One of my oldest friends is married to a woman who has an endless rivalry with her sister. The battle between them has gone on for so long that my friend suspects that the reason he has a son is that his sister-in-law happened to get pregnant with her daughter. Whatever the motive, his wife very swiftly became a mother after her niece was born, and a doting one. The two cousins are growing up more like siblings, with frequent playdates, but recently one of these went very awry when my friend’s young son ended up with his head stuck between the balusters of the deck’s railing.
This prompted my friend to pry the balusters apart with a crowbar, ruining the railing. This is just as well, as these were older railings with large gaps that exceeded the four-inch maximum space between balusters allowed by building codes. My friends then began a search for a new deck railing with closely-spaced balusters, preferably a stylish modern one so my friend’s wife can one-up her sister. I suggested that they consider glass railings, as glass railings for decks don’t have balusters for limbs or heads to get stuck between, and they tend to give a deck an upscale look. My friend’s wife is somewhat familiar with them from the minimalist balcony railings on one of her friend’s apartments and from the local art museum, but didn’t know much about the options for glass railings, so I told her about a few of the benefits and features of glass railings, particularly those which support the glass using steel or aluminum frames. Here are a few of the points I made:
1. Glass Railings for Decks Are Safe
As parents, my friends weren’t immediately convinced to go with glass railing. Glass has a reputation for being fragile and dangerous when it’s broken. In the past, this was a fair reputation. However, rules have been changed, mandating specific safety criteria be met for glass used in architecture and in railings, and technology has made many concerns about glass moot.
For example, the glass used in railings is tempered glass, which is just glass that has been through a heat treatment process to strengthen it. During tempering, a sheet of glass is passed through an oven where it is heated up to about 1,148 degrees Fahrenheit and then the surface is quickly cooled by air jets. The center cools much more slowly than the surface, and as it pulls back from the cooled surface it places the entire sheet under two types of forces. The center of the glass is under tension trying to pull the surface inward, while the surface is compressed. The compressed surface gives tempered glass greater strength. Federal specifications demand that tempered glass hold up to at least 10,000 pounds of pressure per square inch before breaking in order to be called tempered glass. This easily meets deck railing codes. The strength of tempered glass is why Apple employees are receiving bruises instead of stitches when they accidentally walk into the glass walls of their headquarters.
2. Glass Railings Are Easy to Install
Another important feature for my friends was ease of installation. When I mentioned glass railings, my friend’s wife immediately thought of these frameless, ultra-minimalist glass railings found in places like art museums, malls, and hotels. Glass railings like this that are entirely made of glass require custom brackets and fasteners as well as specially designed bushings that go around both. This means that these kinds of railings usually require a careful, fussy, professional installation. It’s also common to run into problems with the bushings that cushion the glass. Improperly installed bushings lead to glass rattling in its frame, which leads to the possibility of breakage.
Framed glass railings, in comparison, are intuitive to install–if they’re well-designed, quality railings–making them perfect for someone like my friend, who planned to save money on installation by doing it himself. Some railing manufacturers make glass railings that use frames that install in the same way a regular railing does, with glass panels that simply slide into the frame. In this type of system, the glass panes are supported across their full width by the frame, keeping movement of the glass to a minimum. These also provide greater structural support for the glass in all directions, and allow people to lean against the railings without leaning against the actual glass, which to many people is both more comfortable and feels more secure. The metal frame also shields the glass panels from falling objects such as limbs or debris, which is an important consideration in an outdoor area like a deck.
3. Glass Railings Are Flexible and Stylish
One concern for homeowners interested in glass railings is the style of the railings. Glass railings are associated with the sort of ultra-minimalist modern style that the Apple Store is now a byword for. However, while glass railings are certainly a good fit for the minimalist style, they also go surprisingly well with other styles of homes, as they’re able to take a backseat to the deck itself and the items on it. This is especially true of glass railings with frames, which nicely combine the traditional and modern styles.
A framed glass railing system also offers more flexibility by creating the option of using glass balusters instead of full panels. This is an especially practical option for homes in warm climates where a cross breeze on the deck is important to keep the space livable and pleasant. Those in cold climates, on the other hand, might prefer solid panes to provide a deck railing windbreak on cool autumn days.
Further increasing their flexibility and versatility, a steel or aluminum glass railing frame can also be customized with a variety of finishes in a variety of colors to better tie it to the home it’s attached to. All of these features make framed glass railings a stylish and safe option, the sort of thing my friend’s wife’s sister would envy–which is part of what got her thinking seriously about it.
When looking at glass railings for decks, though, it’s important to choose a quality system. A carefully engineered and high-quality glass railing system will ensure your family’ safety and will last for years without showing its age or becoming unsafe. The Pure View framed glass railing from Fortress Railing offers enduring quality and enduring style with frames that are given a multi-layer UV- and rust-resistant coating. Contact Fortress Railing to find out more about Pure View railings or other deck and porch railings, or check out Fortress Building Products’ other lines of stylish outdoor systems such as fencing and decking.