Regulations for Balustrades in Australia
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) governs the construction of balustrades in Australia. Parts 3.9.1 and 3.9.2 along with Australian Standard 1170.1 covers the safety issues as regards human movement between different building levels with the help of ramps or stairs and also includes patios, verandas, balconies and terraces.
According to the BCA, it is essential to construct a continuous balustrade for any surface used by humans that is 1 meter above the ground and not bounded by a wall. A balustrade must be erected at the edge of an inclined or raised surface like a stairway, hallway, corridor, balcony, mezzanine, patio or veranda.
The balustrade height must be measured from the finished floor surface including the flooring tiles, carpet, etc. The balustrade so erected must be strong enough to withstand any amount of pressure exerted. It may also have a non slip handrail.
Height specifications for Balustrades according to BCA Regulations:
- The balustrade should be erected 1m above a finished floor surface. In case an open window exists on the pathway used by humans, the balustrade must be erected to a height of 4m.
- Balustrades on the inside edge of a landing to a stairway or ramp must be 865mm above the floor and such landing is not more than 500 mm long.
- A transition zone must be created where the balustrade height needs to be changed from 865mm to 1m from the stair flight to the landing.
Other balustrade specifications:
- The balustrade must be erected so as to prevent an adult or child from falling over or through it. Openings in the balustrade should not be more than 125mm, measured above the nosing line. In other words, the openings in the balustrade, if any, should prevent a child from crawling through them.
- The balustrade must be strong enough to withstand pressure exerted by an adult person leaning against it or sitting on it.
- AS 1170.1 specifies the loading forces a balustrade must withstand. The balustrade must be strong enough to withstand point load of 0.6kN as well as distributed load of 0.4kN applied on the handrail. The balustrade must be strong enough to take the impact of a person falling against it and not collapse under the weight of people leaning against it. Handrails must also comply with the same standards for point load and distributed load.
- AS 1604 states that the handrails, posts, balusters and newels be made of natural and durable timber of Class 1 or Class 2 category. Ironbark, spotted gum, blackbutt, Merbau, Jarrah or Kwila may be used. Any sapwood used must be treated to H3 standards to ensure that the strength of the timber is not reduced due to infection.
- AS 3566 specifies that metal connectors, bolts, nails, brackets and screws must be hot dipped galvanized or Class3 corrosion resistant. In coastal areas where there is an increased danger of rusting, stainless steel or other non-corrosive metal components may be used.
- Exterior grade wood fillers must be used to fill nail and bolt holes while preservative coating must be used on timber to timber joints along with a coat of Alkyloid primer. The timber portion of the balustrade should be finished with a minimum of two coats of exterior paint or wood stain.
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