Glass balustrade systems – which one is right for your project?
Glass is a material used in all kinds of structures and projects throughout the home. The reasons are obvious – as a material, it reflects light, making a space appear larger. It also adds the wow factor in so many ways but more importantly, in terms of a balustrade, it provides the safety barrier to an edge without cutting a room or space in half.
For the UK customer, there are many versions of the glass balustrade from which to choose but they all fall into two broad categories:
- A glass balustrade system that relies on posts
- A frameless system, whereby there are no posts but its strength is part of structural glass
Glass balustrades with posts
This kind of system has distinct separate components that all fit together; this reliance on each other creates a chain-effect of strength and resilience.
- Posts – these are fixed at certain points throughout the chain, providing anchor points of strength in the overall project
- Glass panels – these are available in various thicknesses and size too and are fixed to the posts
- Glass clamps – these are the small, essential clamp components that are fixed at certain key points on the panel; these will keep the panel in position, providing the final anchor point of strength to maintain a robust and steady system
There are all kinds of variations possible with this kind of system which is why many people opt for a post glass balustrade system.
Posts can be added at any point in the system, for example, on corners and so on. There are many decisions to be made to create a stunning looking glass balustrade system:
- Choice of posts, both in terms of materials and size – some projects opt for the clean look of metal posts and handrail, whereas other projects use wooden posts and rails. You can, of course combine the two as well.
- Frequency of posts – designing this kind of system takes time as you will need to ensure that you have the correct number of posts and in the right places too. Glass panels will vary in size to fit smaller or larger spaces; in the main, however, glass panels tend to be a metre square at their maximum. Anything larger can be not only more difficult to handle but also too heavy and cumbersome.
This system is incredibly stylish and one that suits both internal and external projects.
Frameless glass balustrade systems
This type of system is considered almost magical in its appeal and look. It seems that huge glass panes with seemingly very little support are able to withstand all kinds of use and pressure. Unlike the other system, there are no posts resulting in a minimal look that many people find decadent and appealing.
In some cases, it is also referred to as structural glass, the reason for which is the change in role that the glass has in this system compared to a system with posts.
In a post supported system, the glass acts as a panel. Although strong and an important structural component, it is not the main source of strength or structure. In a frameless system, the glass does act as the structure of the system hence the term ‘structural glass’.
This pressure in a design or building is known as loading; it is the amount of weight and pressure that an object is expected to ensure, both from use but also from providing strength and integrity within the project as a whole.
This load changes; it usually increases as people use the building or a certain part of it, thus the object or material needs to be used in such a way that it has more than enough capability to withstand increased loads.
Frameless glass balustrade systems also bring into play other laws of physics too. Where there is no obvious means of support, the glass will be cantilevered. This means that the fixing or clamps are fixed to the bottom of the glass, which is normally U-shaped, but means the top of the glass can take the load.
This kind of system requires glass that is much thicker, usually around 15mm in thickness and will also be toughened. The glass itself is the barrier, acting too as the load bearing element in the design.
Although frameless, most people opt to have a handrail fitted for additional safety and ease of use. This handrail must have a strength all of its own – for example, should a glass panel break, the handrail must still be able to support its own weight and that of people using it. The same is true of when the handrail passes over a gap in the glass panels.
Some manufacturers are now making frameless glass balustrade systems without a handrail. As long as the correct thickness of glass is used and it is laminated, this will truly be a fabulous use of glass.