How to Make Sure your Wire Balustrade is Safe

A wire balustrade can be a stylish addition to a range of indoor and outdoor projects in both domestic and commercial properties. Wire rope systems generally don’t comply with UK building regulations, which means they’re in a grey area when it comes to safety. As such, they may not be suitable for certain projects.

It’s important to consider both the design benefits and safety issues when thinking about adding a wire balustrade to your property.

The benefits of wire balustrades

One of the best things about wire balustrades is that they offer unobstructed views. This means they’re ideal for outdoor decks and terraces or small interior spaces, where they add an airy and spacious feel.

Wire balustrades provide a sleek and minimalist look. They’re a popular design choice in many contemporary homes and commercial properties. A wire balustrade can also look very stylish in older properties, where they can modernise a space at little cost and provide a striking contrast with original features.

Wire rope railings also look attractive when paired with a range of materials—from stainless steel to timber. They’re also easy to install and maintain.

Where should a balustrade be installed?

UK  building  regulations state that wherever there is a change in levels in a building, provisions should be made to ensure that people are protected from falling and injuring themselves. You can comply with this requirement by providing guarding, such as a balustrade that protects the edges of any raised or sunken area. These areas can include:

  • Stairs and ramps
  • Landings
  • Floor edges
  • Galleries
  • Balconies
  • Rooftops
  • Light wells
  • Basements or similar sunken areas

The regulation applies to both domestic and commercial spaces.

Balustrades and UK building regulations—what you need to know

There are two main factors to consider: the type of property the balustrade will be installed in, and where, in that property, it will be located.

For domestic properties, the following rules apply:

  • Where there is a drop over 600mm, a balustrade should be provided to prevent falls and injuries
  • Stairs, landings, ramps and internal floor edges should feature a balustrade at least 900mm high
  • External balconies, Juliet balconies and roof edges should feature a balustrade at least 1100mm high
  • In buildings that may be used by children under five, a 100mm sphere must not be able to pass through any opening in the balustrade to prevent children from getting stuck
  • Buildings used by under-fives should also avoid balustrades with horizontal railings to prevent children climbing the structure

Different regulation applies to commercial properties. The following rules apply to commercial spaces:

  • Where there is a drop of two or more risers or 380mm (if not part of a stair), then a balustrade should be provided to prevent falls and injuries
  • Where there is a space beneath a stair or ramp less than 2000mm—high guarding should be provided
  • If a flight of stairs or a ramp is more than 2000mm wide, it should be divided with guarding such as a balustrade

In factories and warehouses, balustrades must be:

  • At least 900mm high on stairs and ramps
  • At least 1100mm high for landings and floor edges

In residential, institutional, educational, office, retail and public buildings balustrades should be:

  • At least 900mm high on stairs and ramps
  • At least 1100mm high in all other locations

For assembly buildings such as cinemas, theatres or sports stadiums balustrades must be:

  • At least 900mm high on stairs and ramps
  • At least 1100mm high in all other locations
  • No more than 800mm high when in front of fixed seating so spectator sightline isn’t obscured

In maintenance areas that are accessed frequently, balustrades should be:

  • At least 900mm high on stairs, ramps, landings and internal floor edges
  • At least 1100mm high on external balconies and roof edges

Is a wire balustrade suitable and safe for my property?

One of the main issues building control bodies have with wire balustrade systems is that the wire railings are often installed horizontally, which means they’re easily climbed. This can be a problem in both domestic and commercial buildings used by children under five.

However, the standard of balustrades in domestic properties can be lower because the people living in the property will be familiar with its layout. Similarly, the standard may also be lower in maintenance areas where people would be expected to take greater care than usual.

Conversely, the standard of balustrade design may need to be higher in commercial properties where people might be unfamiliar with the building. Therefore, a wire balustrade may not be safe or suitable for some commercial projects and in domestic buildings where children reside.

That doesn’t mean that wire balustrades should be completely ruled out. According to the Local Authority Building Control, the safety of wire balustrade systems can be improved by adding:

  • A slight inward incline
  • An offset horizontal rail positioned part way up or at full height of the balustrade

Installing vertical rather than horizontal wire ropes may be another way to satisfy safety requirements.


Consult a professional

A wire balustrade can add a stylish, contemporary look to a range of spaces—domestic or commercial, indoor or outdoor, modern or traditional.

However, as wire balustrades may not be suitable or safe for certain spaces and projects. You can ensure your balustrade is designed and installed to a high standard and is compliant with safety regulations by ordering through a professional company.

Here at SHS Products, we design, supply and install a range of wire balustrade solutions and are happy to help with any queries regarding their safety. Please feel free to get in touch or browse our products.




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