I still have a lot of friends that make their livings as contractors and handymen. They’re all fairly skilled and do a good job. Sometimes, though, this is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Often the reward for a job well done is getting asked to do another job you’ve never done before and have little idea how to do. Adding glass railings to the home’s deck or porch is one of these things. It used to happen rarely but is becoming a more and more common request as these types of railings grow in popularity.
The issue is that every home is a little bit different, and the majority of glass railing systems are not friendly to modification. A glass panel with custom-drilled holes fitted with custom fasteners isn't the sort of thing you can trim by an eighth of an inch just to make it work in a tricky corner. While it's technically possible, the expense of having it done is prohibitive and bites deeply into a contractor's profit margin. One of these friends lamented to me that there were no glass railing kits for decks that were simple to install and friendly to modification. Imagine his surprise when I told him that there are and that some of these are not only modular and friendly to modification but also of very high quality.
Modular Railing Systems or Kits
There is a multitude of different types of railings, but modular railing systems, or kits, are relatively new. These are pre-engineered and pre-manufactured railing panels that arrive preassembled. Installing these railings is a simple matter of cutting the sections to the right length, mounting them to the posts, and fastening them into place. Contractors and experienced DIYers are probably familiar with steel and aluminum railings of this type, but they may not be familiar with the glass versions of these, which are fairly new and harder to find.
Although glass railings have been around for some time–with an early version patented in 1976– they didn’t become something people regularly used in and around their homes until about the mid-2000s. These were not modular systems at first; instead, they were essentially large panels of glass held together by as little in the way of fasteners as the designer could get away with.
The lack of a frame, custom fasteners, and exactingly cut glass panes made these railings expensive and unforgiving to install. It's this type of railing that springs to mind when people think of glass railings, and it's this type of railing that makes glass railings for decks such a dreaded request among contractors. An alternative way of building glass railings is to do away with the minimalist fasteners and use an actual frame to support the glass infill. The result is a modular glass railing system that is much more adjustable, sturdier-looking and feeling, and so easy to install that nearly anyone can do it. Since most glass railings require professional installation, these types of railings are really the only DIY glass railings available.
The Advantages of Glass Railing Kits for Decks
Adding a steel or aluminum frame for the glass panel to sit in makes all of the difference. It creates firmer support for the glass within and does away with the custom brackets, fasteners, and gaskets that make installing typical glass railings nerve-racking. It also opens up the option to use glass balusters instead of full panels, an option that can make installing glass staircase railings much easier. There also other advantages over the long haul that come from using one of these glass railing kits.
- Visibility: The clear line of sight through a glass railing is unmatched by other railings. The one thing that is potentially lacking is the visibility of the railing itself. People have been known to walk into glass dividers and doors in public buildings and in offices. Glass railings are no different, and a framed glass railing makes the barrier more apparent.
- Assurance: The simple, intuitive design of a framed glass railing means that it isn’t difficult to install correctly. Frameless glass, on the other hand, requires specialized brackets and fasteners, with specialized bushings and padding to keep fasteners from damaging the glass infill while it holds it in place. This fussiness increases the chances of incorrect installation. Glass railings with a frame are far more forgiving and adapt to a wider range of circumstances without compromising the safety of the railing.
- Future-proofing: The codes governing glass railings are changing, and as of 2018, glass railings with single layers of glass will require a top handrail. This increases the expense involved in building a completely frameless glass railing (since they will need to use two layers of glass instead of one if they wish to avoid adding a top rail), and it will put some older glass railings out of compliance. A framed glass railing kit is more likely to remain within code as codes evolve.
In general, glass railing kits with frames are going to be more robust than their frameless brethren while also being quicker and easier to install for contractors and DIYers alike. That is, as long as you invest in a high-quality glass railing kit.
Not all glass railing kits offer a quality product, and quality is important when a railing needs to stand up to the forces of nature. Metal frames provide extra support and strength to glass railings, but not if they're made from thinner gauges of metal. Home improvement manufacturers are also known for being flexible with their measurements-rounding a smaller piece up to the next fraction of the inch, for instance. That can play havoc with the plans of a contractor or a DIYer who is new to glass railings. Even when the metal is true to its given dimensions, corrosion can weaken steel frames and can ruin the appearance of aluminum ones. It's important to look for quality glass railing kits that are true to size, use thick, sturdy metal frames, and protect those metal frames using multiple corrosion-resistant coatings. Another feature that makes a glass railing kit worth the investment is a drop-in design that allows the glass panels to slide easily into the frame.
The Pure View glass railing system from Fortress Railing is a glass railing kit for decks or porches that makes things easy on installers. It’s available with sturdy, powder-coated steel or aluminum frames with a unique multi-layer coating and features drop-in glass panels or balusters. It’s suitable for use by a contractor or a DIYer and comes with a 15-year warranty. To find out more about Fortress’ Pure View railings or other railing products, contact Fortress or find a dealer near you. To see more tough and stylish Fortress products, take a look at the Fortress Building Products site.