17 Mar 2022

What to Consider When Specifying Glass Balustrades for Internal and External Applications

Here, IQ Glass runs you through 10 elements that you should consider when specifying glass balustrades for a home-building project. Splitting its advice into five internal and five external tips, there’s bound to be invaluable knowledge in this article for every self-builder and home renovator.

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Five tips for internal glass balustrades

Consider all decorative glazing options
Internal glass balustrades, like most internal glazing solutions, are a popular choice as they allow the flow of natural light to reach all areas of the home without obstruction. There’s a range of decorative glazing options that still allow light to flow through and can be utilised to create a design feature within the home, including (but not limited to) sandblasted glass and coloured interlayers. Think about the interior design of the house and which glazing solutions will enhance the overall design.

Make sure it meets Building Regulations
As with almost any aspect of building, there are regulations for glass balustrades that must be followed. For internal glass balustrades, this includes a height regulation of 900mm. There are also line loads, concentrated loads and UDL to consider. It is essential always to consult a professional to ensure the balustrade complies with all Building Regulations.

Glass specification
All glass balustrades should be made of at least two pieces of toughened and laminated glass. This type of safety glass ensures that, in the event of breakage (for example, someone falling into it), it can provide a protective barrier that will shatter without large, jagged pieces and be held together by the interlayer. This is essential for safety and if a company is trying to sell you single-glazed balustrades or those that use float glass, then be very wary!

Cleaning
Internal glass balustrades are seen, used and touched almost every day in most homes, and as such, some people have concerns about keeping the glass clean and smear free. Glass is an extremely low-maintenance material and is easy to clean. One way to reduce cleaning time and frequency even further is to specify the balustrade with a low-maintenance coating, which essentially creates an extremely smooth surface that dirt and debris find challenging to stick to. This coating can be used to reduce cleaning time for both internal and external balustrades, which can be especially handy if they’re in hard-to-reach places.

Go bespoke
There are many companies that sell pre-made, off-the-shelf glass balustrade systems. However, as with any type of glazing, going for bespoke systems is always best as this ensures that the system will meet any requirements, whether they’re design or performance based. People may think that glass balustrades won’t affect the interior design of their home, but they couldn’t be more wrong. With any project, each element should have careful consideration, including balustrades. Researching your options and carefully planning exactly what you want guarantees that the system will work with, and enhance, the surrounding space.

Five tips for specifying external glass balustrades

Which fixing option is best?
When the balustrade is being used around an external balcony or roof terrace and will be fixed to the floor, the three most common fixing options are an over-slab fixing, a slab edge fixing and an offset over-slab fixing. Which of these is best depends on how you want it to look and also the placement and surrounding building structure. If the balustrade is being used in a modern Juliet balcony design, then pig-nose joints are often preferred as they are extremely stable and durable but also have the benefit of a minimal finish.

Handrail, capping or frameless?
Frameless glass balustrades look fantastic and don’t detract from the external design of the home, offering a completely clear view through and acting as a near-invisible protective barrier. However, frameless balustrades have the disadvantage of leaving the interlayer exposed around the edge, which can leave it vulnerable to water damage, hence most companies advising on a capping for external glass balconies. Some companies, however, now offer a glass capping that protects the interlayer and results in a more durable system that still maintains a clear and minimal design.

Make sure it meets Building Regulations
As mentioned for internal glass balustrades, there are also Building Regulations for external glass balustrades, and all of these are detailed in Building Regulations Part K. For external glass balustrades, the height must be 1100mm and, depending on which building occupancy class the building comes under, there are certain wind and concentrated loads that the system must meet.

Privacy
Frameless glass balustrades are an excellent choice for uninterrupted views and maximising light flow, but if they’re used for a bedroom balcony, some may be concerned about privacy. Here, sandblasted glass, also known as frosted glass, can be specified to allow the system to provide a safety barrier and level of privacy without having to compromise on the flow of natural light into the bedroom space. Alternatively, translucent or opaque decorative interlayers can be used for this same purpose.

Glass specification
Choosing the right glass specification is essential for any glass balustrade, whether it’s internal, external, frameless or capped. Toughened and laminated glass should always be used, and for an ultra-clear, invisible balustrade system, low-iron glass can be specified. It always helps to know what to ask for, even when speaking to a professional, as you want to avoid any glaziers who recommend balustrades that are not up to spec.

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