Last Update April 16th, 2016 Balustrading isn’t always necessary for some house designs, choosing the right balustrade design can complete the aesthetic design and look of a house. However, it’s easy to have option paralysis when it comes to balustrades, as there are many different types to choose from.
What Is A Balustrade?
A balustrade is a repeating set of balusters that support a railing. These are the small posts that you see on staircases, balconies, verandahs, and open decks. They can even be used to decorate or define entrances, porches and more areas around the house.
Balustrades serve two primary purposes, aside from aesthetics. The first one is to create and outline a space, and the second one is to provide a measure of safety so people won’t fall off stairs, balconies, and other raised areas. Some are even designed as safety partitions between a pool and another area, to prevent people from accidentally falling in.
The Kinds Of Balustrades
As mentioned before, many kinds of balustrades exist. To name all the different aesthetic designs may need a thesis dissertation, so let’s stick to balustrades as per the materials that make them up.
Lace balustrades are usually made of aluminium or cast iron material cut to an existing balustrade design template. The designs can be very intricate and fragile looking. They are usually used in vintage or country homes.
Wrought Iron And Aluminium
These are individual posts that have a similar aesthetic design to lace balustrades.
Glass balustrades are made of a tough kind of glass sheet, either framed or unframed, that is extremely durable, and can even have laminated layers. They can also come with frosted panelling, or in different tinted colours. Glass balustrade stairs are a common application of glass balustrades for homes with a contemporary design.
Also known as wood balustrade, timber balustrade are perfect for a more rustic or natural balustrade design, and can be left bare or sculpted, stained or just natural with some protective coasts. Treated wood works best for timber balustrades that will be used for outdoor structures. Timber balustrade posts are particularly pleasing for outdoor pathways and staircases.
Stainless Steel Balustrade
Stainless steel is a modern material with timeless appeal, as it can go well with wood, and to a lesser extent concrete. It is a low maintenance building material, and thanks to its resistance to rust, is perfect for outdoor use.
Aluminium is lightweight, and can be powder coated in different colours, for more aesthetic options. It can also be used outside, given its protection thanks to its powder coating.
Second Hand Balustrades
The best way to lower your home construction budget is to find second hand balustrades that you can use for your home. However, do be aware that you may have to have second hand balustrades checked for structural integrity, particularly if it will be used as a load bearing component.
For example, timber balustrades have to be checked to see if the wood is still in good condition just because it has a protective coating does not mean that it’s safe from wear and tear. Stainless steel balustrades, on the other hand, have to be checked for stress fractures. And glass balustrades, particularly those used in glass balustrade stairs have to be checked to see if they haven’t become brittle from years of exposure the sunlight and the elements. Once they pass the safety checks, it’s still a good idea to make sure that they have extra support balustrades or a framework, if you think that they may be a bit too old.
Adults are well aware that even though balustrades are for their own safety, that they shouldn’t be testing its limits. Children, however, are another matter entirely. This is the reason why all balustrades should be properly maintained, with periodic safety inspections, just to make sure that none of them is loose, or have structural issues as time passes bay.
Depending on what the material is, and what the balustrade will be used for, it’s important to follow the BCA (Building code of Australia) balustrade regulations, particularly if you have children in the house, or if you will use them in a commercial building. One of the most important guidelines is that you should follow the balustrade height as required by law. Another one is to check on material failure, such as “concrete cancer,” for balustrade design that incorporates steel reinforcement within a concrete structure.
Rust and corrosion are also important to check, not only on the balustrade itself, but on its mountings and nearby foundation structures, and even on the railing itself. Tensioned wire, when used as part of the balustrade design, should strictly follow load bearing specifics. The same goes for glass balustrades that will require that all mounting points show no cracks, chips, or fracture lines. Finally, mounting screws, bolts and other mounting parts should also be checked regularly.
Normally, more than one trades person should be on hand to check on how your balustrade design can be implemented. Aside from a balustrade specialist, you should also check on trades persons who specialize in the material that will be used by the balustrade. Do make sure that they are well versed in BCA guidelines, and that they have had experience working on balustrade design similar to what you are thinking of executing in your house. Do be sure to ask for documentation and referrals.
If you have a verandah or balcony, it’s a good idea to see first what your surroundings are and what the area itself is made of. For example, a concrete balcony or verandah might be better off with either a stainless steel balustrade, or a glass balustrade, particularly for glass balustrade stairs. On the other hand, if a good part of your area has many plants, then timber balustrade designs might look better, giving your place a softer, more natural look. You can also choose to use larger verandah balustrade posts, if you verandah area will be large, but you should stick to narrower balusters if you only have a small area to section off.