Types of Balustrades & Which To Choose For Your Home

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wrought-iron-balustrade

Balustrades are a type of decorative fencing that add a finishing touch to stairs, balconies, gates, and boundary fences. They’re the fancy “posts” that sit between the top and bottom of fences.

In Queensland, there are strict requirements on the design and construction of balustrades, which helps to keep them safe. If you’re thinking of adding balustrades to your home, there are also a range of materials to choose from. So in this article, we’ll cover the most common types of balustrades you can buy, including their uses, pros, and cons.

What are the common types of balustrades?

As with fencing, balustrades are made from a wide variety of materials, each of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Here they are in detail.

Wrought iron

wrought-iron-balustrade

Wrought iron balustrades are a stylish way to secure a deck or balcony. They can be finished in a variety of colours, and forged with gorgeous decorative elements that add a touch of class to a property. If you’re adding wrought iron balustrades, you’ll probably want to also opt for a wrought iron frame for the fencing, to keep the design consistent. But in saying that, wood and wrought iron can look beautiful when combined in the right way. 

Wrought iron is a strong and robust material, and can stand up to all types of weather conditions. But it does require a fair bit of maintenance, with semi-regular cleaning, as well as sealing and coating. If you neglect these important jobs, you may find rust forming on your precious balustrades, which can be a bit tougher to get rid of (but not impossible, check out this guide on how to clean wrought iron).

Another disadvantage to wrought iron is its cost—it’s one of the most expensive types of balustrades.

Aluminium

Aluminium Balustrade

Image from Peak Products

Aluminium is an incredibly durable, rust-free material that has become a go-to for fencing for its low level of maintenance, and affordable cost. It requires virtually zero upkeep, and can pretty much be forgotten about once installed, aside from the occasional clean.

Aluminum has a clear benefit over wood because it can handle pretty much any weather condition without becoming damaged, while providing a similar classic look. And if you’re looking for something a little more decorative, a variety of beautiful patterns and designs can be created from the material. It can be powder coated for pretty much every colour too, so you have the pick of the rainbow.

As a lightweight material, one downside to aluminium fencing and balustrades is that it bends more easily, so isn’t quite as secure as other materials. In saying that, it still takes a lot of force to bend it by hand, and fencing is more of a deterrent anyway.

Wood

Wood Balustrade

If you’re after a more traditional look, wooden balustrades are a great option. They can be painted or stained to the colour of your choice, as well as carved into intricate shapes and patterns.

Unfortunately, wood doesn’t handle weather particularly well, and will rot if not properly sealed and treated. It also has a tendency to fade quickly, especially in the blistering Australian sun. You’ll need to watch your kids around them too, as they’re much more flimsy than other materials such as wrought iron or aluminium.

On the other hand, wooden balustrades are relatively cheap to buy, depending on the type of wood that you prefer.

Stainless steel

Stainless Steel

Another modern and popular option for balustrades is stainless steel. This material is also highly durable and good-looking, and is often used in public areas—especially in coastal cities where the sea air can create an ugly “tea stain” effect. They’re also a popular choice for stairs, balconies, and pool fencing.

Stainless steel balustrades can look particularly beautiful well when combined with wood or glass, and work both outside and inside the home.

On the downside, steel balustrades can weaken and buckle in extreme heat, and they are more expensive compared to materials like aluminium.

Strand wire

Strand Wire Balustrade

Strand wire balustrades can look beautifully modern, but have strict regulations on the amount of wire required for safety, so can be in danger of looking “busy.” They’re often made from stainless steel, and again, are more expensive than materials such as aluminium or wood. 

Stainless steel is super easy to maintain—you’ll just need to give it a clean every so often, which is easy to do because of its slick surface. 

Glass

Glass Balustrade

Glass balustrades offer a classic, modern look that provides unobstructed views, allowing you to admire your home’s surroundings. They’re often made from toughened glass to make them extra safe, and being completely flat, are difficult for kids to climb up (though not for lack of trying). They also act as a wind barrier to create warmth in hilly or coastal areas, particularly during winter.

Glass balustrades are constructed from a series of glass panels that are semi-framed, fully framed, or frameless. The glass comes in a variety of styles: clear, semi-transparent, etched, frosted, or tinted to the colour of your choice. When combined with aluminium or stainless steel, glass fencing can look gorgeous.

Glass balustrades can be used on balconies, pool fencing, stairs and standard fencing, and framed and semi-framed versions suit privacy screens as well.

One of the biggest downsides to glass balustrades is maintenance, particularly if you have young children who like putting their hands on every available surface. Birds and other animals (or people) can also bump into them if the glass is transparent. Many people are also scared off because of the expensive cost.

A note on balustrade heights

If you’re installing balustrades in a raised area such as a balcony or deck, the height of the raised area will determine how tall the balustrades must be. 

Under Building Codes laws, if the raised area is higher than a metre, the balustrade must also be at least a metre tall. The openings between them must also be restricted to 125mm or less, to prevent any unsuspecting children or pets to clamber through them.

For raised areas more than four metres above the ground, balustrades cannot have any climbable elements (such as horizontal rails) located between 150 and 760mm of their height. Again, this is to prevent kids (and foolish adults) from climbing up them and hurting themselves.

For much more information on balustrade heights, check out our comprehensive article on the correct balustrade heights for your home.

At FenceCorp, we offer aluminium balustrades as well as framed glass balustrades that cover a wide range of styles. These work beautifully with most types of environments and homes from classic Queenslanders to more modern properties.

Need to add the finishing touch to your new fencing with some balustrades? Contact the professionals at FenceCorp today on (07) 3715 5055.

References

  1. Craig Gibson, 2021, How much does fencing cost per metre? | 2021 Cost guide, HiPages
  2. Craig Gibson, 2020, 2020 How Much Does Aluminum Fencing Cost?, HiPages
  3. Craig Gibson, 2020, 2020 How much does decking cost? | Types of Decking | Cost guide 2020, HiPages

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