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Structural Glass Balustrades

Structural Glass Balustrades

UK Leading Manufacturer Of Balustrade Systems

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Structural Glass Balustrade

Here at Origin, we offer a wide range of structural glass solutions. To make things easier for you, we have set out below the questions that we are most commonly asked:

What is a structural glass balustrade?

A structural glass balustrade is where the glass forms part of the structure of the building. It is often referred to as frameless glass or infinity glass. It is essentially made of extruded aluminium channel which is fixed to the structure of the building. The channel is most commonly base fixed (i.e. fixed through the bottom of the profile) but can also be side fixed (where you fix through the side of the profile). When fixing through the side of the channel, you will usually need to clad the outside leg of the channel to cover the fixing holes. The glass is secured with a dry glazed fixing system. There is no need to use any resin and the angle of the panel can be adjusted once fitted inside the profile.

What’s the minimum thickness of structural glass in a glass balustrade system?

The thickness of the glass that you use depends upon the application. The more crowded the area and the higher the fall that the glass is protecting, the thicker the glass. The lowest risk areas are often applications such as domestic patios that are less than 600mm from the ground. In such applications, you can use 12mm toughened glass. The profiles should not be used to secure any glass that is thinner than 12mm. Read our FAQ section below which answers more questions on structural glass balustrades.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • All of our systems are fully tested. The maximum span for a structural glass panel will depend on the application but each panel should usually be not much more than a meter in width.

  • All of our frameless glass systems are fully tested when fixed to steel or concrete and are very safe. You just need to check that it is tested to the correct line load test to meet your application. Our technical team can help you with this if needed.

  • We supply a wide range of fixings for all our structural (or frameless glass) profiles. You just need to check the profile that you are using and what you are fixing to. The cost of the fixings depends on the material that you are fixing to. Certain of our profiles use a countersunk hole and certain do not. If you are unsure of the fixing that you need, please contact our technical team.

  • This again depends on the application and whether or not you are using a handrail. For a domestic balcony that is protecting a fall of 600mm or more, you should use 17.5mm toughened laminate glass if you are not having a handrail or 15mm toughened glass if you are having a handrail. A laminate glass is simply two pieces of glass that are bonded together with an interlayer. If one side of the panel is ever damaged, the other side should remain in place.

  • As standard our panels are not heat soaked. We do this on the basis that we want to offer the most competitive price to our customers. It is no problem at all however to supply heat soaked glass. Heat soaked glass is usually only required if the glass is continually exposed to particularly hot sunshine. It is three times more likely to be resistant to heat when compared to normal annealed glass.

  • Our structural balustrades are tested to any load requirements that your application requires. It is important to remember that what determines whether or not your structural glass balcony meets a specific load requirement is usually not the profile itself but the material that you are fixing to and the glass thickness that you use.

  • We do have systems that can support glass up to 1.8m high. The glass should usually be laminated sentry glass. This has a stronger interlayer than standard PVB laminated glass. A privacy screen is usually not in itself a structural balustrade. Our technical team can advise you on the best solution for your frameless privacy screen.

  • Weather conditions will not adversely affect the profile itself. Extremes of weather can however affect the glass itself. In certain weather conditions such as extreme heat or wind you may need particular glass thicknesses or glass types to ensure the longevity and performance of your structural glass balustrade.

  • There aren’t any particular limitations that architects face when using structural glass balustrades. It is always better to involve us as early as possible in the planning process. We can then advise you on which profile and glass thickness is best for your application. Our frameless profiles are installed in a slightly different way. We can also advise you on which profile will be most cost efficient for your application.

  • Installing frameless glass balustrade is usually pretty straightforward. We have installation videos for all of our frameless glass products. Where most care should be taken is the installation of the glass itself. We would always recommend using suction pads to carefully lift the glass into place. For thicker (structural glass) and for installing glass at height certain lifting equipment may be required.

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Balustrade Technical Support

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Building Regulations

The building regulations that apply to your balustrade will vary depending on the use of the balustrade and the how the building in which the balustrade is used is occupied.We set our below the most commonly asked questions to help you to ensure that your balustrade meets building regulations. You can call our technical team who can answer any questions that you may have.

How high should my balustrade be?

In a domestic single occupancy house, the height of a balustrade for a landing, ramp, edge of internal floor or stairs should be 900 mm from floor level. For external balconies(including Juliet balconies), decking and edges of roofs, the height of the balustrade should be 1100 mm from floor level. The height of the balustrade is measured from finished floor level to the top of the balustrade.

Do I need a handrail?

You will need a handrail if the balustrade protects a fall that is 600 mm or more unless laminated glass is used.Laminated glass is two pieces of glass that are bonded together with an interlayer. If one panel fails, the other panel will remain in place.It is considered to be safer than toughened glass. If a handrail is used, it should be properly secured to the glass.

What is a line load test?

A line load test is the pressure per meter that the balustrade can withstand before it starts to move within the fixing.Once that pressure is applied it should not move more than 25 mm. The amount of pressure is usually expressed in kilo newtons per meter.

Will my balustrade meet the required line load test?

A number of our balustrade systems are tested.Our technical team can advise you on whether or not your balustrade is tested to the required line load test and provide you with a test certificate on request. Whether or not your balustrade is tested will usually depend on the type of balustrade used and which material you are fixing to.

What line load test will my balustrade be required to meet?

The line load test that your balustrade will be required to meet will depend on type of building and the level of occupancy of that building. There follows a table which sets out the line load test that your balustrade will be required to meet.

How to Measure for your Balustrade

Stainless steel posts – Metalwork

You should start by setting out the centre line measurement for your posts. We would recommend setting out your posts 75mm in from the edge of the reveal. This excludes any overhang.

The space between each post (and therefore the width between each panel) depends on wind factor, glass type and glass thickness. If the panel is too wide, it will put too much pressure on the glass clamp and could cause the balustrade to fail. For most applications, we suggest having a gap of around a meter between each post. This may be slightly more or less depending on the configuration of your balustrade.

Stainless steel posts – Glass Width

When measuring the width of your glass panel, you should measure from inside of one post to the inside of the next post. You should then deduct from that measurement the width of the metal section at the back of the clamp that sits between the outside edge of the glass and the inside edge of the post. This deduction should be made for each post.

For a 10mm glass clamp, this measurement is usually 20mm as per the drawing below. The total deduction to be made from the measurement of inside of post to inside of post to calculate your glass width would subsequently be 40mm. By way of example, if you were using a 10mm glass clamp as per the drawing below and the measurement from inside of post to inside of post was 1000mm, the width of the panel would be 960mm.

The thickness of the meal section at the back of the clamp may vary depending on the spec of the clamp that you have been supplied. If you have any concerns as to what that measurement is, please speak to our technical team.

Stainless Steel posts – Glass Height

The height of the glass panel will depend on a number of factors such as glass thickness, whether or not you have a handrail, the thickness of the tube that has been used to manufacture the posts and the line load test that the posts are required to meet.

For a 42mm diameter post with an end cap, where the height of the post is 1100mm from bottom of post to the top of the end cap, we would usually recommend the height the panel being 1010mm, leaving a 900mm gap from the bottom of the glass to the floor. This may vary depending on the application of your balustrade.

For a 42mm diameter post with a handrail bracket and 42mm diameter handrail, where the height of the post is 1100mm from the bottom of the base plate to the top of the handrail we would recommend the height of the panel as 898mm. This leaves an 80mm gap from the finished floor level to bottom of glass and an 80mm gap from top of post to bottom of handrail.

Stainless Steel Posts – Safety Pins

All of our glass clamps are supplied with safety pins. The purpose of the pin is to provide an additional safety measure to prevent the glass from slipping through the clamp once the glass clamp is tightened. We can supply the glass with a hole through which the safety pin will sit if specified at point of ordering.

There are three measurements which need to be taken into account:

Firstly, the distance from the right/left side of the glass needs to the centre of the hole should reflect the mould of the glass clamp. For the clamp below this would be 28mm.

Secondly, the distance from the top/bottom of the panel should match the distance from the top/bottom of the post.

Thirdly, the diameter of the hole should be slightly larger than the pin. For a standard 10mm glass clamp, we would usually recommend a diameter of 9mm.

Glass

Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is two or more thicknesses of glass bonded together by an interlayer. At Origin we supply toughened laminated glass. This is two pieces of toughened glass that are laminated together. We use what is called a PVB laminate as an interlayer which is at least 1.52mm thick and creates a considerable barrier to penetration. When broken the pieces are retained by the interlayer and if well supported the glass has an increased likelihood of staying in place. If you are using laminated glass in your balustrade you usually will not require a handrail although having a handrail will greatly improve the structural integrity of the balustrade. Laminated glass is usually more expensive than toughened glass.

Toughened Glass

This is glass that has been heat treated after it has been formed to a particular shape. The glass is heated to approximately 700 degrees centigrade and then rapidly cooled. If it is ever broken, toughened glass fractures into small relatively harmless fragments and will no longer support a load.

If you are using toughened glass in your balustrade and you are protecting a fall of 600mm or more, you will require a handrail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Buying a glass balustrade can seem a bit daunting. In practice choosing a glass balustrade is relatively simple. All of our systems are easy to install. The vast majority of our systems can be installed by any DIY enthusiast or builder.

Set out below are some of the questions frequently asked by our customers

Do I need a handrail?

If your balustrade protects a fall which is greater than 600mm you should either use a handrail or  a laminate glass. A laminate glass is two pieces of glass that have been bonded together. One of the panels is designed to remain in place if the other fails.

The weakness of any balustrade is usually at the top of the glass. A handrail greatly improves the structural integrity of any balustrade. In addition it offers additional protection in the event that anybody falls on to the glass.

If you are having frameless glass, you could consider having glass stiffeners as an alternative to a handrail.

Which balustrade is the cheapest?

Much of the cost of any balustrade is in the cost of the glass. Usually, the thicker the glass the more expensive the balustrade will be. Generally our stainless steel post systems tend to be cheaper than  frameless channel or spigots as they usually use thinner glass.

How thick should the glass be on a Glass Balustrade?

The glass thickness that you need will vary depending on the use and occupancy of the building concerned. You will need to ensure that once secured, your glass is not able to move more than 25mm once a certain amount of force is applied to it. For domestic properties, the force that your balustrade is required to withstand is usually less for internal balustrades (stairs, landings etc) than it is for external balustrades (Juliette balconies/edges of roofs).

Our technical team can give you specific advice, but in general terms we would recommend the following:

Stainless steel posts for internal/external: 10mm toughened glass

Frameless glass/glass spigots for internal: 12mm toughened glass

Frameless glass/glass spigots for external with less than 600mm fall: 12mm toughened glass

Frameless glass/glass spigots for external with more than 600mm fall with handrail: 15mm toughened glass

Frameless glass/glass spigots for external with more than 600mm fall without handrail: 17.5mm toughened laminate glass.

Frameless glass/glass spigots for external with more than 600mm fall without handrail in exposed areas: 21.5mm toughened laminate glass.

If I have stainless steel balustrade, which grade of stainless steel should I use?

The majority of our stainless products are sold in either grade 304 or grade 316. Both grades of stainless steel look the same to the naked eye but grade 316 is extra resistant to corrosion. You should subsequently use grade 304 stainless steel for internal balustrades and grade 316 stainless steel for external balustrades. If your stainless steel balustrade is next to a swimming pool or near to the sea, you should in addition have the stainless steel 316 mirror polished to protect it against chlorine/salt water.

All stainless steel products should be regularly cleaned with a recommended cleaner to prevent discolouring or pitting.

If I have a stainless steel balustrade, should the posts/handrail be 42mm or 48mm in diameter?

For the majority of domestic applications, 42mm posts/handrail will suffice. If you are supporting balustrades that are over 1.1m in height (for instance a privacy screen) it may be that 48mm posts/handrail are required.

Will my balustrade be tested?

The majority of our balustrade systems are tested to a required line load test and we can provide you with a test certificate on request. A line load test is where pressure is applied to the balustrade. Once force is applied it cannot move more than 25mm within its fixing. The key determinants in the strength of a balustrade are what you are fixing to and the thickness of the glass.

How wide should the gap between the glass panels be?

If the area is accessible or frequented by children, a sphere of 100mm should not be able to pass through the gaps between each structural glass panel of the guarding. For structural channel we usually recommend a gap of 10mm between each panel.

How long should each glass panel be?

Each glass panel should ideally not be more than a 1m wide or 1.1m high. This is to meet the test requirements for the balustrade and to ensure that it is easy to install. It may be that the dimensions of your glass panel vary slightly to meet the overall dimensions of your balustrade.

What height should my balustrade be?

The height of your balustrade should be calculated from finished floor level. For internal balustrades (stairs, landings, ramps, edges of internal floors), the requirement for a private residential building is 900mm. For external balustrades (balconies, edges of roofs, external stairs), the requirement for a private residential building is 1100mm.

Do you carry out site surveys?

Unfortunately not. We have recommended installers across the country, whose details we can send to you. It is usually relatively straightforward to measure your balustrade. If you can give us rough measurements together with some pictures that is usually enough for us to give you a pretty accurate price.

Do I need planning permission for my balustrade?

In our experience the vast majority of balustrades that we supply do not require planning permission.  This may not always be the case (for instance if you live in a conservation area). If you have any concerns,  we would recommend that you check the position with you local planning authority.

How important is the material that I am fixing my balustrade to?

Any glass balustrade is only as good as the material that you are fixing to. Much like a lever, a small movement at the bottom of the fixing leads to a far greater movement at the top of the glass. We most commonly have issues when fixing balustrades to timber or brickwork. When fixing to timber you should ensure that the timber is solid, structural timber. When fixing to brickwork, you should not fix to close to the edge of the brick to avoid the brick blowing. No balustrade is tested when fixed to timber or brickwork.

If I am buying frameless channel, can the water drain away?

Our frameless channel has pre drilled holes in the bottom of the profile. This allows water to drain away rather than collecting within the profile. If the frameless balustrade is at the bottom of a slope, we can also supply drainage blocks. These drainage blocks are secured with every fixing. This lifts the profile from the ground and allows the water to drain away.

What dimensions are the glass panels that you supply?

All of our glass panels are bespoke and are made to fit your balustrade. We can supply glass to any dimensions. The following are things to think about when deciding on your glass dimensions:

You need to ensure that your glass can be properly secured with whichever system you have ordered. Our technical team can advise you on this.

We can supply shaped panels for instance when you are going down stairs. While we have software that can theoretically calculate the shape of the panels, it is better to receive your metal work first and then produce templates. You can then either supply those templates to us (or drawings of the templates). We will then produce panels that match those templates.

Can you supply my balustrade in alternative colours?

We can powder coat your balustrade to any colour that you want provided that it is on the RAL chart. If you let our sales team know the RAL that you require, they can provide you with a quote.

How long do glass balustrades last?

Both the glass and metal work are very durable products and are designed to last for many years. Depending on the type of product that you have, it is important that you properly maintain your balustrade. In particular, stainless steel products should be cleaned from time to time with a stainless steel cleaner. While structurally they will always be secure, residue can build up on the metal work which can cause it to discolour. The regularity with which you should maintain your stainless steel products depends on the environment that your balustrade is in. If you are next to the sea, we would recommend wiping down the stainless steel products every two months. If you are in a sheltered area which is not next to the sea (or a swimming pool), we would recommend cleaning the stainless steel twice a year.

How much does a glass balustrade cost?

At Origin Architectural, customer satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide competitive, affordable, and cost-effective glass balustrade solutions for our customers. Our detailed order / quoting service helps ensure that you are not overcharged for your glass balustrade. The cost depends on a number of factors such as the style of balustrade you choose and the size. Please use our online Balustrade Calculator to get a tailored quote.

Are glass balustrades safe?

Frameless Glass Balustrade
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For Your Glass Balustrade

Customise your balustrade to match your style with premium powder coating, ensuring a perfect match to your color scheme. Explore our diverse range of systems tailored to your preferences: choose contemporary frameless designs, classic post and rail systems, or modern spigot, glass button, and glass balustrades with a top handrail.