From staircases and balconies to decking and pool surrounds, glass panels are a favoured alternative to traditional railings. They may have been a common sight in commercial settings for decades, but glass balustrades are becoming more popular in domestic settings, too.
Just as there are many applications for glass balustrades, there are different ways to install them with various fittings and fixings. With a range of designs available, you might be unsure which glass balustrade system would be the best option for you.
To help you learn more about the glass balustrade options on the market, here is a quick guide to the main types of balustrade systems and the spaces they are suitable for.
Glass balustrade post systems
Posts are probably the most frequently used style for glass balustrades. These create a framed balustrade system by using vertical posts with side clamps to secure the glass.
This design involves fixing the posts – typically made of steel or aluminium – at intervals along the run of glass panels. The posts themselves will be secured to the ground at the base.
These installations are suitable for most internal and external applications, and can be used with or without handrails along the top connecting to the panels and/or the posts.
However, handrails are legally required if there is a drop in floor level of 600mm or more, unless the panels are made of toughened laminated glass that won’t break into pieces.
Glass balustrade spigot systems
A less visually obtrusive version of the post system uses metal spigots instead of full posts, securing the glass panels at the base to create a semi-frameless balustrade system.
These look like small metal feet clamping the bottom edge of the panel, but they can come in a variety of styles and finishes. For example, the spigots can be cylindrical or cuboid, with round or square bases, and the metal may have a polished or brushed finish.
When it comes to handrails, the same rules apply as for the traditional post systems above. While they can also be used indoors and outdoors, spigot fixings are not so suitable for staircases, as this would require more complicated shaping and cut-outs.
Glass balustrade base shoe systems
Some people prefer to have as much of an open view as possible, unobstructed by posts and rails, which is where frameless balustrade systems come in to provide a seamless look.
These systems slide the glass panels into a channel or track to hold them in place along the bottom, allowing an uninterrupted run of panels (with or without a handrail along the top, as required).
A metal base shoe with a cover plate can be fitted above the ground for visible delineation, or the base channel can be fitted into the ground and hidden from sight to achieve a neater appearance.
In either case, the installation will be carefully calculated to ensure structural integrity, inside or out – but these are typically less appropriate for areas with heavy loads.
Glass balustrade adaptor systems
Another way to accomplish a frameless look is to use an adaptor or stand-off balustrade system, which can also be referred to as side-fixed or fascia-fixed balustrades.
These systems are particularly suitable for domestic staircases and balconies, because the glass panels overlap the side or front of the structure and are bolted securely to sit flush against it.
While adaptor or stand-off fixings are still visible, they are more minimalist than many other fitting options, as they normally take the form of small metal buttons or brackets.
Minimal fixings allow for more open floor space and uninterrupted views, though handrails may be necessary for stairs to ensure people can climb them safely and comfortably.
Which glass balustrade system is the best?
The right balustrade system for you will depend on where you want to install the balustrades, how they will be used, and the viable installation methods for that specific location and its limitations. You may need to consult an expert, such as a structural engineer, to assess this.
Alongside the fitting method and material finishes, you need to make sure that the glass you choose is suitable for the system. For example, tinted toughened glass may only be available in certain thicknesses, while toughened laminated glass is usually required for frameless systems.
It is also important to ensure that you order your materials from a reputable supplier of glass balustrades and balustrade fittings – and that you order the right system with the appropriate specifications for your installation in compliance with building regulations.