Have you ever looked at the railings in your home? They’re a necessary part of the way your home functions. But sometimes they can look a bit out of place.
Even the most decorative railings and balustrades seem to detract from the interior design. Unfortunately, we need to install them to keep everyone safe.
If only you could meet the safety requirements for your home in a stunning and beautiful way. Well, the good news is it’s possible.
Glass balustrades are an elegant alternative to the necessary railings in your home. They keep everyone safe without costing you any of your home’s interior style and beauty. In fact, in some cases, they may even elevate the look of your home.
Today, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about installing glass balustrades in your home. We’ll talk about what they are, how they’re installed, and how they can even up the style of your home. We’ll also discuss some of the safety and building best practices when it comes to glass balustrades.
By the time you finish reading this, you’ll be an expert in balustrades and glass balustrades rules.
So, read along with us and take notes. The class is in session!
What Are Glass Balustrades?
Think of a glass balustrade as a protective glass railing. It can function as a railing for a staircase or even a barrier for a balcony or deck. Any place in your home where there’s a significant elevation change, a glass balustrade can help.
Many people choose this option because it’s much more decorative than a traditional railing. And homeowners don’t have to sacrifice any of the functionality.
When installed properly and with the right finishes, a glass balustrade can even elevate the look of your home. They are a popular option in homes that have amazing views on the surrounding property. This is because the glass panels that make up the railing don’t block your sightline.
The result is unobstructed, breathtaking views of the beach, ocean, mountains, canyons, etc. Whatever natural beauty surrounds your home. But, there are more to glass balustrades than looks.
Building Glass Balustrades
Since glass balustrades are essentially glass railings, they need to do more than look pretty. They need to keep you, your loved ones, and the guests in your home safe and sound.
They also need to be able to withstand a high level of wear and tear. Since they’re installed on staircases, balconies, and promenades, glass balustrades usually find themselves in high-traffic areas throughout your home.
These factors, and more, are the reasons why there are strict, in-depth rules and regulations for building glass balustrades. And, we’re going to outline them below. This way, you know exactly how they need to be built for your home or, if you’re a contractor, your next development project.
So, where are balustrades or railings necessary? Well, in general, they’re necessary anywhere there is a significant drop or change in elevation within your home. But, how do you know if an elevation change is “significant” or not? This is where the building rules and regulations come in.
The distance between floor levels that require a balustrade will differ depending on the building. For a private home, a balustrade is necessary anywhere where the floor levels differ 600mm or more.
If you’re installing a glass balustrade in a building other than a private dwelling, the requirement differs. In other types of buildings, balustrades are necessary where the staircase contains more than two risers. They’re also necessary where the floor level changes 380mm or more in these types of buildings.
Residential Height Requirements
Building rules and regulations also require glass balustrades to be a certain height. The mandatory height of a glass balustrade in a private home will differ based on its location.
If a glass balustrade is near an opening window, the balustrade needs to be 800mm tall. If it’s an internal balustrade, it needs to be at least 900mm in height. An internal balustrade would be anything on stairs, landings, ramps, edges of internal floors, etc.
External balustrades have different height requirements. If the balustrade is located outside the home, it needs to be at least 1100mm in height. This is the height requirement when the balustrade is located on a rooftop, a balcony, or a railing on an external staircase.
Commercial Height Requirements
For commercial buildings, the requirements are much different. Because safety is so important, glass balustrades rules change based on the use of a commercial building.
In factories and warehouses, glass balustrades regulations require a height of at least 900mm on stairs and ramps and 1100mm on landings and the edges of floors.
If a commercial building is used for public assembly, the requirements change. Glass balustrades must be 530mm or less from fixed seats in a theatre or auditorium. They also need to be at least 800mm when they’re in front of fixed seating.
Everywhere else in the building, they need to be at least 900mm.
Retail locations are a bit simpler. For retail, contractors will need to keep a height of at least 900mm when building glass balustrades for flights of stairs. Anywhere else in a retail space, balustrades need to be at least 1100mm tall.
Any institutional, commercial residential, educational, office space, or public building will have the same requirements as retail. Balustrades will need to be 900mm on flights of stairs and at least 1100mm everywhere else.
Finally, glass balustrades require glazing in all commercial structures—especially where there is an opening window. The only exception is windows in loft extensions. These should be at a height of 800mm.
In addition to location and height, there are rules and regulations regulating the design of glass balustrades. Although they are meant to add beauty and design to your home, their main purpose is function and safety. As a result, certain properties of glass balustrades need to be preserved throughout the design process.
When building glass balustrades, the line load is the first thing you need to keep in mind. This is the measure of the amount of force the top horizontal edge of the balustrade can handle. Think of the line load as a representation of someone leaning on the railing.
The required line load of a balustrade is determined by the building occupancy and can range from .36 kN/m to 3.0 kN/m in more high traffic structures.
The next design requirement is the uniformly distributed load (UDL). This is the horizontal force applied against the midsection of the balustrade. Think of this force as someone pushing out against the glass panes of the balustrade.
This measure is also determined by occupancy and can range anywhere from .5 kN/m2 to 1.5 kN/m2.
The final design requirement to consider when creating glass balustrades is the concentrated load. This is a measure of the accidental or sudden impact a balustrade can withstand. An example would be if an object or person hit the balustrade with force.
Like the other two design factors, the concentrated load also varies based on building occupancy. Acceptable concentrated load levels range from .25 kN to 1.5 kN in more high-traffic buildings.
A lot of architects ask if glass balustrades need a continuous handrail. It depends on the balustrade, but the short answer is: no. You don’t need a continuous handrail on a glass balustrade installation.
Regulations suggest the use of a handrail in instances where the glass panels could fail. If your project uses a strong enough glass that the other panels will remain in place when one panel fails, a handrail isn’t necessary.
The best way to accomplish this is to use glass with a strong interlayer. Bespoke Frameless Glass uses glass with this feature in all of our projects. This is especially true for exterior installations.
If your project requires glazing, Bespoke can handle that too. We would just need to know in advance, and we can get you whatever you need to meet the safety requirements of your project.
Builders and homeowners also need to be aware of the glass specifications when installing glass balustrades. The glass used needs to meet all of the design requirements mentioned above. It also needs to meet any glazing requirements necessary.
Bespoke Frameless Glass uses glass that conforms to industry specifications in all of our projects. Whether you’re installing a glass door, glass railing, glass balcony, or glass shower, Bespoke Frameless Glass has exactly what you need to keep your mind at ease.
We use only the best-engineered glass panels. This way, you can focus on the design elements you want in your balustrade without having to worry about meeting structural requirements. Let us handle that for you.
Style and Safety Meet
There it is! Your complete guide to the safety of glass balustrades. It’s important to keep in mind that glass balustrades should always be installed by a professional.
The team at Bespoke Frameless Glass is here to help. If you have any questions about glass balustrades or need a quote for your project, contact us at any time. We look forward to making your dream glass project become a reality.