Your quick guide to popular glass balustrade systems
Updated: Jan 18
Glass balustrades add a minimal, modern feel to any interior or exterior space while acting as a safety barrier. Another advantage is the transparent, uninterrupted view glass barriers offer. There are loads of options when it comes to styles, fixings, handrails, finishes and designs. This is why sometimes trying to decide on a glass balustrade system can get overwhelming and confusing.
In this guide, we have simplified UK glass balustrades options, which generally fall into four main categories or system types: posts, spigots, base shoes and adaptors. We also look at glass options available to help you decide what works best for your space and taste.
Above: Glass balustrades used on balconies, an installation by Prism Glass.
Glass balustrade post systems
Glass balustrades with posts are suitable for interiors and exteriors. These framed balustrade systems use vertical baluster posts with side clamps to hold glass panels. The posts are fixed at the base to the floor or side fixed (facia mounted). Usually, posts are set about one metre apart (depending on requirements and location).
Glass balustrade post systems will have fixings to mount a handrail, there is also a wide range of handrail designs. Handrails help make the system sturdier and offer added safety should a glass panel break. The posts, handrails and fixings are typically made of stainless steel, reducing the chances of rust over time. Other finishes such as timber are available. Posts and handrails can be shaped in various ways, most common shapes are circular and square.
Above: Staircase glass balustrade using posts with timber handrail.
Glass balustrade base shoe systems
Base shoes are also a frameless system offering uninterrupted views. This system can be mounted to the floor, where the track will be visible. Or it can be side fixed, making the track channel less noticeable. Base shoes are suitable for interiors and exteriors. However, fixing this channel to the side of the floor slab may be advisable for areas where water drainage may be required, for example, eternal balconies, terraces and patios.
The base is usually made of a heavy-duty aluminium channel bolted into the floor. Stainless steel caps or cover plates are normally used to cover the aluminium track, giving the system a clean, elegant appearance. As with the other glass balustrade systems, handrails add to the overall strength and safety of the balustrade and may be a requirement depending on location and applicable building regulations.
Above: Glass balustrade with base shoe side fixed to facia and toughened laminated glass panels.
Glass balustrade spigot systems
Spigot balustrade systems use clamps positioned at the base to hold glass panels in place. This frameless system also offers a seamless view, as fixings are less perceivable, unlike glass balustrade post systems where the vertical posts are visible.
The base clamps can be rounded, squared and more. These fixings usually have a stainless steel finish (brushed or polished). Where needed, handrails can be added and fixed to the side of the glass panels or fitted as cap rails (u-profile) on top of the panels for a more discreet look. Spigot systems are suitable for several applications, including cordoning off swimming pools, walkways, decking, low patio and balcony areas where complaint with building regulations.
Above: Glass balustrade mounted on spigots or base clamps.
Glass balustrade adaptor systems
Glass adaptors, also called bolt fixings, are side fixed, giving you more floor space and an uninterrupted view. The stainless steel fixings are not visible when the railing is viewed on the installation level. It's pretty common to see adaptors used on Juliet balconies and staircase glass balustrades. Again handrails can be added to this system in many ways.
Above: Glass balustrade adaptor system
Above: Illustration showing glass balustrades with posts, base shoes, spigots and adaptors.
Apart from clear, glass panels can be supplied in various tints, including green, grey, bronze, and blue. Where using clear glass panels, we recommend low-iron. Low-iron provides greater transparency than regular clear glass, this is due to less iron being present in the material. The higher iron levels give clear glass a greenish tint (more evident with thicker panels or when looking at a panel from the side).
There are self-cleaning options for glass, too, particularly useful for exterior balustrades. When water evaporates, mineral deposits are left on the surface, which builds up and becomes more visible over time. The protected surfaces of self-cleaning glass make it harder for drops to stay and will roll off as a result. Dirt and grime also become easier to remove.
Toughened or toughened laminated glass panels are used on balustrades. Toughened glass is different to float glass, when glass is toughened, its strength increases by up to 5 times. Toughened glass (or tempered glass) breaks into small bits, unlike regular annealed glass, which breaks into sharp-edged shards.
A glass panel is further strengthened when laminated. Laminated glass consists of two toughened panels and an interlayer between the panels. Even if the laminated glass panel breaks, the interlayer will help keep the panel in place.
Safety and stopping falls are the primary function of a railing. Where handrails and additional protection against falls are not present in a balustrade area, toughened laminated glass must be fitted. The type of glass, including thickness, system, and installation method used, must comply with building regulations.
Apart from safety, there are other things you should consider when it comes to glass balustrades, including planning, design and costs. There are many different types and variations to the systems mentioned in this guide. So it's good to ensure you use a reputable installation team who can advise and guide you. Having an idea of what you would like and your budget will also help streamline the process.
Prism Glass supply and install glass balustrades in London and throughout the UK. We have more than ten years of experience in the industry and have been involved with countless glass installation projects, including the balustrade installation at Waterloo Station (London). We can help design the ideal glass balustrade system to suit just about any construction project while complying with regulations.
For a free no-obligation quote, please write to us today: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 947 8428.
About the writer: Paulo Ferreira has extensive experience in project management and worked at Prism Glass for two years, where he managed glass installation projects and day to day operations. His skills include design, branding, writing and content marketing.