Understanding the Environmental Impact of Aluminium Balustrades vs. Steel

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Increasing numbers of people are becoming more conscious of the products they choose as humankind’s impact on the Earth becomes clearer. The home improvement and property industries are no different.

Balconette is committed to carbon efficient business practices. We try our best to reduce the impact of our manufacturing and installation processes on the environment.

Our focus on quality and durability means we have chosen anodised aluminium and glass as the key components of our products. That’s because these materials create durable, cost-effective and attractive balustrades and balconies. But the benefits don’t end there.

The factors that make aluminium a great choice from a manufacturing and product perspective, also give it environmental advantages.

Aluminium Offcuts

Aluminium is less wasteful during production

As well as being strong and attractive, aluminium is an economical material to work with.

We make our handrail profiles, post covers and base tracks by extruding aluminium to our exact specifications. Aluminium has a melting point of 660°C, far lower than the 1,510°C of stainless steel. This means lower energy consumption in production than if we used stainless steel.

As well as using less energy during manufacturing, extrusion creates minimal waste. It does this in two ways: 

  1. The small quantity of offcuts at the primary manufacturing stage are easy to reuse. They are smelted down, added to the rest of the aluminium, and used on the next production run. 
  2. Once the aluminium profiles have been cast, they are then cut to order. Offcuts can be repurposed for other installations because of their modular characteristics. This contributes towards our zero-waste policy and uses every gram of aluminium. 

And the good news keeps coming. Aluminium’s economical credentials are relevant outside the factory too.

Because aluminium is light yet strong, it’s more cost-effective to transport. Lorries use less fuel and moving aluminium fixtures around a warehouse or loading on and off trucks is more efficient.

In contrast, stainless steel uses more energy during manufacturing. It’s also more difficult to recycle off-cuts, meaning it can be a more wasteful process. Its weight also makes it more costly and difficult to transport.

Aluminium Balustrade Offcuts

Aluminium needs less maintenance

Aluminium is surprisingly hardwearing and can be classified as “self-healing”. That’s because when it’s exposed to air, it reacts and turns to aluminium oxide – a material that’s so durable it’s used as an abrasive on cutting tools. Compared to stainless steel, it stays looking good for much longer. Stainless steel is susceptible to “tea staining” especially in very wet or corrosive environments such as the coast. Although this is not technically rusting, it affects the look of balustrading and needs regular maintenance to keep things looking tip top.

All our aluminium fittings are anodised – a process that protects the aluminium from corrosion and cuts the amount of maintenance to almost nothing. You can simply use water and a cloth to clean your aluminium handrails. In contrast, stainless steel is likely to need more maintenance and an increased use of chemicals to keep it looking like new.

Interested in seeing the difference? Read this case study to see how anodised aluminium withstands coastal conditions.

Rust on Handrail  Tea stain on stainless steel handrail

Aluminium can live forever

All good things must come to an end, and when an aluminium and glass balustrade must eventually be replaced, it can be almost entirely recycled. The glass is simplicity itself to recycle and so is aluminium. And if your balustrading is made with anodised aluminium, it’s a high-value, untainted version of aluminium that’s highly sought-after. You may find you can sell an old aluminium balcony to a scrap merchant for more than you’d expect.

Glass Balcony on sea view

But few aluminium balconies make it to the scrapyard. And that’s actually a good thing; their durability and continued good looks mean many are in place enhancing and improving properties across the UK. With a 10-year guarantee on Balconette’s anodised aluminium finishes, you can be assured of their continued performance and know that in most settings your balustrading will go on looking good for far longer than its guarantee. 

Learn more about how our anodised aluminium and glass balustrading can enhance your property.