Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Dan Cronk
Did you know that Berkeley, CA has its own deck and balcony law?
While this law, known as the Berkeley Exterior Elevated Elements Inspection Program (or E3, for short), is similar to SB-721, it’s a different law with a separate set of requirements.
The deadline to comply with the E3 program was May 31, 2022.
Did you meet the deadline? If not, what do you do now? Are you familiar with the compliance requirements?
Don’t worry. We’re here to help.
This blog breaks down the program’s inspection mandates and standards, and how to avoid fines and code enforcement action.
Let’s dive in.
What is the City of Berkeley’s Exterior Elevated Elements (E3) Program?
The E3 program comes from Section 610.4 of the Berkeley Housing Code, which requires building owners to inspect and certify the weather-exposed elevated elements of their structures every five years.
The program seeks to identify and provide early repair recommendations for any wood-framed elevated element that has been damaged or weakened by insects, fungus, or wood-destroying organisms.
The program also seeks to verify the structural soundness of load-bearing elements, identify steel-framed elements affected by water intrusion, and pave the way for needed repairs before these issues threaten life and safety.
Who Does the E3 Program Affect?
Berkeley’s E3 program applies to all Group R-1 or Group R-2 buildings with exterior elevated elements and any residential building containing three or more sleeping units.
Examples of affected buildings include:
- Live/work units, tenants in common, and apartments.
- Dormitories, convents, monasteries, fraternities, and sorority buildings.
- Motels, vacation timeshare properties, and hotels.
- Congregate residences and boarding houses.
- Social Rehabilitation Residential Facilities and Residential Assisted Living Facilities.
According to the definition set forth by the Berkeley E3 program, elevated elements affected by the law include “all elevated decks, balconies, landings, stairway systems, walkways, guardrails, handrails, or any parts that are exposed to weather and with a walking surface more than 6 feet above grade/ground.”
The E3 program applies to all elevated elements, regardless of when they were constructed. For building owner reference, the city of Berkeley created a picture of the elements covered by the program.
Structural systems made of reinforced concrete are not affected, nor are E3 elements, like roofs, in areas only maintenance personnel can access.
When is the Deadline to Comply with Berkeley’s E3 Program?
The deadline to comply with the E3 program was May 31, 2022.
If you have not yet complied with the program requirements, you could face fines and disciplinary proceedings.
According to the law, the city has the right to initiate code enforcement actions against property owners who did not file an inspection by the deadline or those who do not complete corrective work within the set timeframe.
We recommend booking your inspection immediately to get your building in compliance and avoid disciplinary action.
Who is Qualified to Perform an E3 Inspection?
Like SB-721, Berkeley’s E3 program requires licensed professionals to conduct all inspections.
According to the E3 program guidelines, “licensed professionals” include:
- Licensed general contractors
- Licensed (branch 3) structural pest control operators
- Licensed architects
- Licensed civil engineers and licensed structural engineers.
It’s important to note that any professional who performs an E3 inspection must be licensed to practice in California.
Does Complying with Berkeley’s E3 Program Make me Compliant with California’s SB-721 Law?
No. While SB-721 and The City of Berkeley’s Exterior Elevated Elements Inspection Program are similar, they have different compliance requirements.
Fortunately, Deck & Balcony Inspections is here to help.
As a team of certified building inspectors, we understand the inspection and certification requirements of both the E3 program and SB-721.
Our team provides comprehensive SB-721 and E3 inspections to help you stay in compliance and avoid fines.
What are the Inspection Requirements of the E3 Program?
The E3 program requires two separate inspection components: a comprehensive condition assessment of a building’s structural elements and an assessment to evaluate the condition of waterproofing systems.
Here’s what you need to know about each:
The Requirements of the Structural Screening
- A licensed professional will visually inspect all E3s on the property during the structural screening.
- The inspector must physically evaluate at least 15% of a building’s E3s. To ensure comprehensive inspections, the law requires the creation of investigative openings in the E3s that will be inspected.
- During the structural screening, the inspector will check for the presence of wood-destroying pests, organisms, or corrosion. If the inspector finds any of those things, a comprehensive Tier 2 evaluation will be initiated (Consult the E3 guidelines to learn more about Tier 2 inspections).
- Once the inspector has completed the structural screening, they will patch all investigative openings, making sure they match the existing surface.
The Waterproofing System Screening
- During the waterproofing system screening, the inspector will visually review exposed surfaces.
- If the visual review uncovers minor waterproofing defects that are NOT severe enough to result in water intrusion or require a Tier 2 evaluation, the inspector will report the defects to the building owner, along with a list of recommended maintenance tasks.
- If the waterproofing system screening does not uncover significant defects, the inspector will file a Certification form with the City’s Housing Code Enforcement Office.
5 Essential Steps to Comply with the E3 Program
- Find a licensed inspector and book your inspection. Inspection slots are filling up, and the compliance deadline has passed. Contact the team at Deck & Balcony Inspections, Inc. to book your E3 inspection today. On the Berkeley Property Owner’s Association (BPOA) website, we’re listed in the Directory of Licensed Professionals available for E3 inspections.
- Get a structural screening and a waterproofing system screening for your property. The screening requirements for both inspections are listed above. A licensed property inspector will understand the inspection requirements for both and provide a comprehensive review that checks all the boxes.
- Make any repairs needed. If corrective work is needed, the E3 program requires the property owner to apply for a permit within 60 days of the inspection and respond to all plan check comments within ten days of the correction letter. The building owner must also obtain a building permit within ten days of receiving notification of plan approval and complete all work within 90 days of receiving the building permit.
- Submit the inspection certification form. Your property inspector will submit the inspection certification form to the City of Berkeley after completing the inspection. NOTE: If the initially submitted report indicates that corrective work was required, you must submit a second certification form once all corrective work is complete.
- Mark your calendar for all follow-up inspections. Berkeley’s E3 program requires building owners to inspect and certify the weather-exposed elevated elements of their structures every five years.
Why Choose Us as Your Trusted Berkeley Exterior Elevated Elements Contractor?
Failure to comply with or meet the requirements of Berkeley’s E3 program will have severe consequences for building owners.
Fortunately, choosing our team to perform your E3 inspection helps you stay in compliance, on track, and out of trouble with the city.
Here are just a few of the reasons Berkeley property managers choose Deck & Balcony Inspections to help them comply with California’s balcony laws:
1. We offer free consultations and estimates.
We believe E3 inspections should be easy. When you contact us to schedule your E3 inspection, our team will work around your schedule to plan a free consultation.
We’ll review your inspection needs during this consultation, offer an accurate estimate, and decide on the inspection date.
2. We provide detailed reports with each inspection we perform
The inspection requirements of the E3 program are complex. To make them easy to understand, we provide a detailed report that outlines the condition of all the E3s on your property.
This color-coded report is broken down as follows:
- Red. An issue that requires immediate action.
- Yellow. All noted repairs should be completed as soon as possible.
- Blue. Maintenance is required, but the issue does not currently present a risk to health or safety.
- Green. No problems were identified.
Each of our reports is available in digital or PDF format. Additionally, each report includes details regarding the expected service life of your E3s and can be updated to reflect completed repairs.
If you work with our team, there’s no need to generate a new report every five years – we use your initial report as a baseline and update it accordingly.
This saves you time and money and makes each subsequent E3 inspection much more manageable.
3. We’re experienced professionals
Our owner, Dan Cronk, has been working in the construction industry for more than 40 years.
He’s held positions as a certified structural inspector and a general contractor, and he brings that expertise to every inspection we perform.
Today, Dan and his team of engineers use cutting-edge tools and equipment to ensure accurate, comprehensive inspections each time.
4. We use non-invasive tactics
While the E3 program requires that we create investigative openings during the structural screening portion of an E3 inspection, our team is committed to non-invasive inspection techniques.
We’ll keep our investigative openings as small as possible and patch them seamlessly at the end of the inspection. We believe in protecting your property – not destroying it.
Did You Miss the Compliance Deadline for E3? Book Your Inspection Today!
The deadline to comply with the City of Berkeley’s E3 Program has already passed.
Book your inspection today to keep your property compliant and to avoid costly penalties.
Contact us today to request your free E3 inspection quote: call 916-238-0618 or fill out the form
Dan Cronk is the Founder & President of Deck and Balcony Inspections, Inc. Dan has 40+ years of experience in the construction industry. As a certified structural inspector and general contractor, Dan has extensive knowledge about California’s deck and balcony laws and enjoys sharing his expertise with the community.