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Balustrades: A Buying, Installation & Maintenance Guide

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Introduction

Since 2005 SHS Products has designed, manufactured and installed quality aluminium, stainless steel and glass balustrade systems for domestic and commercial properties across the UK.

Our designs, materials, and customisable features have grown with us over the years. To help you navigate our robust range of balustrade and handrail systems, we’ve created this useful Balustrade Buying Guide.

The following guides provides detailed descriptions of our various systems, fittings and accessories as well as helpful tips on how to choose the right system for your home or business.

About SHS Products

We’ve built a reputation to be proud of as designers, manufacturers and installers of glazed stainless steel handrail and railing systems.

We strive to provide the best systems and customer service to all of our clients – from home owners to famous brands like Marks & Spencer, Bentley, The National History Museum, Audi, Selfridges, Bet 365 and West Bromwich Albion Football Club.

No job is ever too big or too small. We are as happy making tight budgets stretch further as we are dealing with flagship projects. Every project we undertake benefits from our staffs’ decades of knowledge, experience and desire to see a job well done.

Quality is key in everything we do. We belong to the Guild of Master Craftsmen, the British Stainless Steel Association and the Federation of Master Builders. We’re also proud to carry the Made in Britain badge. To learn more about SHS Product, please visit our About page.

What is a balustrade?

If you’re not too sure what a balustrade is, you’re not alone. Many people get confused about the difference between balustrades, balusters, railings, banisters and handrails.

A balustrade is a railing system made up of numerous supporting vertical posts (or spindles) called ‘balusters’. These balusters are connected together and spaced evenly apart to form a unit with a handrail positioned along the top.

To put it another way, the term ‘balustrade’ refers to the combination of the handrail and the balusters which together form a decorative railing system. Banisters are more or less the same thing.

Balustrades main purposes are safety and privacy. They help to reduce the possibility of people or objects falling from a heightened platform (such as a staircase, terrace or balcony) or to cordon off an area for privacy purposes.

The term is derived from the Italian word ‘balaustra’, which translates to ‘pomegranate flower’. This is due to the shape of the traditional balusters resembling the look of a blossoming, partially opened pomegranate flower.

Applications

Practical and beautiful

Steel and glass balustrading has become a favourite tool among modern architects wanting a railing system that’s versatile and durable while allowing light to flow throughout the space. They add to the beauty of a building rather than detracting from it.

However, the benefits of our systems go far beyond aesthetic. Like any balustrade system, they also provide a great deal of safety and order. They guide pedestrian traffic, create secure balconies, and line areas around stairs, lifts, pools and lobbies. They also create open fields of view, removing collision hazards and increasing security assurance without compromising the design.

SHS balustrades are easy to clean, simple to maintain, tough and durable. Fit a steel or glass system today, and it will still be looking great whilst protecting your staff, guests and customers for years to come.

SHS installs aluminium, stainless steel and glass banisters and handrails across a wide range of facilities, including:

  • Airports
  • Apartments
  • Banks
  • Domestic homes
  • Entertainment venues
  • Gardens, decks and patios
  • Gyms and leisure centres
  • Hotels
  • Local government
  • Museums and public spaces
  • Office suites
  • Retail shops and malls
  • Restaurants
  • Sports venues
  • Swimming pools

How to choose the right balustrade system

We realise that choosing the right balustrade or handrail system can be a daunting experience. To help you during your decision making process, we have created the following infographic. Click the image below for a better understanding of what type of system and materials are best suited for your requirements.

Different types of SHS Balustrade Systems

SHS Products offered a variety of balustrade systems. Our solutions include frameless glass, glass, decking, stainless steel, wire rope and aluminium balustrades, glass juliet balcony railings, swimming pool railings and stainless steel handrail systems. Keep reading for more information about the benefits of each system.

Frameless glass balustrades

For when the view is one worth savouring

When you want a glass balcony that will complement a design rather than challenge it, the simple flexibility of Frameless is the natural choice. Our Frameless glass system enables you to create panoramic balcony views free from supporting posts, columns and rails.

Ideal for internal or external use, frameless balustrading is particularly adept at creating clear lines of sight in high traffic areas such as walkways and lobbies. Spaces typically prone to presenting collision hazards (e.g. areas at the top of stairs, around corners, etc.) are also safer with a frameless balustrade.

Explore our complete range of frameless glass balustrades.

SHS suggests:

When using a frameless glass balustrading as part of a walkway, add a stainless steel top rail to create a safer gripping surface and a clearer route demarcation.

Frameless glass balustrade systems – FAQs*

Is a frameless glass balustrade system safe?

Yes, completely. Each panel of our toughened glass is 5 times stronger than ordinary glass (with toughened laminated glass stronger still). Panels sit securely in an aluminium shoe channel. Every frameless system we supply is strength tested and you will receive the test certificate upon delivery.

What surfaces should frameless glass balustrades be fixed to?

We recommend that our frameless glass system should only be fixed to reinforced steel or concrete.

Can I customise my frameless glass balcony panels?

Yes. You can choose from a variety of building regulations-compliant glass panel sizes. A variety of options for glass thickness and finish are also available. Click here to see the specifications tab for our frameless system.

Is frameless glass balustrading suitable for commercial applications?

Yes. There are more regulations to comply with (relating to the quality of glass, aluminium, steel, loads, health and safety, etc.), but we can help. Drop us a line about your applications and we can create a frameless system to meet even the most demanding standards.

Types: Glass Balustrade Systems

Turn a humble balcony or walkway into a design classic

Glass balustrading turns the functional edge of a balcony or walkway into a feature. Our glazed systems transform views, framing them with stylish aluminium or stainless steel posts or freeing them with frameless simplicity.

Whether your ambition is to create the illusion of space, introduce brightness or ensure security, SHS glass balustrades turn the basic safety requirements of handrails, barriers and bannisters into captivating design elements. With SHS Products, you won’t have to compromise on aesthetics to meet health and safety requirements and building regulations.

SHS suggests:

Not sure where to begin? Send us what you have – photos, sketches, or blueprints of the site where you want to place your railing and handrail system. Then upload them through our enquiry form.

Glass balustrade systems – FAQs*

Can I install glass balustrading myself?

Yes. You can find full details in the resources section at the rear of this guide. Alternatively, we can design, supply and install your full system for you. Either way, it’s a simple process.

Can I choose coloured glass?

Yes. Depending on your choice of system, you can choose clear, frosted, tinted or coloured glass.

Can I choose the colour or finish of my glass balustrade posts/frames?

Our stainless steel railings are available in a satin finish as standard with an optional mirror finish. The aluminium railings of the Infinity system are powder coated and you can choose from a black, silver, white, coastal grey or anthracite grey finish.

Is glass balustrading suitable for commercial applications?

Yes. Specific requirements differ (compared to domestic applications), with more stringent requirements relating to load capacity, glass and steel strength, handrail height, etc., but we can help. Drop us a line and we can create a bespoke system to meet even the most demanding requirements.

Types: Decking Balustrades

Transform your decking into a stunning focal point and add safety by installing one of our balustrade systems.

SHS manufacture and install a range of balustrades and railings suitable for decking applications. Choose from glass, steel or a combination of the two. Whichever you system you select, you will give your decking a stylish, elegant finish.

Explore the complete range of decking balustrades.

SHS Suggests:

Does the location of your decking mean prying eyes could see through your balustrade? Consider using a tinted or patterned glass to protect your privacy. Choose from frosting or bronze/grey coloured glass.

Steel and glass decking balustrades – FAQs*

Which SHS systems are suitable for decking?

We have 6 types of steel and/or glass railings that are ideal as a decking balustrade. They are:

Do I need planning permission for decking?

No, not usually, providing the decking doesn’t cover more than 50% of the garden and is less than 300mm off the ground. You can find more information here: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/.

Does my decking need to satisfy Building Regulations?

Only if you need planning permission (see above) will your decking also need to satisfy Building Regulations requirements.

Is there a minimum height for my decking balustrade?

Where Building Regs apply (see above) – and for private dwellings only – the following requirements apply:

  • Decking height up to 600mm from ground level: minimum height for your balustrade system is 900mm
  • Decking height is over 600mm from ground level: minimum height for your balustrade system is 1100mm

If Building Regs don’t apply there is no minimum height, but we would recommend applying the same standards to ensure absolute safety. Different rules apply for commercial installations. Please ask for details.

You can find more information about Building Regulations here: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/building-regulation.

Stainless Steel Balustrade Systems

Contemporary style meets practical robustness

Stainless steel railings give a feeling of solid protection whilst complementing a modern design aesthetic. For these reasons our steel balustrades are featured in numerous properties across the UK and on popular shows such as ITV’s ‘Love Your Garden’ and Channel 4’s ‘Double Your House for Half the Money’.

Discover the surprising flexibility of steel around decking, patios, and balconies and along walkways:

  • Wire Rope System: We can easily tailor your wire railing system. You choose the post height and number of wire ropes, then we get to work manufacturing your bespoke design.
  • Glass and Steel Balustrading: The combination of glass and steel creates a range of dramatic finishes. Perfect for matching rigid strength with panoramic views.

SHS Suggests:

You don’t have to pick the same steel balustrading throughout. There are endless mix and match options. Why not consider one style of glass balustrading on the balcony and switch to a wire rope system for the stairs? Talk to us about ways to customise your balustrade railings. Our team of specialists is on standby – drop us a line.

Stainless steel balustrade systems – FAQs*

What finishes are available?

Most of our steel posts, handrails and frames have a ‘brushed’ satin finish as standard with an optional mirror finish.

Which grade of stainless steel is most suitable for external applications?

The standard grade for all our stainless steel handrails is 304 stainless steel, suitable for internal use. For external use, we recommend marine grade AISI 316 steel, which is a more durable option in harsh environments, especially locations within 10 miles of coasts or subject to saltwater spray.

How do I maintain my steel balustrade?

A good chemical cleaner should be enough to remove any contaminants that could otherwise affect the durability of the stainless steel. Clean occasionally in indoor or inland (10 miles or more from coast) applications. Clean more regularly if the steel handrail is outdoors, and monthly if they are subject to salt spray or within 10 miles of the coast).

Are steel handrails affected by building regulations?

Yes. You can find specific details about load requirements, strength, handrail height, etc. on our main FAQs page.

Wire Rope Balustrade Systems

Form and function in perfect symmetry

Style, durability and security is what you get from our wire balustrade railing systems, an increasingly popular choice for commercial and domestic applications.

At SHS you can design your own combination of wire and stainless steel, ensuring height, length and number of wire rows are all tailored to your application.

Explore your wire rope balustrade options.

SHS suggests:

A wire rope balustrade is a strongly versatile form of railing to consider for inside and outdoor projects, around gardens, stairways and walkways.

Wire rope balustrades – FAQs*

What can a wire rope system be fixed to?

This systems versatility makes it suitable for fixing to wood, metal, concrete or brick.

How many rows can I have in my wire rope balustrade system?

You choose. We can custom-make the posts for your chosen system with your specified number of wire rows. This is especially handy if you want to provide extra support or security.

Are there any restrictions over my choice of wire rope balustrade design?

Just one: you must have the stainless steel top rail (in satin or mirror) to ensure structural integrity.

Which stainless steel finish is best at resisting corrosion?

A bright, polished surface gives the greatest corrosion resistance. We’d recommend the mirror finish for outdoor areas or areas exposed to moisture or humidity.

Aluminium Balustrade Systems

What does aluminium offer that stainless steel doesn’t?

Working with aluminium allows for handrails and railings to showcase stunning finishes and an architectural edge that is distinctively different from steel. It also provides a variety in design features that can be seen in our three aluminium systems:

  • Infinity Glass System: Powder coated aluminium posts (in white, black, silver or grey) add drama to this versatile glazed system. It is customisable with glass balcony panels cut to bespoke sizes up to 1.5 metres.
  • Frameless Glass System: Aluminium shoes are the secret to this railing which, as its name suggests, is ideal for maximising clear, unobstructed views.
  • Palisade Railing System: This glass-free, all aluminium railing system is powder coated with a bronze-effect for an elegant yet structurally tough handrail system. It includes wired and solar powered lighting options.

Find out more about our range of aluminium balustrade systems.

Aluminium balustrade railings – FAQs*

Do I need planning permission for my aluminium decking balustrade, and does it need to satisfy building regulations?

Find the answer in the Steel and Glass Decking section

Is an aluminium balustrade suitable for any environment?

All our systems that use exposed aluminium undergo a 5-stage powder coating process that meets strict AAMA requirements. However, if your aluminium system will be installed within 10 miles of a saltwater coastline (or is exposed to salt spray) you should inspect and clean it monthly to maintain and protect its appearance.

How do I clean an aluminium balustrade?

Clean at least twice a year with a mild non-abrasive soap and water. Clean monthly within 10 miles of saltwater environments. To maintain protection of the powder coating, wax the railings, handrails and posts with car wax.

Glass Juliet Balcony Railings

A balcony where there is no space for a balcony

Whether you’re controlling build costs or complying with planning requirements, it’s not always possible to give every apartment a full balcony of its own. That’s where the Juliet balcony (aka a balconette or false balcony) is the ideal option.

The Juliet glass balcony uses a railing placed across a window or door opening to create a balcony effect without the expense of a full extension. It’s perfect for warm summer days and letting lots of fresh air into a room whilst ensuring safety.

Explore all our Juliet balconies.

SHS Suggests:

The maximum width for a Juliet balcony purchased online is 2 metres, but there are alternative options where your opening is greater than this. Contact us to explore your options.

Glass Juliet balcony railings – FAQs*

What are the dimensions of a Juliet balcony?

Our ‘false balconies’ use stainless steel handrails of 42.4mm diameter and 10mm toughened safety glass. All wall fixings, side-fixed brackets and glass clamps are included.

Will Juliet balcony railings fit a home or apartment?

Apertures need to be less than 2m wide. You should also check to make sure that existing features (such as window sills) won’t get in the way.

Is clear glass the only option?

No, you can choose a range of glass types for your Juliet balcony, including opaque and coloured glass.

How do I keep my Juliet balcony clean?

For the stainless steel balcony railings, use soap, detergent or dilute (1%) ammonia solution in warm clean water. Use a clean sponge, soft cloth or soft fibre brush to apply, then rinse with clean water and dry.

For the glass of your Juliet balcony, clean with warm water and an off the shelf glass cleaner. A monthly wipe down should be enough to keep your Juliet balcony sparkling.

Swimming Pool Fencing Railings

What to consider when choosing your pool balustrade

Whether you need a swimming pool barrier and what form it takes, will depend on the location of your pool and who is using it.

Generally, pool balustrade railings can protect you from accidental trips and falls around the pool. They can also:

  • Restrict young children or animals from accessing the pool when you are not present
  • Help keep your pool clean by limiting the amount of garden debris that blows into your pool
  • Increase pool privacy (especially when you choose frosted or tinted glass)
  • Create clearly defined barriers between pool and garden
  • Add to the aesthetic appeal of your pool and garden

What makes a steel and glass balustrade suitable for a swimming pool?

Not every system is suited to a swimming pool environment. Sport England recommends carefully selecting the grade of stainless steel to reduce the risk of corrosion.

That’s why each of our pool railings feature toughened safety glass and either powder coated aluminium or marine grade 316 stainless steel components – the recommended grade of steel for use in watery environments.

Explore our full range of swimming pool fencing railings.

Swimming pool fencing – FAQs*

Which SHS glass balustrades are suitable for swimming pools?

Many of our aluminium, steel and glass systems are ideal for swimming pool fencing. Our top 6 picks include:

Does my swimming pool balustrade need planning permission?

No, although your pool probably will. You can find more here: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/

Can we choose the colour or finish of the glass?

Yes. Depending on your choice of system, you can choose clear, frosted or tinted glass.

Can we choose the colour or finish of our posts?

You can when you select the Infinity railing system. Choose from black, silver, white, coastal grey or anthracite grey. For the rest of our swimming pool fencing range, stainless steel railings are typically available in satin or mirror finish. Our Aluminium railings (Palisade & Infinity) are powder coated.

Stainless Steel Handrail Systems

We offer standard sizes or made to measure handrails with a choice of end caps and finishes.

We have aimed to cover every eventuality with our stainless steel handrail systems. Standard 42.4mm diameter rails are available in lengths of 1000mm, 1500mm, 2000mm, 2500mm, 3000mm, 3500mm and 4000mm.

You can order these online in a satin ‘brushed’ finish, together with your preferred choice of tube connectors and end caps (tapered, domed or flat).

Need irregular sizes or a different finish? We can also create bespoke handrail systems to your specification. Just drop us a line.

Explore all our stainless steel handrail systems.

SHS suggests:

The standard finish for all our stainless steel handrails is Grade 304 stainless steel, suitable for internal use. For external use, we recommend marine grade AISI 316 steel, which will be more durable in harsh environments.

Stainless steel handrail systems – FAQs*

Can I install a steel balustrade system myself?

Yes, it is a straight forward process and we are here to answer questions along the way.

Does my steel handrail have to have a satin finish?

No. The satin or ‘brushed’ finish is our standard finish, but you can opt for a mirror finish, which we would recommend in outdoor and especially coastal environments. The highly polished finish ensures the handrail is as smooth as possible, providing less opportunity for salt and moisture to grip and corrode the surface.

How do I maintain my steel handrails?

A good chemical cleaner should be enough to remove any contaminants that could otherwise affect the durability of the stainless steel. Clean occasionally in indoor or inland (10 miles or more from the coast) applications. Clean more regularly if the steel handrail is outdoors, and monthly if the steel is subject to salt spray or within 10 miles of the coast.

Are steel handrails affected by building regulations?

Yes. You can find specific details about load requirements, strength, handrail height, etc. on our main FAQs page.

Handrail parts & components

Wants, needs and options to make your system safe, robust and beautiful

If you’re installing your glass balustrading yourself, you’ll want to ensure you have all the parts to hand before you begin.

At SHS, you’ll find everything to make the job easier and the finish better. From screws and connectors to cleaning fluid, you can stock up on tools and materials with us. The SHS components store includes:

  • Glass – toughened, tinted or tailored to your design
  • Lights – only available for the Palisade system
  • Brackets
  • Wire Rope
  • Corner posts, end posts, caps, shoes and elbows – to provide the consistent, rigid frame to your balustrade system
  • Handrails
  • Glue
  • Infills

Explore all our handrail parts and components.

SHS suggests:

All the parts and components in this section are designed to fit our standard designs. Where you require a bespoke system or certain bespoke elements (e.g. a bespoke handrail) you may need similarly bespoke components. Talk to us before ordering if you’re in any doubt.

Installation advice & resources

How do you measure up and install a balustrade railing system?

Choose any aluminium, steel or glass system from SHS and we will be happy to install it for you. However, we have designed and manufactured these systems to allow for straight forward self assembly. Here’s how you can install your system yourself:

The process of measuring up and installing each of our systems is much the same in most cases with some key differences depending on the specific type of railing system you choose and the material you’re affixing it to (wood, concrete, brick, etc.).

Need help? Call us.

Our years of experience spent designing, manufacturing and installing aluminium, steel and glass systems, make us hands down the first choice for reliable products, honest quotes and clear direction.

Choose SHS and we’ll give you all the help you need, every step of the way. Our fully trained CAD technicians make drawing up plans for your system simple. We’re on hand at every point of the design and buying process, to ensure you make all the right decisions for your home or business.

Throughout the process we will keep you fully informed on the costs and time involved, ensuring your balustrading stays on time and budget.

Have a query we’ve not covered in this balustrade buying guide? Email us your enquiry or request a call back.

Or try our ‘Smart Builder’ tool to receive an instant online quote.

* FAQs were correct at time of writing. Please use links to check latest information.

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