Balconies, Decks & Balustrades – What to do to ensure they are safe
Balconies, decks and balustrades are common sights in both domestic homes and gardens, as well as commercial and business settings. There are stringent regulations that relate to height, material, force and weight. All of which are important in ensuring they are safe for public use.
The realities of unsafe balustrades
Maintenance of balustrades along with decking and balconies is extremely important. When the design, installation and maintenance fall below par, the results are catastrophic. Methods used to ‘cut corners’ to save time and money can lead to fatal accidents further down the line, so it is paramount that regulations are followed closely.
We’ve covered balustrade building regulations in previous posts. These set vital guidelines to follow during design and construction. In this article, however, we look at three important components: design, installation and maintenance.
Getting the right design is imperative for safety when it comes to decking and balconies. At Balustrade Components, we work with customers, designers and architects designing glass and/or stainless steel balustrades, including frameless glass balustrades.
Choosing the right balustrade need not be daunting when you take into account how you will use it and design one that meets building regulations.
Frameless glass balustrades
As the name suggests, this balustrade is all glass with no posts or handrail and is perfect for applications where minimalism is the order of the day.
Are frameless glass balustrades safe?
Yes, they are. Each panel of glass is toughened and sits comfortably within a shoe channel, which is also made of high-quality materials. Each balustrade is tested, and you should be given a test certificate as proof.
What can frameless glass balustrades be fixed to?
Balustrades are not only stylish and practical, but they also need to be safe. It is not just the actual balustrade itself that matters – but how securely it is fixed. The fixings are just as important, which is why frameless systems are recommended for use with stainless steel and concrete.
Can frameless systems be used in commercial settings?
Yes, they can and there are some exquisite examples online of how practical and minimal the frameless system is. It works well in applications where there is a view to be enjoyed.
Glass balustrades turn the humble balcony or decking into something classic and elegant. The glass infills are held in place with secure glass clips in between posts, and also have a handrail.
Again, glass balustrades of this kind work well in situations where you want uninterrupted views from the balcony or decking. Balustrades may need to meet a set of requirements and regulations but that doesn’t mean it cannot be an installation of beauty, class and style.
Can glass balustrades be installed by a competent DIY-er?
In effect, yes they can. With the right tools and instructions, they are something that can be fitted by a customer. However, it is important that an experienced fitter should complete this process in buildings that are accessible to the public – and we suggest having any that are installed in a residential setting checked by a professional.
Take your time, do your research and understand how the system all comes together to form one coherent and connected structure that is not only at the right height but safe for use in terms of the forces and pressure applied to it.
How can glass balustrades be personalised?
It is possible to customise your glass balustrade. This is perfect for the domestic customer who often likes to make small tweaks and changes.
For example, it is possible to have clear or opaque glass, and there are also coloured glass infills slowly coming to the market.
You can also install lights near the glass balustrade, such as decking lights or LED lights in the balcony that also offer a new facet of beauty to the glass balustrade.
Can these balustrades be used in a commercial setting?
Yes, they can. These glass balustrade systems with posts and handrails are favoured in many commercial applications, from shopping centres to offices.
They allow a flow of light and don’t cut a room in half. For balconies and decking, they allow uninterrupted views beyond their structure, something that we know customers are seeking.
Affordable, they may a very stylish alternative to larger, cumbersome balustrades for both commercial and domestic customers.
Balustrades for decking
Decking has gained popularity in recent years. Stylish and practical, it adds elegance to wherever it is installed. With a balustrade, however, plain decking can take on a whole new look.
If you want to add privacy to a decked area, opt for opaque glass. This is perfect for reducing people peering in but without cutting down on light into the space.
Are all balustrade systems suitable for decking?
A glass balustrade system with posts and handrails is considered as being the best systems for decking.
Are there additional building regulations and permissions relating to decking and balustrades?
Providing the decking isn’t cover the entire garden or more than half of it, then you are unlikely to need planning permission. But as always, checking with your local council could save you an administrative headache in the future.
As for decking balustrades, the same rules apply as for other outdoor balustrades. It needs to be at least 900mm from the floor of the decking if the decking height is less than 600mm above ground level.
If the decking is more than 600mm above ground level, the height of the balustrade from the decking floor increases to 1100mm.
When it comes to balustrade installation, for commercial settings, professional installation is usually considered obligatory. After all, the traffic and use of the balustrade will be much higher than a domestic balustrade.
Having the confidence in installation and the peace of mind the balustrade has been installed correctly is worth much more than ‘cutting corners’.
Balustrades for domestic use can be a DIY project for someone with competent DIY skills. However, you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need;
- Glass – toughened, either opaque, clear or coloured
- Brackets and secure glass clips
- Corner posts, end caps, shoes and elbows to maintain a consistently rigid frame to your balustrade
- Other fixings as designated by the balustrade system and design
Any component in a building, whether residential or commercial, should be checked regularly to make sure that it is in fine working order.
There are many things to consider when doing maintenance checks.
Pressure & force – people grabbing hold of the handrail, pushing and pulling, or someone falling against the balustrade may affect the balustrade fixings and how well they continue to cope with pressure and force.
Weight – the combined weight of humans using balustrades, especially in commercial settings, place it under stress. This is something it is more than capable of dealing with. But clearly checking the balcony or decking balustrade for damage or movement in what should be a rigid system is very important.
Vibrations – balconies and decking will vibrate as they are used. The movement is almost undetectable, but these vibrations can work some of the balustrade fixings loose over time. Thus, checking fixtures and fittings is important.
Environmental conditions – for balustrades on outside balconies and decking, the weather plays a major part in how good they look and how well they cope with environmental conditions. Glass and stainless steel, along with aluminium and other materials commonly used in outdoor balustrades, are rarely affected by weather. But regular maintenance checks still make sense.
It makes sense to design a balustrade that works well in the environment in which it will operate and that the installation is completed to the highest possible standard.
Likewise, the maintenance of most balustrades may be simple, but it is worth frequently checking them for any structural changes.