When is a Balustrade Required?

What are the legal requirements for balustrades? We take a look at when they need to be in place and what regulations they must meet.

We are so accustomed to seeing balustrades are part of the fixtures and fitting in and outside the home and other premises, that we can be unsure as to when a balustrade is necessary and when it is added as a stylistic statement. You need to make sure you get every aspect of the balustrade right from position to height, material and key components such as glass clamps.

Balustrades answer two requirements;

  1. Regulation requirements
  2. User expectation

In other words, there are times when a balustrade may not be required as per according to the building regulations but anyone using the area may expect to find a handrail and balustrade to assist them in using the space safely.

Consider a wide expanse of space but with one step change in the level, for example, common when creating decking outside or in a commercial setting. For everyone to safely use the whole of the space, a balustrade and handrail in the centre will help the user to safely negotiate the change in level, as well as help order ‘traffic’ at busy times.

A balustrade and handrail can make sense of a room or a setting and so including one can be voluntary and a stylistic statement as much as it is needed under building regulations.

Where are balustrade needed?

The two regulations that govern when a balustrade must be used is Document K Building regulations 1991 and BS6180.

This article from the team at Balustrade Components is a guide only and should not be treated as a definitive advice relating to balustrades. ALWAYS check if you need a balustrade in any project or renovation you complete.

  • Domestic property

Building regulations require that when there are flights of stairs, landings or raised areas in a single-family dwelling, there must be a balustrade if the difference between the adjacent levels is more than 600mm.

This would include sunken areas, for example, as well as any part of the floor, gallery, balcony and roof. Light wells may also need a balustrade or any area next to a building where people have access to it.

  • Other buildings

For other buildings, such as commercial properties, this difference in height changes, reducing to 380mm.

In other words, you will need a balustrade where there is a difference in floor level of 380mm or more, almost half that considered acceptable in a domestic property.

This change in regulation takes into account the increased use of the area, the lack of familiarity with the area (that is, user expectation we talked about earlier) and the increased volume of people possibly travelling through it.

When will you need to install a balustrade?

If you take a look at 600mm, this is a decent drop for someone to take a misstep and certainly not advised for someone old and infirm to fall down. Likewise, young children may find negotiating the gap difficult without a handrail.

This is why we find most clients opt to have a balustrade and handrail system installed when the drop or change in level is 380mm or more.

Balustrade height regulations for domestic dwellings

The height of the balustrade is important too. It needs to be at a sufficient height to prevent someone from falling.

There are variations in height depending on where the balustrade in the home is located. The following measurements are for a ‘single family dwelling’, as defined in Document K and BS6180. See below the minimum heights of balustrades from floor to finish based on their positions: –

 

  • Barriers in Front of Windows – 800mm
  • Stairs, ramps, edges of internal floors and landings – 900mm
  • Exterior balconies such as a Juliet balcony, roof edges etc. – 1100

 

These floor to finish heights are the minimum height required. As long as your balustrade meets this, it will pass the building inspection.

However, you may find you want a taller balustrade. It is not uncommon for customers to opt for 1100mm balustrade heights in all applications.

The heights of balustrades for commercial properties are different. To find out more, contact the team.

It can seem straightforward to work out the floor level to measure from but there are cases where small steps in an area, such as roof balcony etc., would constitute the ‘floor’ level. This is because should someone stand on it, the balustrade may not be tall enough to break their fall.

A balustrade is, in some situations in the home and commercial building, essential. Without it, users would not be safe from falling.

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