One of the ladies I used to work with owned a nice property on the water. It was a small apartment complex built by her parents which she inherited and managed on the behalf of her family. The only problem was that people weren't renting.
She tried everything, including cutting rents, until her spacious waterfront apartments were going for nearly the same price as income-assisted apartments on the bad side of town, and tenants still weren't renting. When I came by to pick something up the reason became clear. While the location was desirable and the individual units spacious, the exterior was in desperate need of an update. The soffit had holes in it, the siding was vinyl, and the beautiful views of the waterfront from the balconies were blocked by railings that looked like they had been salvaged from an oil platform. Given the location, glass railings for balconies would have definitely helped improve the view, and would go a long way toward making the property a desirable place to live.
Advantages of Glass Railing for Balconies
The most obvious advantage of glass railings is the visibility they offer. But there are other, less obvious advantages as well. The first of these is that since glass railings are still relatively uncommon, they make an apartment complex stand out with their upscale appearance. This is a real advantage for any apartment complex, but especially for a small, privately owned one. Other advantages of glass railings are:
- Wind blocking: Glass railings for balconies most often come in the form of full panels of glass that help block wind. Glass panels also provide a bit of the greenhouse effect, trapping warmth on the balcony. This is perfect for cooler climates, and especially for windy, sometimes chilly locations such as along the waterfront.
- Safety: A solid pane of glass with few spaces can keep even tiny dogs on a balcony, making it safer and more secure for pets than the typical railing. And with no balusters to stick heads or arms between and no real footholds to climb, a glass panel railing system can be safer for children as well.
- Low maintenance: Glass isn’t prone to corrosion, nor is it covered in layers of paint or other coatings that can be damaged. Railing systems like these that don’t need painting can save apartment complexes money. As long as the glass remains undamaged, glass railings just need to be cleaned now and then, and this type of railing isn’t as hard to keep clean as people tend to think.
On the whole, glass railings on balconies give an apartment complex a competitive edge in both appearance and livability. If an apartment complex happens to be in a desirable location, these advantages are magnified. However, glass railings do have some disadvantages-these have to do with installation.
Disadvantages of Glass Railings for Balconies
Glass railings are by their nature minimalist railings, and to enhance this minimalism, many glass railing systems try their best to remove every other material but the glass. While these types of systems are of course still engineered for safety and designed to meet code requirements, they have exacting, not to mention unforgiving, methods of installation. Usually, in these types of frameless glass railing systems, the glass panels are custom cut to size and are held in place by custom fasteners and multiple layers of rubber washers and bushings. The complexity of the installation significantly increases the labor involved to put these railings in place, increasing the cost of these systems. These costs in time and labor are significant enough to be sizeable drawbacks in both smaller apartment complexes, like the one my coworker owns, and in larger ones as well.
These very minimalistic glass railings have other issues as well. While expansive all-glass railings offer incredible views and are engineered to be safe, they may not always seem safe to tenants since they look delicate and lack top rails. The great views of a location will be wasted if the tenants never feel comfortable going out onto the balcony. However, there are systems out there that install more easily and have a sturdier appearance while still enhancing the view.
Glass Railings with Frames Are Easier to Install
The solution to the issues with glass railings is to use a system with a frame. These are much easier to install than other glass railings as the system works in the same way as regular railings. The easier installation makes these railings available to a much wider range of residential complexes. Instead of using clamps and other delicate and precise methods, some manufacturers are making glass systems in which the glass panel simply slides into a steel frame, combining the elegance and clarity of glass with the simplicity and sturdiness of metal. These systems work perfectly for privately-owned complexes like the one owned by my coworker, where the budget for renovations might not cover the hours needed to figure out fiddly anchoring systems or fasteners.
Some of these systems also provide more flexibility by offering a choice between full glass panels and glass balusters. For instance, complexes in cooler climates may want to use full glass panels to help block some of the wind during the winter months, especially if they're along a waterfront with a constant breeze. Apartments in warmer climates might want to choose a glass baluster system instead, to let that same sea breeze flow between the glass balusters and cool the balcony.
My coworker eventually worked out a budget for upgrading her complex and replacing the rusted-out railings with a new glass railing system, the first of many upgrades. She opted for glass railings with metal frames, which were easy enough to install that her brother, who had some construction experience, was able to help her put them in. Once the glass panels were in the frames, she immediately snapped some pictures of the sun going down over the water through them and put them in her online ad. While it's too soon to say if the new railings will be able to turn the apartment complex's fortunes around, it's a start.
As my friend learned, finding a railing system that's well-engineered and easy to install is crucial when it comes to saving time, money, and hassle. But it's just as important to choose a system that's high quality. Framed glass railing systems depend on the frame for their integrity, and skimping on coating and materials can leave the metal vulnerable to corrosion or damage.
That's why I usually recommend the Pure View glass railings by Fortress Railing. The steel or aluminum frames of the Pure View system are coated with multiple layers of corrosion-resistant coatings so they stay beautiful for years. Their steel frame, for example, is given an e-coating (the moisture-resistant coating used on cars for rust protection) and then a tough, UV-resistant powder coating as well. Tempered glass panels or balusters slide easily into these frames and create a look that fits your building and its climate. Contact Fortress to find out more about the glass railings available for your apartment complex or find an installer near you. For more stylish, thoughtfully-designed offerings, take a look at Fortress' other product lines.