July 16, 2018

Do Glass Balustrades need a continuous handrail?

Written by Rebecca Clayton

Patricia Rayner ABIPP (www.image2photo.co.uk)

This is one of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to glass balustrade specification.

To some, the thought of using frameless glass as a balustrade without a frame or continuous handrail is counter-intuitive, believing that glass is a fragile material that needs to be protected. That is certainly not the case today with the advance of structural glazing as a design and building product.

If you would like a frameless design to your glass balustrades the glass installation will need to be a structural glass design. This is something that the team at IQ specialise in. The glass itself is designed by our technical engineers to withstand all the loading requirements for the balustrade. (For more information about what loading requirements are for project types please see our technical article: Regulations and Building Practice for Glass Balustrades).

If the correct glass specification is used a continuous handrail is not required for the project. According to BS6180:2011 Section 8.5.2:


"a handrail should always be used unless a laminated toughened glass construction is used that would remain in situ if a panel fails."



To make sure that you do not need a continuous handrail make sure that a toughened laminated glass specification is being used. (IQ use a toughened laminated glass specification for all our glass balustrades as standard). To make sure that the glass ‘remains in situ’ should either glass panel break or fail you need to use a strong interlayer to laminate the panes together.

At IQ we use what is called an Ionoplast Interlayer for all external balustrades. This type of interlayer is extra strong and rigid. That means that even if both panes of glass in a balustrade break or fail the laminate is strong enough to keep that balustrade panel vertical. This then ensures that the balustrade ‘remains in situ’ and means that no handrail is required.

A basic PVB interlayer would not perform this function and therefore if that type of interlayer is used a continuous handrail will be required.

Monolithic (a single layer of) toughened glass should not be used in frameless glass balustrade installations.

Take a look at our advice video below which shows you the breakage pattern of a single layer piece of toughened glass, a PVB laminated balustrade and an Ionoplast Interlayer laminated balustrade.

If you have any questions about the specification of glass for your frameless balustrade just speak to the team at IQ. You may find some useful information in our informative advice article: Regulations and Building Practice for Glass Balustrades