How do you go about building a balcony? The answer could be easier than you think.
Mix-and-match might be a popular approach in fashion, but it’s often a major faux-pas when designing balconies. Many architects, designers and contractors obtain their various balcony components from a range of different sources. This often causes a range of problems.
There are generally three ways in which the construction industry specifies balconies:
- Source the items (e.g. balustrade, rails, glass panels, flooring, fixings) from different suppliers.
- Order balconies from a fabrication company, which essentially delegates the above task to someone else.
- Order all-in-one balcony solutions comprising modular components manufactured by one supplier.
The first of these methods allows you to shop around for the best price on each element, but it’s usually very time consuming. The second method frees up your time but you no longer have a handle on the best market value. Invariably a fabricator will apply a mark-up on the bought-in cost of the items they choose on your behalf.
There are a number of compelling reasons to choose the third method and get everything from a single source:
The components are harmonised by design
If your individual parts come from different suppliers, there’s a chance that certain elements aren’t entirely suitable together. For example, corrosion is likely to occur when zinc plated nuts come into contact with stainless steel. Little details like that can make a big difference, but they’re often lost in the process. Before long your beautiful balconies are tainted with the creep of rust.
In contrast, an all-in-one supplier uses components with proven suitability. Everything is designed, manufactured and tested in-house to ensure that you won’t have any compatibility issues, either during installation or in years to come.
Installers who know the products inside-out
A good all-in-one solution means product and service all-in-one. In other words, as well as having designers who know the products inside-out, the supplier will provide installers with the same depth of knowledge, having fitted all the components on countless occasions. Well practised in their work, they will assemble everything faster than a contractor working with a set of components for the first time – thereby minimising time spent on site and disruption to other activities.
Using fitters who are unfamiliar with the product increases the risk of something going wrong. Neaco have heard many tales from architects and contractors about site workers who have drilled into a structure and unwittingly damaged galvanised coating. With an all-in-one balcony, mishaps like these are taken out of the equation: you’ll get a fitting operation that is well-drilled in every sense.
Standardised methods of assembly
A standard all-in-one solution should have a standard method of modular assembly. Ideally it should be a fixing system which doesn’t require messy, energy consuming works such as welding. Better still would be a system which minimises the use of external fixtures such as screws. For example, split-sleeve ferrules can connect balustrade and handrails internally to enable a smooth, clean outer surface.
Better quality and uniform standards
Getting all your components from a single source is a better way to ensure uniform quality – assuming, of course, that source is reliable. If so, you can order an all-in-one solution in the knowledge that everything is manufactured in the controlled conditions of the supplier’s factory.
In contrast, using multiple suppliers carries the risk of being let down by the quality or service of one of the links in your chain. It’s especially stressful if you have a compressed construction schedule and need all materials delivered and installed with a tight timeframe. It only takes one supplier to miss the mark for your whole programme to be affected.
Building regulation compliance
Balconies should be designed in accordance with BS 6180:2011 with balustrade that meets the minimum horizontal imposed loads stated in BSEN 1991-1-1:2002. This applies to both projecting and Juliet balconies. All-in-one, factory-manufactured balcony systems are tested at the design stage to ensure that they meet these regulations. In contrast, individual suppliers contributing to a collective solution are rarely in a position to offer that guarantee up front – there are too many potential variables to be sure of compliance.
Although sourcing all the items yourself allows you to seek out the best market value, it’s also true that buying all the components from one supplier often means you could get a better overall price for what effectively amounts to a multiple order. It’s essentially a bulk discount within one unit – you’ve bypassed all the hassle of shopping around but still made cost savings. That’s a clear win-win.
You know what you’re getting
If you could sum up the advantages of an all-in-one solution, it would simply be that you know what you’re getting: tried-and-tested performance and compliance, uniform standards of quality and installation and a clear idea of how the finished product will look – not just now, but for decades to come.