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Glass Balustrade and Handrail Regulations

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Balustrades Compliance Checklist Balustrades Technical Details

Loads on Glass balustrades

Balcony Load TestingLoad testing of our balcony system 

The subject of loading and specific loads on balustrades are defined in BS 6399-1:1996, called Loadings for buildings. In this British standard are described different building types, usages and areas. The type or use of a building will determine the loading required of course. In this article we will focus on single family dwellings or houses and residential type of buildings and not focus on public areas or areas susceptible to overcrowding. Public areas and places where people may congregate, discotheques, bars, restaurants etc will require a greater loading factor than residential.

Building regulations requirements

You may encounter different building regulations being referred to, such as Document K, Document N, M and others. All of these, in relation to balustrades, refer and are based on two main British standards relating to this subject, one is British Standard 6180 last updated in 2011called BS 6180:2011 “Barriers in and about Buildings - Code of Practice”.  The second is BS 6399-1:1996 Loadings for buildings.

How strong does a balustrade need to be?

A handrail of a balustrade, in areas which are not susceptible to overcrowding for residential and domestic houses, will require to stand 0.74 kilo Newtons (kN) for every metre length. Equalling approximately 75kgs of pressure per metre of handrail, that’s the simple answer of how much pressure is applied.

To try and give you a better idea of what this means or in order to get a mental idea of how strong a balustrade needs to be, you can imagine a person weighing 75kgs which is about 165 pounds putting their entire weight on the balustrade, one person every single metre length.

That’s how simple you should view the loadings. Obviously more specific data is available if you want to read BS 6399-1:1996 and BS 6180:2011. These are available to purchase on BSI website ( ) by searching for these titles. These are technical documents and fully understanding them is an essential part of understanding glass balustrade loading requirements. 

Measuring the loading on a handrail

The loading on a handrail should be measured or tested in a uniformly distributed fashion. This means spreading the load equally across the rail and not adding the entire load and applying it at one point, this is also important to understand.

There are further information and load requirements on the glass and infill panels, these relate to both a uniformly distributed load and also a “point load” which means a higher load applied to a single small point. 

handrail load testing                    handrail load apply

How load should be applied

Calculations and testing

To provide evidence of conformity to the regulation and standards it is acceptable to demonstrate this either by calculation or by load testing.

Here at Balcony Systems we have subjected our systems to rigorous testing and have also employed engineers to produce system calculations in order to provide satisfactory proof of the compliance of the systems to these standards and regulations. Bothe the tests and the calculations are readily available upon request.


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