A recent series of frightening ‘spontaneous’ glass balcony explosions across Queensland and Victoria apartment buildings has highlighted the dangers of cheap and faulty construction products (and workmanship) flooding into the Australia market.
This reinforces how critical it is to always engage with accredited and experienced glazing professionals to handle and replace (or repair) balustrade and balcony structures, without risking the safety of residents or the structural integrity of the building.
The primary function of a balcony and balustrade is to act as a fence or guardrail often at great heights and that’s why safety is imperative in all balcony and balustrade designs.
Glass can form part of a balustrade in two ways;
- Either as an infill within an outer frame or structure, such as aluminium or timber, or it can be the main structural component of the balustrade. As balustrades primarily function as a ‘fence’ or ‘guardrail’, often at a height, safety is a key consideration and, as such, they are subject to strict requirements.
- All balustrades must be made from Grade A safety glass. If used at higher levels, Grade A toughened laminated safety glass must be used. The exact specifications depend on a number of variables, including the height it will be used at and the load it will be subject to, so it is important to choose a glazing supplier who has an excellent knowledge of AS 1288: Glass in Buildings—Selection and Installation, the Australian Standard that all glass balustrades must comply with.
Decks, Balconies and Stairs
Briefly some requirements include:
- Balconies one metre or higherabove the ground – balustrades need to be at least one metre high.
- Decks more than one metreabove the ground – openings in balustrades, including decorative balustrades, cannot be greater than 125 millimetres.
- Decks more than four metresabove the ground – balustrades cannot have any climbable elements located between 150 millimetres and 760 millimetres from the floor.
- For stairs a barrier of at least 865 millimetres high above the ‘nosing’ of the stair treads is required.
- Balustrades for stairs – gaps in balustrades on stairs cannot have openings greater than 125 millimetres.
- Stairs more than four metresin height – a balustrade must also not have any climbable elements, such as horizontal rails, located between 150 millimetres and 760 millimetres from the floor.
So, should I repair or replace my balcony?
The secret is to get an accredited and experienced glazing expert to inspect your balconies and balustrades thoroughly. Someone who’ll then issue a comprehensive report that spells out in detail exactly what needs to be done to ensure your balconies are safe, sound and compliant.
When engaging with a glazing expert it’s important to note that the Australian Standards for glass balustrades has changed significantly.
- AS1288 (2006) declared toughened frameless glass balustrades non-compliant for protecting a fall of greater than one metre. This effectively outlaws the installation of fully frameless toughened glass panels as a balustrade on balconies that are more than 1 metre off the ground.
- Prior to this update to the Australian Standards, fully frameless toughened glass balustrades were widely used, resulting in a high instance of buildings that don’t comply with current regulations.
- Solutions have been developed to convert non-compliant glass balustrades so that they meet the requirements of current standards, including the retrofitting of handrails.
When selecting building glass, it’s imperative to consult a glazing professional as there are technical properties that must be considered, and testing performed by a qualified accredited company.
For balustrade and balcony glass expertise and end to end project management speak to your local expert.