What is the Correct Balustrade Height?

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Balustrades can be a beautiful addition to your home, but have a much more important purpose: safety. Balustrades are designed to protect people from high falls, and that function is so important that it forms a legal obligation for property owners.  However, many people don’t understand the regulations for balustrade heights, and in this article, we’ll cover the basics..  

The correct balustrade height

Handrail regulations in Australia state that there must be a balustrade where there is a difference in height of one metre or more between two adjoining surfaces.  Essentially, if there’s a risk of falling greater than one meter, you’ll need a balustrade in place to prevent it from happening.

Handrail height for homes

Having a balustrade in place is only one part of your obligation as a homeowner. It must also be a particular height to pass regulations—here’s no use having a low balustrade that fails to protect people. To overcome this issue, local handrail regulations state that balustrades must be at least one metre high, with measurements being taken between the finished floor and the top of the balustrade. That’s why many varieties of balustrade are manufactured to those dimensions. 

Australian standards for handrails

Properly installed balustrades will stand the test of time, but that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Over the years, your balustrades may deteriorate, which can easily bring them below the standards imposed by Australian regulations. Tensioned cable balustrades can sag beneath the one metre mark as the cables lose tension over time. Another common problem is timber rot, which can dislodge the footings of your balustrade, and weaken the overall installation. As a consequence, your balustrade may fall below the required standards, which include the ability to withstand impacts under the AS1170.1 schedule.

Balustrade height for stairs

Stairs are not exempt from balustrade regulations, so it’s important to be aware of any non-compliant stairways in your home. Like ordinary balustrades, they must be installed where there is a drop of one meter or more. However, if there is a drop of four meters, any horizontal structures affixed to the balustrade must be configured in such a way that they’re not climbable.  That’s part of the reason why glass balustrades have become so popular— they look sleek, and they’re not able to be climbed.

Balustrade heights for pools

Balustrades around pools fall under a different set of regulations, and they’re carefully monitored by local regulators. Although pool regulations can differ, in Queensland pool balustrades must be at least 1.2m high. At the bottom, there can be a gap of no more than 100mm to prevent inquisitive children from getting under the fence. Like conventional balustrades, pool fences are important and heavily regulated.

Adhering to BCA balustrade regulations

If you follow these tips, you should be able to adhere to the BCA balustrade regulations. However, there’s one more thing to keep in mind: riser spacing. Your balustrade will consist of parallel risers or posts that are erected perpendicular to the floor. To remain compliant with BCA balustrade regulations, your risers or posts cannot be more than 12mm apart. 

This regulation is designed to protect children, who may squeeze through wider risers or  become entangled in them.. It’s important to remember that balustrades are about safety, and safety is about more than just regulations. If you spot a potential hazard in your balustrade, despite them being compliant you should remember that all balustrades are different, and take steps to address the issue.

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