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What is a Balustrade, and Handrail?

What is a Balustrade, and Handrail

You’ve seen railings on balconies before, and you’ve seen rails on stairs. Think they’re the same? Think again! A balcony with a railing is commonly referred to as this, and while it can protect occupants, it’s primarily there to look good. On the other hand, a railing on a flight of stairs is a handrail designed to keep people safe by helping them keep their balance.

If you need to know the difference between these two structures, some buildings have them while others have handrails. You’ll be better able to move out and about in Australia if you know more about them, understand the difference between each better, and know where to find each one,

Australian law requires surfaces at least 4 meters above ground level to have a balustrade attached. 

What is a Balustrade?

If you’ve ever been on a balcony with a railing, you’ve seen at it. They are fancy rails. They’re unique, and you can find them on the exterior and inside buildings.

The Anatomy of a Balustrade

All have four components:

  • A top rail
  • Balusters – these spindles connect the bottom rail to the top one.
  • The wooden infrastructure to support the railing system
  • A bottom rail that generally has fancy decorations (post caps and finials, among other things!)

How You Make a Balustrade

It’s easy to make it. You need the following materials, which you can find at any handyperson shop or hardware store in Australia:

  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Cast stone
  • Concrete
  • G.F.R.C.
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Stone
  • Composite
  • Fiberglass
  • Man-made stone
  • High-density Polyurethane

Note that you will need more materials than the ones on this list. You can make it from any organic or inorganic material that won’t decompose rapidly when exposed to the elements.

You’ll appreciate if you are a parent of young kids or if you take care of little ones. They can prevent people from unknowingly falling to an unpleasant and untimely death. They have also been known to keep people from sustaining serious injuries in accidents. 

You don’t have to hire a handyperson to build it. All you need is a few materials to build the structure. Then, follow these simple instructions to build a sound balustrade quickly.

Building Materials

  • 1210 inches long by 88 inches wide by 88 millimeters high primed and treated pine. Use two boards.
  • A house post made from treated pine is about 960 inches long by 88 inches wide by 88 millimeters high.
  • A treated pine wood stair post that’s 1,600 inches long by 90 inches wide by 90 millimeters high. Make sure it’s H4-grade wood.
  • A handrail. It should be 138 inches long by 42 millimeters wide. For best results, use treated pine wood.
  • Make sure to use treated pine wood for the side rails. They should be 138 inches long by 42 millimeters high.
  • You want to use high-quality bricks. Each brick should be 300 millimeters long by 300 millimeters high.

You’ll need the following equipment to build a balustrade:

  • A heavy-duty pressure washer
  • A thick pencil
  • An angle grinder. It must have a blade that can cut through concrete.
  • A drill
  • An electric saw (ones that construction workers use)
  • A 25mm spade bit
  • A 12mm wood bit
  • A 12 mm masonry bit
  • M12 by 50 mm Anka screws. Plan on using two of these for each post.
  • A socket spanner
  • A post-hole digger
  • A spirit level
  • A straight edge
  • two bags of instant concrete
  • Lots of 100 mm galvanized wood screws
  • PVA glue for the outside
  • Selleys Plastic-bond filler
  • Undercoat
  • Dulux Weather shield Semi-Gloss
  • A wheelbarrow
  • Brickie’s sand
  • Regular cement
  • A trowel (for spreading the cement)
  • A shovel
  • A rubber mallet

Constructing the Balustrade

The first thing you want to do is pressure wash your stairs. You’ll clean all debris, moss, and other external organic materials when you do so. This step is very important since the concrete won’t set right if the surface of your stairs isn’t completely clean.

The second step is to mark the places on the concrete where you will put the posts with an industrial-strength pencil. You can only build correctly if at least one post rests against your house’s exterior wall. You’ll also need a post at the corners of your steps and the top and bottom of your railing. Your balustrade will fall apart if you don’t position the posts in these places.

 Note: You’ll need even more posts if you build an extra-long balustrade.

The third step is to cut the posts at an angle. It’s the only way to attach the posts to the bricks firmly. The posts may become detached from the bricks, resulting in disastrous consequences if you skip this step. You’ll need to use your angle grinder. Attach the blade that can cut through concrete to it. Then notch the concrete steps. You’ll insert your posts in these notches. But first, you need to flush the ends of each notch with the bricks. That will ensure the bricks stay in place when you put the posts through them.

The fourth step is to cut one landing post to the exact length of your stairs. Hint: 

You’ll have an easier time doing that if you soften the post’s edge by cutting the outside corner off of the bottom of the post. Then, you want to measure the places where you’ll insert the Anka Screws. Use the pencil to mark those measurements so that you’re not left doing educated guessing when it’s time to secure the screws.

You want to measure and mark the screw placements so that one screw fastens the post to the concrete surface and the other fastens the post to the middle of the supporting brick. You’ll want to fasten the 25mm spade drill bit on the end of the drill and drill away. Make sure to drill small holes approximately 15mm deep in the marked areas. Finally, use a 12mm drill bit. You’ll need that to continue drilling into the post. For best results and stable and fully supported posts, drill through the entire post length.

The fifth step is to position the post in the appropriate hole (which you just drilled through the concrete) and deepen the hole using a 12mm masonry bit. Next, you’ll want to put the Anka Screw in that hole and use a socket spanner to fasten it. You’ll want to make the post plumb to the ground. The best way to do that is to use the spirit level. You’ll want to drill another hole deeper into the brick. That will help you stabilize the screws even more by deepening the hole that holds it in place. 

You’ll want to repeat the steps mentioned in this and the previous step when fastening the other post in place. 

The sixth step is to measure the places where you’ll insert the Anka Screws in the post attached to your house. You’ll want to mark those areas with a pencil. The objective is to secure the screws firmly into place at the top and bottom of each post. This time, you’ll have to drill holes into the wall to attach the posts to the side of your house. Repeat the steps that you did for each landing post. Remember to make the house post-plumb with the spirit level.

The seventh step is to cut the stair post to extend from the house post by at least 50 mm. You’ll need to go to the bottom step and dig a 300 mm wide and 500 mm deep hole using a post-hole digger. Then, use a plumb line to position the bottom post in place. You’ll want to bolt it to the bottom step after you do that.

The eighth step is to go to your top step and make a mark in the middle of the post on that step. For best results, use a straightedge on one side of the post. You’ll find that you’ll be better able to mark your measurements more accurately by doing so. You’ll want to position the straightedge to be completely parallel to the steps. Then, make the mark by making a mark on the straight edge of the post.

You’ll want to unfasten the posts and cut them along these lines. Then position the post into place. Note that you’ll need to fill the post hole up to the halfway mark with water and pour the concrete in. You must mix the water and concrete firmly before putting your post in the mixture.

The ninth step is to cut the handrails so they’re exactly as long as the steps. There’s a formula to follow to do that right. First, you drill holes in the rails. Then fix the rails to the posts with the two 100 mm galvanized screws. You’ll need to join the rails at the corner using a mitre. Secure that in place with strong screws. 

Next, go to the area where the horizontal and sloping handrails intersect. You’ll need to cut the angle where they join by 2. Then cut the handrail according to the measurements and dimensions of the bisected angle. Finally, use PVA glue to join the two handrails together. 

The tenth step is to screw the first row of the side rails to the posts. Make sure you’re about 88 mm up from the bottom of the landing when you do that. Follow the same steps and procedures that you did to connect the sloping and horizontal handrails. Make sure to cut them so that they connect perfectly and cleanly. 

You’ll want the side rail to attach to the front of the post perfectly. Do the same for each of the remaining rails. Make sure to space them by approximately 82 mm.

The eleventh step is to use Selley’s Plastic-Bond filler. You’ll need that to fill the screw holes so they’re level with each post. You’ll want to wait a few hours for the filler to set and then smooth the edges. You’ll want to make that glossy by painting them with an undercoat. Let that set for a few hours, then apply two coats of a Semi-Gloss.

Now, it’s time to pave the steps. Do the following to do that:

The twelfth step is to excavate the area where you will build the step. You’ll need to level the area after excavating it. Make sure that the ground is at least 110 mm high. You’ll need to add the paver level to that base height. 

The thirteenth step is to mix four parts of Brickie’s sand with one part of cement. Do that in the wheelbarrow. That is the mortar. Add enough water so the mixture is wet but doesn’t have a doughy consistency.

The fourteenth step is to lay the pavers on the ground approximately 290 feet in front of the area where the bottom-most step rises. You’ll need a trowel to spread and level the mortar to make a uniform and smooth surface. You’ll want to cement the bricks in place by pressing each one firmly down into the mortar so that they touch the surface of the pavers. 

Ensure that each brick’s top is approximately 10 mm higher than the height of the last step.

The fifteenth step is to put mortar on the short edge of the next brick and lay it against the brick you just laid down. Do that for every brick that you lay down. The last brick should rest about 10 mm from the edge of the pavers. You’ll need to use the rubber mallet and the spirit level to securely pound them in place to have a completely even surface.

The sixteenth step is to place even more mortar behind the bricks. You’ll want to lay subsequent bricks where you spread the mortar. Crudely stuff the gaps with mortar. Wait until the mortar sets.

The seventeenth step is to mix up another batch of mortar. You’ll want to mix up enough to make an even 10 mm layer which you’ll lay on top of the first level of bricks. Place the pavers over the first layer of bricks so that they hang 10 mm over the edge of them (bricks.) Then, level and secure the pavers in place with the rubber mallet. Wait for the mortar and pavers to set. You have just built an outdoor balustrade.

What is a Handrail?

It primarily looks nice and keeps people from accidentally, though rarely, falling over. A handrail, on the other hand, is designed to help support people and help them keep their balance as they travel up and down a steep flight of stairs or a steep and uneven surface. 

According to Australia’s Building Code, they must be at least 865 mm long. That includes from the beginning of the stair’s nosing to the end of the floor’s surface. An interior or exterior flight of stairs must have a handrail on at least one side. The only items that can interrupt the rail are a newel post or a ball-type stanchion.

Also, buildings with steep or uneven surfaces must have handrails. They must be no more than 50 mm from the wall’s surface. People will have a hard time grabbing onto them otherwise. 

Class-9a of the Building code requires these to be built for all types of health clinics, hospitals, and other buildings that sick people may frequent. 

The same applies to the exterior or interior of any building that older people may be around. All must be attached to a supporting structure. They must also comply with AS1428 1-2009. 

They help people balance so they don’t fall, trip, or slip on stairs nearly as much. They’re designed in such a way as to provide the users to form a power grip. That grip anchors them in place and helps them safely get from point A to point B. Reuters noted that these tend to have a universal and ergonomic design. 

That’s important since people can grip the rails using their whole hand. That gives them much more support and stability in areas where they could lose their balance. Most people hurt suffer from sprained and strained body parts. Those tend to heal quickly.

However, some people were not so fortunate. They tended to endure serious fractures and concussions when they got hurt on the stairs. Some of those injuries had life-long implications. 

A handrail is attached to a wall and extends from a staircase. It’s often a rail supported by bars. There are two types of handrails: those that provide protection and those designed primarily to look nice. Though the latter category also provides a great deal of stability and support.

Types of Handrails

Not surprisingly, there are many different types that you’ll find in buildings. It’s time to describe them in more detail.

Grip Types

These are functional since they provide support and stability when climbing stairs. 

Pinch Grip

It’s the first type of grip handrail. The user grips the handrail by pinching the finger and thumb together, which makes for a mediocre grip. The latest studies back that claim. The user forms a grip that only has a quarter of the strength as the regular hand grip formed by using other handrails. 

The grip type is great for minuscule tasks that require a precise grip. However, it may be better when climbing up a steep flight of stairs, especially for older people.

Not surprisingly, you’ll find that decorative railings on smaller, shallower flights of stairs have this type of grip. It may help people balance themselves better when walking up these stairs, but it’s useless in preventing falls – which is the ultimate goal of any handrail.

Power Grip

A railing with a power grip allows the user to form a grip that’s 250% stronger than the one that a pinch grip handrail forms. That’s vital when a person, especially an older person, has to climb up a flight of steeper stairs. This type of handrail could well save the person’s life or at least prevent them from being seriously injured or permanently disabled from a bad slip or fall. 

Incidentally, cylindrical handrails, with a diameter ranging from 1.25 to 2 inches, provide the best power grip. These are also great for ramps that people in wheelchairs or who use walking aids use. 

The Difference between a Functional and a Decorative Handrail

All functional handrails conform to the American Disability Association (ADA) guidelines. That’s not necessarily the case for decorative handrails. Circular functional handrails have a diameter of between 1.25 to 2 inches. Noncircular functional handrails have a diameter not to exceed 2.25 inches. 

The perimeter for any functional handrail must range between 4 and 6.25 inches. You can find functional handrails in public buildings. Decorative handrails, on the other hand, are only allowed in private residential buildings. 

Handrails and Balustrades Are Different

If you thought that handrails were just a fancy name for it, you need to be corrected. Now that you know the difference between the two support systems, you can plan your trips and outings better because you’ll have a better idea of the type of support you’ll have access to. 

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