Many people are not aware that diagonal-style balusters can be highly impractical for safety in some cases. Balcony railings provide protection for people who spend time or live in high-rise buildings.
Guardrails are also a nice way to protect your balcony, deck or patio from unwanted intruders, but they can also be an important design element in your home. They can be used on straight or curved balcony types, as long as they are symmetrical on the railing.
But how do you know if sloped or angled balusters are best for you?
Railings with diagonal balusters are acceptable. The balusters can be angled in the direction you actually want them to go. However, this should be within the limits of the International Residential Code standards, which require a 4-inch spacing between spindles. This is to prevent a small child from fitting under the railing and falling or getting stuck.
Related: How to Block Balcony Gaps: 8 Ideas
Read on to learn more about diagonal balusters and the best materials for balcony guardrails.
What is a baluster on a guardrail?
A baluster is simply defined as the vertical elements of a handrail, typically formed into an elongated shaft.
This elongated shaft is called a baluster stem and is fitted with a cap nut at each end.
The spindle may be made of round, rectangular or square sections and may be up to 1″ thick, with openings of 4″.
The ends of the spindles are connected by tie rods so that they can be supported on the balustrade.
A balustrade, on the other hand, can also be called a brace, strutting or railing.
It is made of wood or metal and is composed of a series of vertical elements.
They are often used on mezzanines, rooftops and balconies.
Stylistic variations can also be found in the form of pinnacles, dentils and projecting capitals.
One of the oldest railings was invented by Giuliano da Sangallo, an Italian architect and sculptor who lived in Italy in the mid-15th century.
How much space should be between balusters?
Balusters add balance and strength to a railing.
They not only provide support, but also prevent accidents.
Therefore, it is important to consider the distance between balusters.
The spacing between balusters is required by the International Residential Code (IRC). A standard spacing between railing posts is 4 inches.
Wide openings in railings mean your children and pets are at a higher risk of falling through.
Related: Child Safety Balcony Railings Guide
Glass railing systems are the only exception where up to 6″ spacing is allowed between the glass panel and the top railing.
Can balcony guardrails have diagonal balusters?
The design for balcony railings with diagonal balusters can be square, octagonal or beveled.
While the aesthetic aspect of balcony guardrails with diagonal balusters may be practical, the space between the balusters should not violate International Residential Code (IRC) regulations.
Balcony railings should not exceed the 4-inch spacing between diagonal balusters to avoid direct fall hazards.
In this configuration, the balusters must terminate or cross at this point and not be continuous from the top to the bottom railing or run the entire length of the balcony.
Disabled or wounded family members may use a railing system that also meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What are the parts of a guardrail?
As you may already know, a guardrail consists of two or more vertical, horizontal, diagonal supports and horizontal rails, rods or bars.
Guards or rails are usually used to support people sitting or standing and prevent them from falling.
They can be made of a variety of materials including wood, metal, or plastic.
A railing consists of a number of parts.
Here are some of them:
- Top rail / handrail
- Balusters / rods
- Post / newel post / stanchion
The best types of balcony guardrails for your home
Balconies are very fall-prone areas.
To solve this problem, many people install railings on their balconies.
Although there are many different types of balcony railings on the market today, each type has advantages and disadvantages.
You need to choose the type that best fits your needs and budget.
There are five main types of balcony guardrails, which are differentiated by their material:
1. Aluminum railings
Aluminum railings are installed on the balconies of many older homes because they are durable, easy to install and available everywhere.
A twist-lock bracket system makes it easy to attach aluminum decorative cables and rods to the house and balcony posts.
If you want to replace an aluminum railing with another type, you will need to drill out and remove the brackets or they will overlap the new railing and cause stability and strength issues.
Stainless steel is another common material for guardrails that can be polished to look like chrome or nickel.
2. Wooden railings
Wooden railings are visually appealing.
They also have a warm, cozy feel that cannot be achieved with other materials.
The wood can be stained to match your home, the colors of your balcony floor, or it can be left pristine and natural.
If you choose a wood railing for your home, the only drawback is the short life span of wood, which is only about 20 years if installed correctly.
Also, the wood can warp, crack or splinter if not properly cared for.
3. Glass railings
Glass railings are also very stable and are not discolored by sunlight.
Tempered glass and acrylic/plexiglass railings are some of the examples.
Since they are transparent, these types of railings are perfect for enjoying an unobstructed view of your yard or the city skyline.
Homes with light colors or open floor plans lend themselves well to glass railings because they allow light to pass through.
Although they can cushion the blow of an accidental fall, they are also breakable on high impact and will need to be replaced if they lose their integrity or attractive appearance.
Another disadvantage of glass railings is that they are not a good choice for areas where there is inclement weather, as the glass can become stained by water and dirt.
However, the glass can be cleaned with mild soap and water, but you should not use harsh chemicals to remove stubborn stains.
4. Concrete railings
Concrete railings are a great choice for homeowners who want to create a custom look.
The concrete can be smoothed, troweled and molded into a variety of distinct patterns or DIY railings, just like metal.
It is also very strong and will last for many years without losing its structural integrity.
Concrete railings are also very low maintenance; they do not need to be sealed or touched up to maintain their appearance.
However, it can be quite heavy, especially if it is dense or looks like stone.
It’s also difficult to repair, which means you’ll need to replace the railing if it becomes damaged beyond its structural integrity.
5. PVC and vinyl railings
PVC and vinyl railings are lightweight and do not deform when exposed to sunlight or rain.
They also tend to look fairly new.
To maintain the appearance of a PVC railing, it may not be necessary to seal or repaint it.
However, vinyl and PVC railings may need to be cleaned periodically to prevent them from becoming stained by dirt or mold, especially if there is evidence of water leaks or condensation in the area.
Check the guidelines before installing balcony guardrails with diagonal balusters!
It is always important to think about safety when you are on your balcony. That is why we recommend the right balcony railing for your home.
When choosing a guardrail and balustrade configuration for your home, it can be confusing to find the best railing to suit your needs; after all, you want to make sure there are no accidents on such an important fixture of your home.
So how do you know which one is the best for you?
The first step is to consider the size of your balcony and any additional features that may be required for a railing.
Your budget and the price of the railing material are two other factors to consider, as well as how easy the railing will be to install and maintain.
Of course, the local building codes will be taken into account especially when it comes to diagonal balusters.
Always adhere to the minimum allowable height of 36 inches above the floor of the balcony, as well as the maximum 4-inch spacing between balusters according to the IRC.