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Balustrades: A Buying, Installation & Maintenance Guide

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Since 2005 SHS Products has designed, manufactured and installed quality aluminium, steel and glass balustrade systems for homes and offices across the UK.

Over that time, the materials, designs and possibilities have expanded enormously – so much so that that the choice can sometimes feel bewildering. That’s why this Balustrade Buying Guide exists.

We wanted to bring together our various types of systems, fittings and accessories, with a few helpful tips on choosing the right system for your home and business. That’s something we do with 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.

I hope you find it useful.

Mark Busby, Director

A little about SHS Products

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

No job’s ever too big or too small. We’re as happy making tight budgets stretch further as we are dealing with flagship projects. And every project we undertake benefits from all our knowledge, experience and satisfaction in seeing a job well done.

We belong to the Guild of Master Craftsmen, the British Stainless Steel Association and we’re members of the Federation of Master Builders. We’re also proud to carry the Made in Britain badge.

What is a Balustrade?

If you’re not too sure what a balustrade is, you’re not alone. Most 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.

Or 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.

Their 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.


Practical. Beautiful.

Steel and glass balustrading has become a favourite tool among modern architects wanting a railing system that’s versatile, durable, doesn’t block light and adds to the beauty of a building rather than detracting from it.

Yet the benefits of our systems go far beyond the aesthetic. Like any balustrade system, they guide pedestrian traffic. They line areas around stairs and lifts, pools and lobbies. And they create safe secure balconies.

But unlike other systems, steel and glass balustrades create open fields of view, removing collision hazards and increasing feelings of security without compromising on the look.

They’re easy to clean, easy to maintain, and they’re tough and durable. Fit a steel and/or glass system now, and it should still be looking great whilst protecting your staff, guests and customers for years to come.

SHS installs aluminium, steel and glass banisters, handrails and panels across a huge 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

>> Explore our full range of aluminium, steel and glass balustrades for your application now. <<

How To Choose The Right Balustrade System

We realise that choosing the right product can be a daunting experience, so to help you in your decision making process we have created an infographic. Take a look by clicking on the image below, it should give you a better understanding of what type of system, and what materials best suit your requirements.


How to choose a balustrade system

Click the image to see the full infographic.


The Different Types of Balustrade Systems

Types: Frameless Glass Balustrades

When the view is one worth savouring, frameless glass balustrades help you enjoy it more.

When designers want glass balcony panels that will complement their design rather than challenge it, the simple flexibility of Frameless makes it a natural choice. The 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 walkways, lobbies etc. So areas typically prone to presenting collision hazards (e.g. areas at the top of stairs, around corners etc.) are safer.

>> Explore the complete range of frameless glass balustrades. <<

SHS suggests:

Where your frameless glass balustrading will be used 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 or install is strength tested and we will provide you with 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 a variety of building regulations-compliant glass panel sizes, and you can switch the clear finish for a frosted one.

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 talk to us about your applications and we can create a frameless system to meet even the most demanding standards.

Types: Glass Balustrade Systems

Discover more ways to turn a humble balcony or walkway into a design classic.

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

Whether your ambition is to create the illusion of space, brighter landings and lobbies, or safer spaces, SHS glass balustrades turn the basic safety requirements of handrails, barriers and bannisters into captivating design elements – so you don’t have to compromise on the aesthetics to meet building regulations and health and safety requirements.

>> Explore the complete range of glass balustrade systems. <<

SHS suggests:

Not sure where to begin, or which glass railings would suit your home/commercial application best? 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. You’ll find it here.

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.

We’ve created an infographic that offers some simple advice on how to measure up your glazed system. Click the image below to take a look.

Infographic: How To Measure Out A Balustrade System

Click the image to see the full infographic.

Watch Our Installation Video;

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 option are powder coated. Choose from black, silver, white, coastal grey or anthracite grey.

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 talk to us and we can create a bespoke system to meet even the most demanding requirements.

Types: Decking Balustrades

Add one of our systems to your decking and you transform its appearance. Suddenly, it’s a new and self-contained focal point. It’s safer too.

SHS manufacture and install a range of balustrades and railings suitable for decking applications. Some are glass, some steel, and some a combination of the two. But whichever you choose, you’ll give your decking a stylish, elegant finish.

>> Explore the complete range of steel and glass decking balustrades. <<

SHS Suggests:

What if the location of your decking means prying eyes can 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?

Not usually, no, 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:

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 here:

Types: Stainless Steel Balustrade Systems

Strong, safe, sleek. Match contemporary style with the practical robustness of a stainless steel frame.

There’s a reason our steel balustrades have featured on ITV’s ‘Love Your Garden’ and Channel 4’s ‘Double Your House for Half the Money’. Stainless steel railings give a feeling of solid protection whilst complementing a modern design aesthetic.

Along walkways, around decking and patios and around balconies, discover the surprising flexibility of steel:

  • Wire Rope System: Ask us to tailor your wire railing system and you can choose post height and the number of wire ropes.
  • Glass and Steel Balustrading: The combination of glass and steel creates a range of dramatic finishes. Perfect for matching rigid strength with panoramic views.

>> Find out more about our range of stainless steel balustrade systems <<

SHS Suggests:

You don’t have to pick the same steel balustrading throughout. There are endless mix and match options. So why not consider one style of glass balustrading on the balcony, for example, and switch to a wire rope system for the stairs? Talk to us about ways to customise your balustrade railings.

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.

Types: Wire Rope Balustrade Systems

Form and function in perfect symmetry: discover the wire rope system.

Style, durability and security: that’s what you get from wire balustrade railing systems – and that’s why they are 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 an excitingly versatile form of railing, so consider it inside and out, 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. Because we can custom-make the posts for your chosen system, you can specify the number of wire rows. 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.

Types: Aluminium Balustrade Systems

What does aluminium offer that stainless steel doesn’t?

Working with aluminium enables us to give our handrails and railings a stunning finish and an architectural edge that’s distinctively different from steel. It also gives us a variety in design that’s clear to see from our range of 3 aluminium systems:

  • Infinity Glass System: Powder coated aluminium posts (in white, black, silver or grey) add drama to this versatile glazed system. 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. 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. If, however, 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.

Types: Glass Juliet Balcony Railings

The balcony where there’s no space for a balcony? Discover the Juliet.

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 for letting lots of fresh air into a room whilst ensuring safety.

>> Explore all our Juliette 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 them.

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.

Types: 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

<< Explore our full range of swimming pool fencing railings >>

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.

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:

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.

Types: Stainless Steel Handrail Systems

Standard sizes or made to measure, and with a choice of end caps and finishes.

We’ve 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 get in touch.

>> 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. You can see how it’s done in this installation video;

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.

Installation: Handrail Parts & Components

The essentials, the optionals and the ‘nice to haves’ 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. So from screws and connectors to cleaning fluid, stock up on tools and materials here. 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 – And 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’ll be only too willing to install it for you. You can, however, do it yourself. Here’s how.

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).

>> Find full measuring up and installation information in our written guides. <<

>> Watch how to measure up and install our balustrade systems in these instructional videos. <<

Need help? Call us

With our years of experience spent designing, manufacturing and installing aluminium, steel and glass systems, make us your first choice for quotes and questions.

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

Throughout, 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 for an instant online quote.

* FAQ’s Correct at time of writing. Please use links to check latest information.