Glass balustrade need a handrail?
Getting a grip on handrails
All too often we get asked the same question by confused clients – ‘Does my balustrade system need a handrail?’ and the answer is reasonably simple as we shall explain later.
The confusion often comes about through a variety of reasons :
1. Glossy magazines
So the latest magazine is out and there are lots of pictures of fancy staircases with balustrade systems using thin glass, no handrails and supported with very few fixings and they look gorgeous - we want one like this please!
Sorry to be the bearers of bad news but all too often these magazines showcase a product that is either dangerously technically flawed, drastically outside of current UK building regulations or pictured in another country where our laws don’t apply.
2. Other websites
There is a wide range of information on the internet – don’t believe everything you read. Stick to official documentation such as that found on government websites and planning portals www.planningportal.gov.uk
Images can be found all over the internet (and even on this website) of products that should not technically pass building control however where special dispensation is gained (see note 4) or where customers are not going through building control, it is not always necessary to use a handrail.
3. Other balustrade retailers
Not only is there plenty of information out there, there are also many ‘fabrication’ companies online selling what all appear to be similar products. Many of these companies are not CE marked which basically means the product they are selling is illegal – do your homework and check your balustrade retailer is CE marked and legal.
Many of these companies as a result are not operating lawfully in terms of the product being supplied and may not provide the correct advice on handrail requirement – simply because they don’t know themselves or perhaps don’t care as long as a sale is made.
4. Building control
The building regulations are quite clear on the requirement for handrails on balustrades however many different building control offices interpret the regulations differently, even different officers working from the same department can have different interpretations. Private building control officers can also be more lenient on certain issues and relax the rules as they see fit.
DioMet have supplied balustrades to a number of projects where building control have expressly advised that they would accept a particular balustrade design that otherwise would not be legal – therefore special dispensation is possible.
It’s no surprise therefore that our customers are confused- but allow us to clear up any misunderstandings relating to domestic glass balustrade systems:
1) All balustrades must be purchased from a CE marked company such as DioMet otherwise they are illegal and could be condemned.
2) Where a balustrade guards a fall in height of over 600mm and is subject to building control, the balustrade must either have a handrail or (assuming a glass balustrade) use a laminated glass that is capable of achieving the required point loading as noted in Section K of the building regulations.
3) In general terms this means that a semi-framed glass balustrade without a handrail is non-compliant- such as our system 2 glass balustrade : stainless-steel-glass-balustrade-system-2 however compliance can be achieved by using a handrail in the design as seen here : stainless-steel-glass-balustrade-system-1
4) Frameless glass balustrades follow the same ruling. Without a handrail they are non-compliant unless laminated glass is used of sufficient strength to achieve the required loadings as set out in BS6180.
Do I need a handrail on my glass balustrade? More often than not yes.
Still not sure? Please feel free to contact us for any further advice on 0114 243 9009.
The points noted above are current as at 13.10.15.
Further Reading :
Choosing a glass balustrade supplier
Cafe balustrade with seating area
Staircase and landing balustrades
Handrail and balustrade component parts
Tinted toughened glass panels