Before embarking on your next frameless or topless glass railing system project, make sure you have all the information you need before you build.
Frameless glass railings for residential construction add a high class design to any project but they can be a bit tricky here in British Columbia. This is mainly because neither Part 4 or Part 9 of the BC Building Code touch on the strength and resilience of glass or the hardware holding it. There is a presumption that frameless glass railings are not allowed or are an unsafe option however this is not the case. Glass railing systems when done properly can easily exceed the standards of today’s railing and guard requirements.
There are many different types of glass options that each have their own pros and cons. The main consideration of any Engineer or Building Inspector is built in redundancies or secondary break safety. What this means is, if the glass panel fails, what is in place to keep people safe? The idea is that each panel on its own has sufficient strength to support the loads required by the building code.
The information below is based on past JRE Hardware customer projects as well as reports and information that we have had access to. Glass standards and industry regulations change frequently. If you are commencing a glass railing project, please review your local Building Codes and consult with an Inspector or Engineer for project-based requirements.
Glass Panel Options
Monolithic, Clear Tempered Glass Panels
If you’re in the market for a heavy glass railing system and are looking for the most cost relaxed glass option, we would recommend a monolithic, clear tempered glass panel. These panels are typically installed with 10mm or 12mm thick glass. Keep in mind, a cap rail that spans all panels will be required to act as a secondary break; either on top or in front of the panel using through-glass handrail bracket. This glass option is the cheapest but will likely end up costing you a little more on the hardware side of things.
Another way that topless glass railings can be achieved is by using laminated glass panels where two tempered glass layers are laminated together with either Poly Vinyl Butyral (PVB) or SentryGuard Plus (SGP) materials between the glasses. Both materials have various thickness options that allow you to customize your panel and find the most cost relaxed option.
Tempered Panels Laminated with Poly Vinyl Butryal (PVB)
PVB is a clear, flexible plastic material that is available in a variety of thicknesses. If both panels break the glass will slump over however will stay intact. Glass laminated with a PVB interlayer is commonly used in topless glass railing installations where there is support at the top of the panel and no extreme spans are required. In this scenario, a 6mm tempered panel w/ 1.5mm interlayer and another 6mm panel would suffice. This type of glass railing system puts you in the middle of the price point compared to the other options.
Tempered Panels Laminated with SentryGuard Plus (SGP)
Moving along to laminated glass with an SGP interlayer. Again, varying in thickness, SGP is a clear interlayer that is made from a solid material and is 100 times stronger on its own when compared to PVB. Furthermore, when laminated between glass layers, it gives the panel 5 times the strength of a PVB interlayer. If either of the glass layers are broken, the panel will remain rigid. For this reason, when using an SGP interlayered panel, it is possible to have a completely frameless glass system that will meet or exceed the code requirements with no additional support other than the structural hardware holding the panel in place. This type of glass railing system is the most expensive option.
Now for the exciting part: The Hardware. There is a number of standard ways to mount your topless glass railings. Overall aesthetics and personal preferences play a major role in your decision however project specific elements need to be considered as well. There are fasica and floor mount baseshoe systems, glass standoff systems with multiple projections and patterns, rectangular or square standoffs as well as glass spigots and mini posts. At J.R.E. Hardware Inc., we offer all of the above. Further to this, we have taken the time to have our railing system components reviewed and engineered by BuePoint Consulting, a Vancouver Island Structural Engineering Firm.
Baseshoe Railing Systems
Baseshoe railings are a popular frameless glass railing system that can be used in a large variety of ways and gives you the freedom to decide the level of obstruction you desire. Like other frameless glass railing systems, the baseshoe can be used with the glass options we’ve discussed above. Baseshoe railing systems come in a few different styles; fascia mount clamps with cladding, top mount clamps with cladding or JRE’s exclusive Slimline top mount base shoe. All of our baseshoe systems are dry glaze and can be installed on whatever material that you, or your construction professional sees fit. These railings will give the appearance of the glass coming seamlessly out of the floor and are a great look for residential or commercial railings or partitions.
Glass Stand Off Railing Systems
Glass stand offs are a beautiful choice for both interior railings as well as exterior railings. Stand off railing systems are very versatile and can be used in a number of combinations including stairs or even glass canopies. J.R.E Hardware stocks this product in a number of different projections and colours so your frameless glass railing is easily customisable. Standoff railing systems are typically mounted on the fascia of a deck or wall allowing the glass to stand clear, or “stand off” of the floor. This type of mounting gives the perspective of uninterrupted glass protruding past the floor and can be used with 8mm on 8mm SGP laminated glass for a completely frameless glass system. The same system can be more affordable as a topless glass railing system with only mall clamps between panels using 6mm on 6mm PVB laminated glass or alternatively, the standoffs can be used with a 12mm monolithic panel with a structural cap rail or handrail in front.
Glass Spigots or Mini Post Railing Systems
Spigot railing systems are a great option when it is possible to mount your railings on the surface of the floor or ground. These are essentially a mini post that will accommodate 12mm monolithic or 12mm laminated glass. This glass mounting hardware is most popular for pool fencing, windbreaks, sneeze guards, deck railings or interior railings. They are easy to install and there is no glass manufacturing necessary making installation a breeze.
No matter the look that you are going for J.R.E. Hardware Inc. has the components and knowledge around the topless glass industry that will enable you to complete your project successfully. Any of our systems will look great in residential or commercial construction or renovation projects. Contact us today to start your project off on the right foot!