• Wednesday, January 06th, 2010

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What are the legal height requirements for railings?

We get this question a lot. What is the height for Building regs for the balustrade? Or similar. In the United Kingdom this question is answered in BS6180:1999 Barriers in and about buildings:

glass balustrade and stairs railingInternal balustrades and stairs railing height

For internal balustrades or railings that are used in a single family home on landings or other areas but these balustrades must be INTERNAL, then the height required is 0.9 meters (900mm) from where you can stand on to the top of the handrail. For stairs this is the same in this area as well.

Terrace Glass BalustradeExterior balconies, roofs or terraces balustrades height

For exterior balconies, roofs or terraced areas the required height is 1.1 meters (1100mm) from where you can stand on to the top of the handrail.

Please feel free to ask any questions.

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56 responses to “Legal height requirements for railings”

  1. Ross says:

    We purchased a property with a roof terrace in 2010, the original planning (2008) stated a railing was required within the terrace – 900mm from the edge of the existing wall/railing – this was only 850/900mm high. This however hadn’t been added (it had been to other flats in the building).
    We planned to develop the roof terrace so agreed with the seller not to install the railings. We are now planning on selling the property, however we never developed the terrace and there still isn’t a higher railing.

    I’m not sure if we need to add the railing as the terrace has been used as it is without one for 10 years. This may be planning versus safety regulations? Any help welcome.
    Thanks

    • Balconette says:

      The height requirement for an external fixed balustrade/railing per current building regulations is a minimum of 1100 mm from datum. Datum is defined as “any level surface used as a reference in measuring elevations.” It is usually the point on which one stands. If earlier approval was given for an external 900mm height railing, this does not meet current regulations. Local planning may stipulate that a balustrade/railing is required for your roof terrace prior to the sale of the property as safety may be the overriding factor especially if it’s a common use area. But each case may well be viewed on an individual basis so we recommend that you consult local planning in your area.

  2. Graham says:

    Hi, I’ve got Juliet doors that open onto a GRP flat roof. We’re having a Juliet balcony fitted across the doors to comply with our planning permission.

    The base of the Juliet windows aren’t at the same level as the internal floor or the external flat roof. The Juliet windows are raised up by about 2 courses of brickwork to give the GRP the 150mm rise it needs from the flat roof to the base of the window. This means that we have a windowsill that’s approx 150mm higher than the internal floor level and is just short of the depth of 2 courses plus the insulation. It’s certainly deep enough to stand on.

    Under these circumstances, does the 1.1m height have to be measured from the floor/roof level or the windowsill level?

    • Balconette says:

      The Juliet should be installed from the correct datum point. Datum is defined as “any level surface used as a reference in measuring elevations.” It is usually the point on which one stands. In this case if the windowsill is deep enough to stand on then this would be the datum point. In all cases safety should be the overriding factor with the Juliet installation being made safe for purpose.

  3. Chris says:

    For internal handrails, if they’re currently 770mm and were installed sometime ago (assuming they met building regs at that time) do you have to change the handrails to a minimum of 900mm? It’s been pointed out by a client on a communal staircase in a commercial building.

    • Balconette says:

      In a communal area and especially with regards to commercial buildings, local building control may request that the handrail height is changed to comply with current regulations for internal handrails – a minimum of 900mm.

  4. Chris Ellis says:

    Hi. Is there a standard height the bottom of the glass should be from the floor?. Had fitted recently and most are 5sm but on the steps the glass is shaped and is 13 cm from the slabs. Fitter is saying there is no industry standard for the height between floor and bottom edge of the glass????

    • Balconette says:

      Hi. Per UK Building regulations and specifically for a building or area that may be used by children under the age of 5, the height from floor to the bottom of the glass should not exceed 100mm. The same applies to spaces between glass panels on the vertical or any openings in the guarding – no more than 100mm is the requirement. So a 130mm gap, floor to glass, would be excessive and does not align with UK building regulations for balustrades.

  5. Niki says:

    What is the height requirements for a fixed balustrade system 18 stories high common use area. 1.5m from edge. But there are planters being installed at 1.2 high which would leave only 600mm so could easily be jumped over etc??
    Having a row with site as I’ve said it should be from finished roof height not the concrete??
    Please help..
    Thanks..

    • Balconette says:

      The height requirement for an external fixed balustrade per current building regulations is a minimum of 1.1 metres from datum. Datum is defined as “any level surface used as a reference in measuring elevations.” It is usually the point on which one stands. If the planters are, for example, fixed concrete planters that you can stand on, then it could be argued that this is the datum point. In all cases safety should be the overriding factor, especially within a common use area. Each case should therefore be viewed on an individual basis in terms of making it safe for purpose.

  6. Neil Cripwell says:

    We have 3 glazed balconies at one of our residential care home for the elderly, all with a height of 1.5m. Are we ok with these or would we need to extend?

    • Balconette says:

      We would think that 1.5m is enough, a specific risk assessment would need to be done if you have patients you may consider a risk of climbing the balcony rails for any purpose, BS6180: 2011 under 5.3 Hazard reduction at the end there is a comment “Where a higher standard of safety is thought necessary, consideration should be given to the requirements of BS EN 1930.”
      For normal uses of balustrades and rail the minimum height is set to 1100mm (1.1m above the floor).

  7. Paul Sutherland says:

    I have fitted railings around a light well (12ft drop) too the height of 1100mm from where you stand, too the top bar. In addition to this there are arrowheads on top – is it legal to drop it down too 1100mm too top of the arrowheads?

    • Balconette says:

      As long as the gaps between the arrowheads do not exceed 100mm at any point then 1100mm to top of arrowheads should suffice.

  8. jo says:

    Can you please advise if there is exact regulation on the use of horizontal bars on low 650mm concrete stub for balconies ? Thank you

    • Balconette says:

      Good question, horizontal bars, if they can be climbed on, will make your balustrades, rails or guarding non-compliant. If you want the horizontal bars as a feature you can also consider having a glass panel in front of them in such a way that a user cannot climb on the bars.

  9. John Da Prato says:

    Hi,

    I have just bought a flat in London that was built in 1988. It has a balcony and the handrail height is 1000mm. This worries me as it’s on the 4th floor and I have two small children. Was this the correct height regarding building regs for 1988 ? If so can anyone tell me when it was changed to the required 1100mm ?

    Thanks

    • Balconette says:

      We take it you are referring to an external Balcony and not an internal one.
      We don’t know the exact building regs height requirement in 1988 and not sure when it changed exactly to 1100mm. It was for certain 1100mm in 1999.
      In any case It is now below the regulation height and in particular as you have small children and as you have identified or feel it is a potential hazard you should act to make it safe and a minimum height of 1100mm

  10. John Johnstone says:

    Hi our 150 year old church has an upper gallery for partitioners the rail is 700mm from floor how high does it have to be to be fully compliant

    • Balconette says:

      In general the height must be 1.1m (1100mm) from the floor. There is some provision for areas with fixed seating however these still state 800m and in specific instances can be 750mm. you can see more information, including an excerpt from the BS6180:2011 table with the height definitions in our FAQs page: https://www.balconette.co.uk/glass-balustrade/faqs Under the question:
      What height should a Balustrade or Balcony railings be?

  11. Jonathan Fishley says:

    Can the council stop a exchange because of the banister not being the proper height considering that when we got the property the banister was the same height as it is now. Now it’s said to be unsafe??

    • Balconette says:

      We are not experts in this area of building control and council sign off/planning. We suspect that the council and building control have the authority to not provide a completion certificate for building works if they haven’t been signed off. Having a safe balcony or balustrade should be a consideration in a purchasers mind. If you upgraded to a glass balustrade you are likely to improve and increase the value of your home, so its usually both worthwhile and also paves the road to less resistance from all parties.

  12. Jeremy says:

    Hi I’m installing a deck on a flat roof 2.8 metres high customer has ask for Steel cable balustrade do you know the spec distance between each cable is thanks

    • Balconette says:

      We don’t consider horizontal cables as a compliant balustrade system because of the fact that they are able to be climbed.

      Therefore we do not deal with this type of railing.

  13. Panos says:

    I would like to ask you is it legal if the height of the handrail from the floor of an outside balcony is 106 or 107,5cm. A company made new flooring and now the new height is less then the 110 and they are telling me that is fine.

    • Balconette says:

      The relevant standard is BS6180 which states that minimum barrier (balustrade) height for an external balcony is 1100mm. So that would be the MINIMUM required and any less would not be compliant unfortunately.

  14. Roger Bryan says:

    Hi
    I am responsible for the maintenance of a building converted into flats in 1998. A lady has complained that the top of her balcony is 93cms from the floor and 83 from her decking.
    She says this is not acceptable under Building Regs.

    Am I correct that Building Regs are not retrospective and the wall must comply with Regs in 1998?

    Not that I know what they said.

    Thanks

    • Balconette says:

      Hi,

      Current regulations require the balustrade height to be 1100mm (1.10m) from the finished floor level one can stand on, so the decking in your case.

      I don’t know what the regulations stated in 1998 and whether you are legally obliged and your building needs to meet current building regulations or if it is OK to remain as is must be checked with your local authority but I would say that 83cm is very low and there is a duty of care to ensure the building is safe.

      Now that the subject has been raised I would propose you look at this in further detail and the possibility of upgrading the guarding or balustrades on the flats to ensure they are safe for users.

      Upgrading the balconies to glass, can make them safer, meet current regulations plus add value to the flats

  15. Shaun Robertshaw says:

    I have a 3x4m terrace area at a height of 2.5 metres . If I put railings around this do i have to make an exit route ie gate . It’s a flat roof on an extension
    Thanks

    • Balconette says:

      Any drop that is larger than 600mm requires a balustrade or railing to guard it. You must ensure that any guarding, posts, glass or balustrade ensure full protection up to a minimum of 1100mm above floor level where a person can stand.

  16. Richie says:

    hi Im installing a railings at the back side of a house with a steep elevation is it acceptable if the height of my post is 1100mm?

    • Balconette says:

      We do not have a solution for this as our handrails are quite thin and will not add more than 20mm to the overall height, which will not be enough. Also we do not know of an existing handrail that will give to 80mm over the glass. Our best suggestion will be to get one made bespoke from timber.

  17. Russell says:

    I have a 10m long 15mm toughened glass balcony that is on 1020mm high. Is there a toprail that would get me to the minimum 1100mm requirement for an external balcony.

    • Balconette says:

      You certainly can have your balustrade, guarding or screen taller than 1100mm.

      Loading and forces are measured at 1100mm and you need to ensure that you account for wind loads if going higher.

  18. Keith W says:

    For apartments built 40+ years how do regulations re exterior balconies effect maintenance work in relation to tge railing height.
    The lease on the property is strict relating to overall uniformity appearence of tge apartments this includes windows,balconies etc.

    • Balconette says:

      We are not too sure if maintenance work on balconies will require you to ensure the new balconies meet current regulations. It might depend on a number of factors such as what your proposing to do? If you are replacing or updating? Local authority guidelines etc. You should seek specialist advice on that to ascertain your obligations in this matter. Balconies need to be kept safe which might mean you need to update them to current regulations which are very different and stricter than those from 40 years ago.

  19. Geoff says:

    Can anyone tell me the maximum gap between vertical external railings thanks

    • Balconette says:

      The barrier adopted should be designed so as to minimize the risk of persons falling, rolling, sliding or slipping through gaps in the barrier.
      In dwellings and other buildings which can be accessed by children under the age of 5, gaps in a barrier or infill should not be large enough to permit a sphere of 100 mm diameter to pass through, making due allowance for deflection under load.
      NOTE 1 Except inside dwellings and common stairs in blocks of flats, this does not apply to the triangular opening formed by the tread and riser and the bottom edge of the barrier or infill, if that bottom edge is not more than 50 mm above the pitch line.

  20. Michael Zander says:

    The people who have bought the next door house (we are semi-detached) have put in a planning application for a rear extension built at ground floor level which is about 0.7m above ground level. The plan shows a terrace leading from the rear extension with side steps down to the garden. It does not show any balustrade to prevent people falling off. (They have very small children.)
    Are there any regs requiring balustrades if the drop is more than Xmm? If so, could you give me chapter and verse. I would be most grateful.

    • Balconette says:

      The answer is in this article:

      https://www.balconette.co.uk/glass-balustrade/articles/what-is-a-balustrade-or-railing

      In UK Building Regulations 2010 – Document K – under section “Stairs and Ladders” it states that for common access areas for buildings that contain flats and for buildings other than dwellings, guarding (balustrades/railings) must be provided when there are two or more risers. For dwellings (single family houses) guarding must be provided at the sides of stairs or landings when there is a drop of more than 600mm.

  21. Ally says:

    Hi can you advise at what height steps need hand railings please? I have three steps coming down from my back door (the top one is 55cm from ground level). Thank you

    • Balconette says:

      In general there is no specification as to when not to use protection, handrails or barriers, you will need to consider the use of the area and risk of someone falling.
      In regards to handrails there is some specification in BS6180 which is as follows:
      8.5.2 Handrail attachment
      Where the barrier protects a difference in level greater than 600 mm, a handrail should always be used unless a laminated toughened glass construction is used that would remain in-situ if a panel fails. Continuous fixing should be used for fixing the handrail to the glass, or individual fixings where calculations or tests demonstrate that component failure will not occur.

  22. Jeff says:

    what is minimum spacings between upright bars on internal railings,is it same as external, thanks on internal

    • Balconette says:

      Yes it is. You must ensure no gaps are left that a 100mm sphere can get pushed through. You must take into account deflection of materials for that too.

  23. sean says:

    we have fit external balconies to some flats and from datum level to the top of handrail finished height is 1200mm high we have been questioned on height as there is a small ledge inside of 120mm they have now suggested that the overall height is 1080mm high which means we are 20mm lower than building regs is datum level from floor level or ledge level

    • Balconette says:

      BS6180 requires a minimum of 1100mm from datum, datum sometimes can be defined as the ledge depending if someone can stand on it. It is advisable to check with the building control officer when such situations arise and see the size of ledge and if they consider this a step. If they do then 1100mm must be from that point.

  24. Jeremy says:

    Hi,
    I would just like to emphasise that the 1.1m handrail height ruling for external balconies e.g.juliette balconies is fixed, it is not the MINIMUM height. I have just got caught out with building regs as I assumed it was the minimum so I put my railing at 1.17m, but have now been told I have to put in an internal step to bring the handrail height down to 1.1m. This is because it needs to be high enough for safety and low enough to escape from in the event of a fire!!

    • Balconette says:

      Actually BS6180:2011 defines this as MINIMUM barrier height, it does not define a maximum. It is possible that in your case this window is being used for a fire escape and this may come under a different regulation for that, however this is not true for balustrade or Juliet regulations would think that 1.5m is enough, a specific risk assessment would need to be done if you have patients you may consider a risk of climbing the balcony rails for any purpose, this would however be very specific you your needs and outside of balustrades and rails regulations specifically.
      You can see the exact information in an excerpt from the BS6180:2011 table with the minimum height definitions in our FAQs page: https://www.balconette.co.uk/glass-balustrade/faqs Under the question:
      What height should a Balustrade or Balcony railings be?

  25. Alex Cole says:

    Hi
    For an external balcony on a building in the UK, is there a mandatory requirement to have a vertical ledge around the edge of the deck to stop things rolling off? Something like a toe board on scaffolding?
    Best regards
    Alex

    • Balconette says:

      The exact type and use of building and the position of the ledge will be the deciding factor, is there public traffic underneath etc. This falls outside of balustrade and barrier regulations ad standards, so we couldn’t give any more data than this.

  26. AHMED says:

    what is the tolerance for Balconies Handrail Height ?

    • Balconette says:

      There is no “tolerance” as such, height is defined as MINIMUM 1.1m and less than that is likely to be rejected.

  27. dave says:

    regarding an open balcony above a second floor bay measuring 2 metres by 0.09m (not a free standing structured bay) should the floor area be completely level or could you put capping over the brick area of bay and a lower level inset fill ie 2 different levels or for safety’s sake should it be all one level

  28. Bruce Lawrie says:

    Can you please advise re. Current legislation/regulations as to the size of an opening on balcony, understood as distance between the top of a railing and the terrace ledge (third floor, some 20 feet from ground)?

    Present size is 20 cm…

    Many thanks

    Bruce Lawrue

    • Balconette says:

      Any opening must not allow a sphere of 100mm to pass through. The exact wording is below from BS6180: 2011 under 5.3 Hazard reduction

      5.3 Hazard reduction
      The barrier adopted should be designed so as to minimize the risk of persons falling, rolling, sliding or slipping through gaps in the barrier. In dwellings and other buildings which can be accessed by children under the age of 5, gaps in a barrier or infill should not be large enough to permit a sphere of 100 mm diameter to pass through, making due allowance for deflection under load.

      NOTE 1 Except inside dwellings and common stairs in blocks of flats, this does not apply to the triangular opening formed by the tread and riser and the bottom edge of the barrier or infill, if that bottom edge is not more than 50 mm above the pitch line.
      The barrier and infill should be constructed so that a child cannot easily climb it. These recommendations should also be applied to barriers for stairs and landings which give access to the building.

      NOTE 2 In non-domestic buildings, manifestation could be applied to clear glass barriers or infill panels that reach the floor (or nearly reach)

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