Why it’s Important to Maintain Your Balustrades
The balustrade is not just a stylish addition, it is a safety barrier. From the epitome of beauty in the shape of a frameless glass balustrade system to the natural beauty of wood combined with the thrilling sharpness of metal, the balustrade is used where there is a drop that could cause injury to someone should they fall.
From staircases to balconies, balustrades are a common sight but don’t assume that once in situ, that it is it: you need to ensure they are safe to use and continue to provide the safety barrier you need and want.
But how do you that? And how often should you check your balustrades?
1) Check for Movement in the Balustrade
There should be no movement in any of the component parts or the balustrade itself. And so, you need to check for movement and you can do this by;
- Posts – check that the posts (if the balustrade has any) between the glass panel infills or balusters are completely sound. They should be securely fixed at the base. If you notice rusted or missing fixings and screws, have them replaced immediately.
- Balusters – whether you have glass panels or traditional wooden balusters, you need to check these for movement too. They offer structure and strength to the whole balustrade system, as well as being important in preventing people from falling through or under the handrail. Missing balusters should be replaced.
- Handrail – the handrail should also be completely secure and not move when grabbed. Balustrades work by preventing someone’s fall by resisting the force and pressure against it. When this happens, as it absorbs the impact it shouldn’t move but transfer the force throughout its whole structure. If it moves, it means there is a weak spot and this needs to be repaired or replaced.
How often should you do this? Check your balustrade for movement after a prolonged period of inactivity or where the balustrade did break someone’s fall etc.
2) Examine the Balustrade for Damage (materials)
It is important to check the materials of the balustrade for any damage too. It may only be a small amount, but it can still cause a problem.
- Wood – hardwood tends to be the material of choice in wooden balustrades. Its dense interior structure makes it incredibly strong and hardy but not completely resistant to all forms of damage. Wood is also susceptible to pests, such as woodworm, anything that damages the wood compromises its strength.
- Glass – the glass used in balustrades is tempered, meaning it is incredibly strong. Thinner glass panels are laid on top of each other and fused together. It is laminated too, meaning there is a thin layer of plastic fused to the top layer of glass to afford even more protection. Glass of this kind does not shatter but chips, if damaged. It may crack out from the centre of the damage too. If this happens, the strength of the panel is compromised and should be replaced immediately.
- Metal – stainless steel is rust-proof, with aluminium also offering a fantastic resistance to damp and rain. Difficult to damage and impervious to pests, metal is rarely damaged. But there may be issues around joints and other connections. Again, if this is the case, get it repaired.
How often should you check for damage? For exterior balustrades, check for damage after heavy storms or inclement weather. For interior balustrades, check on a frequent basis, especially if the balustrade is continually used.
3) Check for Damage to Components
The balustrade is a structure that will offer protection from falling, even if one part of it is damaged. That said, there can be issues with components and fixings including glass clamps and glass brackets for glass balustrades, welding on metal balustrades and screws and fixings on wooden components.
Check fixings – they should be sound, with no movement or damage to them. In most cases, these components and fixings can be easily replaced.
4) Check – Does it Meet Current Regulations?
Balustrades, along with staircases and some balconies, may have been in situ for some time. If this is the case, it may be that they met the regulations at the time they were built but don’t conform to the current staircase and balustrade regulations.
For example, a balustrade needs to be a minimum height, which varies depending on whether it is inside or outside. The balusters also need to meet current regulations in which the gap between them is no larger than 1100mm and so on.
A balustrade is there to keep you safe – don’t take chances!