specific regulations, in particular with regard to safety and management of rainwater. The Consolidated Law on Construction (DPR 380/2001) establishes that terraces must have adequate drainage systems to avoid water infiltration into the floors below. Furthermore, railings or parapets must comply with the same safety criteria as those required for balconies, with a minimum height of 1 meter and openings no larger than 10 cm in diameter.

The Civil Code also regulates the use of terraces in condominiums. If the terrace is for common use, maintenance costs are divided among all the condominium members according to the thousandths of the property. If, however, it is for the exclusive use of a single apartment, the owner is responsible for ordinary maintenance, while extraordinary costs can be shared with the condominium if they concern the load-bearing structure of the building.

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In conclusion, knowing the differences between a balcony, terrace and deck is essential for those who want to make the most of the outdoor spaces of their home. Each structure offers different advantages and requires attention to specific regulations to ensure safety and compliance.

Whether you are adding a small balcony, equipping a large terrace, or transforming a deck into a relaxation area, it is essential to plan carefully and follow the laws in force.