How Strong Do Balustrade Posts Need To Be?
How strong balustrade posts need to be will depend on a number of varying factors.
Here we have explained the crucial differences between materials, heights, load requirements and designs.
A balustrade is essentially a railing system made up of supporting posts called “balusters”. These balusters are connected to form a unit with a handrail positioned along the top. The term “balustrade” refers to the completed construction of the balusters and handrail, which together form a complete railing system.
Balustrades can be used for decoration, safety and, privacy, they can also provide support for people who can’t walk or move around easily and help cordon off certain areas.
All balustrades and railing systems do a similar job; however, there are crucial differences in their construction which alter how they can be used.
Let’s talk about the materials of your balustrade posts:
Most balustrades are made using a combination of stainless steel or aluminium and glass; all of these materials are durable, easy to clean and don’t block the light. They create what architects refer to as an “open field of view”.
Glass needs to be thick enough to support the balustrade construction. The thickness of the glass panels varies on the design and location of your balustrade posts, as well as what type of building they are attached to.
There are two types of safety glass used in balustrade construction:
- Toughened (or tempered) balustrade glass. Toughened glass panels framed by balustrade posts should be around 10mm in thickness.
- Laminated balustrade glass. Laminated glass consists of two standard glass panels separated by a resin layer.
Stainless steel balustrade posts can be used for both glass balustrades and wire rope balustrade systems to complement a modern design aesthetic. A wire rope system is a great option if you want to create a walkway on flat ground or give the illusion of privacy without using glass (the system can be fitted to a stainless steel top rail to achieve structural integrity).
Marine-grade stainless steel is often used for areas exposed to water to reduce the risk of corrosion. The material is also used for the most handrails to ensure a safer gripping service. Aluminium is another popular choice among architects and can be used as an alternative to stainless steel for many applications.
The required height of a balustrade post varies according to the building it is being installed on or around. It also depends on whether the railings are intended for interior or exterior use.
The minimum required height is 1.1 metres from the point of standing for external glass balustrades. If the balustrade is on a wall, the height of the balustrade posts needs to be 1.1 metres above the point of a person standing on the wall.
Building regulations specify that balustrades and railings must have a pressure requirement they can withstand before falling. Load pressure is measured in KN/m (kiloNewton per metre).
Load requirements vary according to a building’s purpose and size, but external glass balustrades on domestic properties tend to have a legal load requirement of 0.74kN/m.
Your balustrade contractor will be able to tell you the load pressure of your construction.
It’s important to consider the building or outside area’s existing design before erecting a balustrade system.
Balustrade posts and railings in schools or hospitals, for example, need to allow people to move around the building safely and comfortably without constructing access areas.
Although balustrade construction doesn’t usually require planning permission, you should always consult a qualified contractor to ensure the design and installation of your balustrade meets the requirements of the space. Click here for more details on balustrade regulations.
Many designers choose balustrades when they want to ensure the safety and privacy of a property, but don’t want to compromise on the view. In this instance, a frameless glass balustrade system would be the best choice, as a glass balustrade provides support without compromising panoramic balcony views.
Glass panels are often available in a variety of finishes – such as patterned or frosted (as long as they are compliant with building regulations).
You also have the option to customise the colour or finish of your balustrade posts. You may be able to select black, silver, grey or charcoal for instance.
Stainless steel posts are available in either a satin or mirror finish, while aluminium is powder-coated. Other balustrade customisation options might include built-in lights, a choice of handrail, and a selection of corner posts and caps.
Some balustrades are constructed purely for aesthetic purposes, while others are paramount for safety. For example, when they are positioned around stairs and lobbies or balconies.
Balustrade posts are often used as swimming pool barriers to prevent people from falling into the pool. Depending on the structure, they can also help keep a pool clean by limiting the amount of debris blown into the water. Balustrades are often used for privacy for outdoor pools, often with tinted or frosted glass panels. Custom panels can also add to the aesthetic of a garden or outdoor swimming area.
Installers should also use bolt-through lugs as a safety precaution when fixing glass infills, as traditional clamp lugs may lead to glass slippage over time; not only could these lead to costly infill replacements, but they also pose a safety issue.
So, how strong do your balustrade posts need to be?
As you can see, the required strength of a balustrade post is dependent on various factors – including building type, purpose, safety precautions, materials used and aesthetic preference. There is no single strength requirement that all balustrades must adhere to, but installers must still comply with government building regulations.
Balustrade posts and handrails appear in some form in most buildings and outdoor areas. Whether they exist as critical safety structures or as added design features, balustrades should be strong, sturdy and durable.
When you choose a balustrade it’s important to consider the best materials, design and aesthetic elements for your project.
At SHS Products, our fully trained CAD technicians will help you select the best balustrade posts and railings to accommodate your needs while ensuring you remain compliant with building regulations.