Balcony glass looks classy and modern when installed correctly, and it can be safer than other balcony closures. The panes of glass can be framed or frameless, but safety precautions and building standards need to be met when using glass on this building extension.
According to the International Building Code (IBC 2015), all glass used for construction purposes, including balcony glass, needs to be strengthened with a heat-tempered laminate to limit or prevent harm to people below caused by shattered glass.
If you are fortunate enough to choose your balcony’s design and want to incorporate balcony glass, there are many advantages and a few disadvantages. If you do your homework before deciding what type of glass should be installed, you’ll be able to maximize the benefits and get the most out of your investment.
Aspects of Choosing Laminated Glass For Your Balcony
As mentioned, the IBC 2015 has set some requirements for using glass in construction, one of which is that heat-tempered laminate balcony glass is used in certain projects for safety measures. The IBC 2015 hasn’t been adopted in all states of America yet, so you might not have to use laminated glass on your balcony, but it is best to check.
Chapter 24 of the IBC 2015 gives the specs in detail, meaning an ethical or pedantic contractor would, in most cases, advise you to use laminated glass on your balcony. If you live in an area frequented by hurricanes, the building standards are usually more stringent, requiring hurricane impact glass.
When deciding if you want or have to use laminated glass on your balcony, you can consider the next safety, aesthetic, and financial reasons discussed.
The Safety Aspects Of Using Laminated Glass On Your Balcony
Using glass on your balcony has a few safety concerns as things could go badly with “normal” glass. Tempered laminate glass, as compared to most other types of glass, is recommended for use on balconies because of the following safety features:
1. The interlayer holds it together. Normal glass shatters into sharp shards when it breaks, whereas toughened glass will shatter into thousands of loose pieces when broken. Both are messy, and projectiles of sharp glass are extremely dangerous.
However, the vinyl interlayer in laminated glass prevents shattered glass from scattering everywhere; it will hold most of the broken pieces together. In other words, if the glass is pierced intentionally or not, the clean-up will be less painful and will keep potential injuries to a minimum.
2. It isn’t easy to climb glass. If an intruder (or your toddler) wishes to climb over a glass panel, getting a place to grip is not easy. Should either of them get it right, the strengthened laminated balcony glass is less likely to shatter due to the weight or pressure, avoiding other injuries.
3. UV filtration is enhanced. The vinyl film offers an extra layer of protection from UV rays, which can cause cancer or adversely affect your health in other ways. With a layer of laminated glass between you and the sun, you can still enjoy sunlight without harming yourself.
4. Reduction of noise levels. Another great safety feature of laminated balcony glass is that it reduces noise pollution by absorbing sound vibrations and muffling sound. You might appreciate this feature if you live or work near an airport or busy street.
5. Reduction of visual distortion. Tinted laminated balcony glass reduces glare and can also reduce heat gain in a building, lowering air-conditioning costs. The anti-glare is also helpful when watching screens or projectors.
6. Glazing for hurricanes and projectiles. If you live in a place affected by hurricanes, you can use hurricane impact glass. According to Marvin, hurricane impact glass is safety glass on steroids because it can withstand a hurricane’s hazards better than other safety glass options. Hurricane impact glass combines tempered and laminated glass and can be 2 or 3 layers thick.
There are other aspects of safety with balcony railings than the materials and we discuss the regulated height of balcony railings here for your information
The Aesthetic Aspects Of Using Laminated Glass On Your Balcony
Glass balconies are increasingly popular because they lend themselves to a feeling of openness and increased living space. If your home boasts a great view, this becomes even more of a drawcard. But what else should be considered before choosing your glass?
1. Privacy. Depending on how high or low your balcony is and your surroundings, you may want to consider how much privacy you would like daily. You can use normal laminated balcony glass if you don’t mind people seeing you whenever you go onto your balcony.
If you want privacy and glass, your choices include adding a layer of tint or opacity to the laminated glass on your balcony. Sand-blasting the glass according to your chosen design is also an option.
2. Personalization. You can choose to have your laminated glass cut into different shapes and sizes; it comes in various colors, too, if that is something you’d consider. The colors are laminated into the glass by using a colored interlayer. Logos or designs can even be laminated into the balcony glass – at a fee, of course.
3. Glass balconies are more modern. With the increase in building costs, new homes are not as big as they used to be, nor do they use old-fashioned materials and designs. Using laminated glass for doors and on the balcony opens up what could be a pokey or dark little space to look like a more open and bright space.
Laminated balcony glass can also be used in glass ceilings, skylights, and floors to enclose a balcony but keep light coming in.
4. Delamination. As good as a glass balcony looks, if the glass hasn’t been properly laminated, the layers will start to separate after time. Delamination occurs if water gets in between the glass layers regularly. Apart from compromising the strength of the balcony glass, delaminated glass looks unsightly.
The Financial Aspects Of Laminated Glass On Your Balcony
The cost of materials is a big factor for most people when building or modifying a home, especially when you have a contractor who adds additional fees to acquiring the materials for the job.
Laminated glass is more expensive than toughened or normal glass because it is made of more materials and undergoes a different heating process to join the layers together. Essentially, laminated glass is two panes of glass glued together with a vinyl (or similar) layer. The heating process and machinery are expensive to run, too, adding to the manufacturing costs.
If the balcony glass is to be supported with railings, the laminated glass’s thickness must be at least 10mm (0.39 in). However, if the glass is structural, the thickness must be at least 15mm (0.59 in), increasing the price and its strength.
Other factors affecting the cost of laminated glass include availability, shipping, and special orders requiring special manufacture, cutting, or assembly.
of course unless the glass is colored or one way these balconies don’t afford the privacy that other balcony railings and types have so you might want to consider some privacy options. We have an article on the best balcony privacy screens here to help.
How Do I Know If My Balcony Glass Is Laminated?
By looking at the edge of the glass, you can see that it is layered. Ideally, manufactured safety glass needs to be etched with the particulars of the manufacturer and a kitemark code. The code for laminated glass is BS EN 14449, while the kitemark code for toughened glass is BS EN 12150.
We also go into toughened and laminated glass differences and choices here on the site if you are still exploring your options.
We have a selection of balcony construction and common questions linked below with loads more information.
- How far can you cantilever a balcony
- Types of balcony support brackets
- what is the average balcony size
- how to support a balcony without posts
- can you have a balcony pully system
- What is the standard height of balcony railings
- Does balcony glass need to be laminated
- how much does it cost to replace a balcony
- how much weight can a balcony hold
- How to build a floating balcony
According to International Building Standards, you should use laminated glass on balconies or places where people below might be affected by shattered balcony glass, should a pane of glass break. There are exceptions to these standards, and you should seek advice regarding the requirements adopted by the state where you live.