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What is a Balustrade?

What is a Balustrade? - Balustrade
August 26, 2019 Screens

A balustrade is defined as a vertical upstand which aims to protect the users or occupants of a building, most often located next to a vertical displacement in the middle of horizontal building surfaces or on the side of a stair. Simply put, balustrades can be found wherever there are stairs or balconies or any falling hazard that people need to be protected from.

Balustrades are so often present and are everywhere that we take them for granted. What we sometimes forget is that they ensure our safety whenever we go down the stairs or are up on a high place. It’s easy to think of them as just decorative and forget that they have to be high enough make sure that they can efficiently protect us. Plus, they also have to be strong enough to hold our weight.

How important are balustrades?

Balustrades are so important that they are covered by government regulatory bodies to ensure that every builder complies with regulations and standards. There is even an association called the Australian Balustrade Association or ABA. This association is dedicated to protecting the industry from unqualified people. They also aim to improve safety and integrity when it comes to the utilisation of balustrades. They do this by creating national guidelines as well as certification for safety, design, and testing standards which aims to bring together the balustrade industry.

Did you know that there is a section in the Building Code of Australia that’s dedicated to regulating balustrade construction? Below are the most important points included in the regulations:

Balustrade or barrier

  • Balustrades should not be less than 1 metre above the floor of any balcony, access path or landing not bounded by a wall. This regulation also applies when the level above the surface is 1 metre or more than 4 metres, where a person could fall through an open window.
  • Balustrades should also not be less than 865mm above the floor of a landing that’s attached to a stair or ramp. This should be strictly followed, especially when the balustrade is provided along the inside edge of the landing and is not more than 50mm long.
  • Specific to the posts, they are required to be spaced at no more than 1.8 metres.
  • When wires are used:
    • they have to be made out of stainless steel
    • wires should have a minimum diameter of 3.2mm
    • they should not have more than 100mm of spacing
    • tensioners must be placed on each strand of wire
    • the handrail must be made out of steel tubing.

Note that a transition zone may also be incorporated if the balustrade height changes from 865mm on the stair flight or ramp or up to 1 metre at the landing.

What is a Balustrade? - Balustrade

Balustrade construction and design

The balustrades of any building should be constructed with safety in mind. Any mistakes or compromises in the balustrade’s construction can result in harmful accidents.

One of the primary purposes of a balustrade is to ensure that a person can never fall over or through them and that a child can’t crawl through them. This means that the openings in balustrade should not permit a 125mm sphere to pass through it.

A balustrade should be strong enough that it will not collapse when a person accidentally falls or leans on it. Anyone who is designing a balustrade should familiarise themselves with AS 1170 which focuses on the required loading force of a balustrade. This regulation specifically states that a balustrade should be able to withstand a point load of 0.6kN, plus an evenly distributed load of 0.4kN. Any balustrade should be able to withstand these specific loads even if the pressure is applied inward, outward, or downward on the handrail. These two load numbers take into account a person falling against the balustrade (point load) or a person leaning against the barrier (distributed load). To add to these regulations, the handrail must also be able to withstand any wind loads, especially when a solid panel is used externally.

When it comes parts that are exposed to different kinds of weather as well as moisture, they should be made out of naturally durable Class 1 or Class 2 timbre species. This includes the following:

  • Blackbutt
  • Spotted
  • Gum
  • Ironbark
  • Jarrah

Basically, any sapwood treated to H3 standard. Treated softwoods can be used as an alternative provided that they are treated to H3 standard or higher. They should also comply with AS 1604. It is best to note that the timber used for balustrades should be straight and should not have any significant strength-reducing features.

What is a Balustrade? - Balustrade

Specific to stairs

When it comes to stairs, below are some of the most important regulations to take note of:

  • There should be no more than 18 risers in a flight of steps. This ensures that people can negotiate a limited number of steps before a landing where they can take a rest.
  • Stairs are not allowed to have a riser opening greater than 125mm.
  • Stairs should also not have a going less than 240mm for a straight flight of steps.
  • When it comes to the stairs’ gradient, the maximum should not exceed 1:8.
  • The floor surface of the stairs should be non-slip.

Choose only the best when it comes to balustrade construction and installation.

We cannot emphasis enough the importance of having the best balustrades for your building. People’s lives are on the line so you should have balustrades that are up to  government standards.

If you’re looking to install the best balustrades, consider Uneek Security Doors. We are an Australian-owned and operated company that’s based in Newcastle and servicing Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. For more than 26 years, we’ve always tried to make sure to deliver satisfaction and security. Contact us today at or 02 4945 4460.

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