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Balustrade regulations 101

Balustrade is formally defined as a vertical up stand which protects users of a building next to a void edge or on the side of a stair.
Cantilever treads in entrance hallway
Cantilever treads close-up
Cantilever treads photograph
In Australia, all balustrade is required to comply with the BCA and be strong enough to withstand exerted load forces. Balustrade may have a handrail over the top of the vertical up stand or be offset horizontally, held by some kind of fixing. 

The Building Code of Australia Parts 3.9.1 and 3.9.2, Volume 2 and Australian Standard 1170.1 are applicable to balustrade and are put in place to ensure building of balustrades that enables people to move safely around cavities and void areas, and to move between different levels of the building using stairs or ramps. 

Strictly speaking, when do you need a balustrade? Some kind of barrier must be provided alongside of any stair, any floor, corridor, balcony, veranda, mezzanine or path of access to a building if it is not bounded by a wall or any level more than 1 m above adjoining floor or finished ground level. It is important to note that the measurement of the height of the balustrade or barrier is from the finished floor surface. 

Many builders are not aware that the choice of floor finishing (which changes the finish floor height) can have an impact on the stair or balustrade design. Finishes such as ceramic tiles and even carpet can make a significant difference to the finished floor height, and therefore must be taken into account when designing balustrade. 

Thus, the height of the balustrade or barrier must be more than 1 metre above the floor of any access path, balcony, landing etc. This requirement is reduced to 865mm above the floor, in the case of a landing to a stair where the balustrade or other barrier is provided along the inside edge of the landing and is not more than 500mm long. 

Clearly there sometimes must be a transition zone where the balustrade height may change from >865mm on a stair flight to the >1000mm at the void edge balustrade or landing sections, and this is allowed for by the code. From 865mm on the stair flight or ramp to 1m at the landing.

Published on: 28-Sep-2010. Topic/s: Stair safety, compliance, and regulations