A wire rail

Balustrading & Deck Railings

For many deck installations, selecting the railing requires a homeowner’s input. The railing is a prominent architectural ornament and serves to defend the deck perimeter, preserve the view, and in some cases deflect the wind (especially in Cape Town).

Then there are various aspects to consider such as cost, durability, appearance, and maintenance. Wood still accounts for most residential deck railings, and market research shows it is holding onto market share against plastic-based and wood-composite competitors, which can be more expensive. These nonwool systems, however, resist insects and decay while requiring relatively little upkeep.

Balustrade Safety Requirements

Top-mounted balustrades must be installed into a core-drilled pocket with a depth of a minimum of 120 mm. It must also be secured with a suitable non-shrink cement-based grout.

Side-mounted balustrades should always be impact drilled. It should be fixed with suitable chemical anchors.

If there is any change in level more than 750 mm, the installation of a SANS-compliant balustrade is necessary. Even staircases with a rise more than 750mm must also be fitted with a SANS compliant balustrade.

Residential use –There are different requirements for balustrades used in residential areas than those used in public areas. Balustrade safety regulations in South Africa for residential use require that there might not be an air gap greater than 100 mm anywhere in or along the system, and it should have a minimum height of one meter.

Residential Use of a Balustrade.

Swimming pool –For swimming pools that are accessible from the road, the balustrades around the pool must have a minimum height of 1.2 meters and must contain a self-closing gate. To prevent climbing, there are no horizontal elements allowed in the balustrades.

Balustrade Surrounding a Swimming Pool.

Types Of Balustrades & Railings

Cable rail Balustrade – is made from the same kind of wire and hardware used for sailboat rigging, and it offers a modern aesthetic that won’t block a million-dollar view.

A Cable Rail Balustrade.

Stainless-steel cable for residential railings is typically 1/8 in. dia. The most common and one of the strongest is 1×19, made up of 19 individual strands of wire.

Pros: Unobtrusive; won’t block scenic views; flexible; can be built with a variety of wood or metal post-and-rail components as well as tensioning hardware; cables can run horizontally or vertically.

Cons: More expensive than some other options; horizontal railings are barred in some areas because they pose a climbing hazard; not compatible with all architectural styles

Glass Balustrades – Like cable railings, railings built with glass panels or balustrades allow largely unobstructed views of the landscape. Many systems have a contemporary look, although rail frames and posts can be designed to accommodate a variety of architectural styles.

Because glass is relatively heavy, railing posts for large-panel systems should be no more than 5 ft. apart. Frames typically have channels in the top and bottom rails to support the glass; some have bottom rails that mount directly on the deck.

Maintenance requirements for the rail frame depend on the material; Panels can be cleaned like any window, with a wet sponge and a sponge.

A Glass Balustrade.

Pros: Ideal for settings where the view is the main event; can be installed in large-panel sections or as individual balusters; impervious to moisture and weather conditions; large-panel systems can be excellent wind barriers.

Cons: Glass fragments can scatter if broken, although laminated glass reduces the hazard; large panels are heavy; can be expensive, especially if custom frames are needed; requires more cleaning to maintain a clear view.

Metal Balustrades – Given the strength of metal parts, baluster and post styles tend to be thinner and less massive than other alternatives. Metal also is a versatile material that can be fabricated into many styles, from plain to ornately detailed.

Aluminium, iron, and steel railings may look the same, but stay away from ferrous metals in saltwater areas such as Cape Town. Although powder-coating offers good protection, even a pinhole can allow moisture below the paint film, where it will cause rust.

A Metal Balustrade.

Pros: Quick installation; high strength for long unsupported spans; material highly adaptable to custom shapes; very little maintenance required.

Cons: Appearance may not be appropriate with some architectural styles; railings made from ferrous metals can rust if finish is damaged.

Composite Balustrade – Composites are a recycling success story, keeping plastics out of landfills. Although they still make up a small slice of the deck and railing business, composite manufactures are elbowing their way into the market in increasing numbers.

Composites are flexible – so bottom rails must be supported by squash/ (Rika blocks) so that they don’t sag.

A Composite Balustrade.

Pros: Appears more wood like than other low-maintenance options, so railings blend nicely with wood-composite decking; feels more like wood than plastic railings; wider colour selection than vinyl; unlike wood, won’t split, crack, or warp; some railings can be ordered in curved sections.

Cons: Relatively expensive; organic materials can support the growth of mould; except for the PVC-coated variety, dark colours can fade in sunlight; requires support blocks under bottom rail to prevent sagging.

Overall, a balustrade will undoubtedly add character to your deck area while providing some neat utility and function. To find out more about our balustrading and deck railing solutions, contact us today.