This article provides advice on designing balcony balustrades, including building regulations, performance and installation.
Relevant Building Regulations
The latest Building Regulations, which arrived in December 2018, ban the use of combustible materials in balconies. As a result, architects and developers are no longer permitted to use a number of materials that were commonly used prior to the legislation, particularly with regards to decking and flooring. It also affects the choice of materials for balcony balustrades. The new regulations only permit materials that are A2-s1, d0 rated or Class A1 under the European classification system (Euroclass) set out in the standard BS EN 13501-1. This rules out any timber elements, such as wooden handrails, but glass and metals such as aluminium and stainless steel are fully compliant. If you choose stainless steel for your balcony balustrades, Grade 316 is recommended for external use due to its higher corrosion resistance.
All balcony balustrades should meet performance requirements in accordance with BS 6180:2011. Other relevant regulations include BS8300 Section K2 which recommends that the height of the toprail should be a minimum of 1100mm for external balcony balustrades in residential and commercial environments. Cold conditions can cause metal handrails to become extremely cold and uncomfortable to the touch in external installations. In the 2009 edition of BS 8300, a note added to clause 5.10.5 refers to this context in relation to the recommendation that handrails should not be cold or hot to the touch. The recommendations don’t formally apply to balconies, but it is worth considering them for your balcony balustrades – for example, aluminium can be powder coated for low thermal conductivity to reduce the effect of extreme temperatures. Powder coating also provides a maintenance-free finish for lasting aesthetic quality.
Balcony Balustrade Design options
Listed buildings often stipulate a more traditional aesthetic, usually in the form of stanchions with vertical or horizontal rail infills (which we recommend installing at 100mm centres). Using toughened glass panels (with minimal structural support from a toprail and/or stanchions) provides a more visually appealing, contemporary look. Glass also maximises visibility and solar penetration to make the best use of natural light and give interiors a spacious and airy feel.
Manufacture and Installation of Balcony Balustrades
Balcony balustrades are usually supplied in one of two ways: fabricated on site or delivered ready-made for installation as part of an all-in-one modular balcony solution. Fabrication often requires hot works such as welding, which creates waste and mess whilst increasing energy consumption and time spent on site. In contrast, modular balconies are constructed from pre-fabricated components, all provided and assembled by one supplier. They come complete with handrails, balustrades and flooring – these systems can be fitted by a site team or, in some cases, the manufacturer’s own technical support (the latter is often preferable as they will be more familiar with the product).
With all engineering done in a factory prior to delivery, modular balconies reduce construction time, minimise energy consumption and leave no waste products or off-cuts on site. Getting all your balcony components from a single source also enables easier quality control (a high-quality manufacturer will be able to provide written confirmation demonstrating performance and compliance across all elements). Modular balconies are designed for straightforward installation to the building exterior, but it is important to consult a professional structural engineer to determine the most suitable fixing method and confirm that the wall construction is capable of withstanding the applied load.
For more advice about balcony balustrades, please contact our technical support team on 01653 695721 or enquire here