All you need to know before you tackle your balustrades
WORDS Erin Reilly
If you’ve ever tripped over the bottom step or somehow managed to fall up the stairs, you’ll know how sore a grazed knee can be. But if that was painful, imagine how much worse it would be if you stumbled off your second-storey balcony.
Enter stage left, your knight in shining residential armour. It’s called the balustrade, put simply it’s an architectural barricade designed to protect you and your family from falling from a little or a great height, and as the name sounds, it’s a bit flasher than just your average fence.
A balustrade is a purpose-built safety barrier typically used when there’s a change in levels of more than a metre. Balustrades could include anything from hand rails up interior or exterior stairs, top-storey balcony or veranda surrounds, and pool fencing.
But just because a balustrade has such an important job to fulfil, doesn’t mean it can’t look good at the same time.
New Zealand is home to many balustrade manufacturers who understand that style is often as important to a homeowner as functionality and safety. No two balustrades are the same; style requirements are different depending on the type of home the balustrade is being designed for, whether they’ll be installed inside or out, and how big the budget is. That’s why homeowners can now choose between a wide range of balustrade styles constructed in a wide range of materials, because one size doesn’t fit all.
But while style is important, all balustrades must comply with council requirements. We recommend that homeowners work with council-approved balustrade contractors who can supply PS3 producer statements in conjunction with this regulation.
Framed balustrades offer front-of-mind functionality with a dash of style for the discerning homeowner. Typically featuring top (often the handrail) and bottom rails, a framed balustrade is a great option for homeowners who don’t want to skimp on safety, but don’t want to spend a lot either. Usually among the cheapest options, a framed balustrade could set you back around $300 per metre, depending on the material.
For a more stylish look that’s also very safe, a semi-frameless balustrade is a great option for homeowners who don’t want to close their space in or hide an amazing view. An optional top rail can be added to create more visual definition and prevent kids, pets and birds from crashing straight into it, which makes the semi-frameless version a great option for young families. Depending on the material used, homeowners could expect to pay around $350 per metre.
Frameless glass offers a contemporary safety option that won’t make your space feel claustrophobic, and almost emphasises the view rather than screening it like some other balustrade materials do. Frameless balustrades are typically constructed from 12mm A-grade toughened safety glass which is structural in application and thicker in grade than regular glass, which means every balcony, interior staircase or pool maintains a light, open and view-centric feel while refusing to compromise on safety. To maintain the see-through look, frameless balustrades are typically fixed together with 316 grade stainless steel polished fittings or aluminium channels. The general rule is ‘the more you see, the more you pay,’ so the frameless glass option will be a higher investment; prices vary but start from $375 per metre installed.
For a classic look that will stand the test of time, wrought iron offers a malleable yet durable medium to play with. Mild steel is shaped then galvanised for maximum protection against New Zealand’s sometimes harsh weather conditions. Two paint finishes are available: Resene’s two pot epoxy for sea spray zones or a power coating for locations away from the coast (both are available in any colour). Wrought iron balustrades start from $400 per metre installed.
For a low-maintenance look that doesn’t cost a lot, aluminium is a great option. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use because of its resistance to corrosion and rust, aluminium is lightweight yet incredibly strong, and much cheaper than steel or wrought iron. It’s easy to manipulate into designs that work for the style of your home, and can be painted any colour with powder coating. Prices start from $300 per metre installed.
For more of a natural look, timber balustrades can add a warm earthiness and solid construction to a home, indoors or out. Polish or paint timber balustrades or leave them to naturally wear, however it’s recommended that when used outdoors a good wood varnish or polish is regularly applied along with seasonal water-blasting to minimise discolouring and aging.
Kiwi homeowners who have a swimming pool or spa pool on their property are legally required to securely fence it in order to prevent children and timid swimmers from falling in. Many modern homes opt for glass pool surrounds because they minimise visual disruption which makes it easy to keep an eye on the kids while they’re swimming, while at the same time maintaining an airy, open, aesthetically-pleasing pool and outdoor area. It doesn’t matter what pool surrounds you choose, as long as it meets your council’s regulations, like making sure there are no toeholds or rails that make the fence easy to climb, and that all gates are self-closing and latching.