Glass Juliette balconies meet their Romeo

While the aesthetic appeal of glass Juliette balconies are undeniable, installing them is not without its issues in terms of efficiency and safety. CRL’s Simon Boocock takes a view through the looking glass at the best solutions.

Juliette balconies are increasingly being specified for new buildings and added to existing dwellings, for practical and decorative purposes. Named after the famous scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, such balconies have long been popular on the Continent and are now being seen more and more in the UK too.

The main advantage of a Juliet balcony is that it enables a French window or patio door to be chosen instead of a conventional window, filling the room with light, increasing ventilation and creating a greater sense of space in smaller rooms. The balcony itself provides a safety barrier by means of the balustrades or railings and does not generally require planning permission, which accounts for its rise in popularity to a large extent. In addition, unlike a bolt-on balcony or other types which have a deck, they do not need the foundations of a property to be re-evaluated to accommodate them. This makes them a more widely used solution for refurbishment and renovation construction projects.

Juliet balconies fall under Part K of the Building Regulations Act 2000 which stipulate that gaps in any railings must not be more than 100mm and that the top of the balcony must be at least 1100mm from standing floor level. A railing that doesn’t conform to these regulations is not up to British Standards and is deemed unsafe.

Traditionally, Juliet balconies were made from steel and usually painted black, with vertical bars. Clamped to a building’s external facade, they could often be ugly or solid looking structures that did little to compliment the look of the building while disturbing the view from the inside with obtrusive ironworks and railings.

Minimal and versatile, glass is the material of the moment for Juliette balconies, particularly for buildings where an uninterrupted view is desired.  Glass Juliette balconies create an outdoor feel in an indoor space and create an unobtrusive, clean and contemporary finish. Once installed, they are effectively maintenance free and are suitable for even the most corrosive seaside or coastal properties. Although glass infill panels are often perceived as a more expensive option than metal, glass isn’t necessarily beyond the reach of projects with a limited budget. Working with an experienced balustrade manufacturer with the relevant expertise in glass can make this both a cost-effective and low maintenance solution that simply needs cleaning rather than repainting at regular intervals like some metal balustrades.

While the end result undoubtedly has visual appeal, initial installation of the glass panelling can be challenging. By their nature, Juliette balconies will be installed above ground level, often where access for scaffolding is tricky or at the very least time consuming.

Wet fit balcony systems need to be held securely in place, most often with cement, to ensure a tight fit, which can be messy, particularly on retro-fit projects. Often the architectural hardware used for installation will be heavy and cumbersome to fit, particularly when working at awkward angles and from height and can even compromise the minimal aesthetic, if it is poorly designed.

This is where working with an experienced manufacturer is well worth the investment, to ensure the system used is not only the most suitable solution, but that it makes light work of installation and maintenance too. The ideal solution is a system that simplifies the installation process, while offering peace of mind in terms of safety for the end user and longevity in terms of weather resilience, with high grade stainless steel or aluminium being the ideal materials for making the appropriate connections. Installers need to be aware of safety regulations and look for a system that conforms to BS6180:2011, the general Code of Practice for barriers in and around buildings, and use a system that can be fixed back to the stone or brickwork of the building for a completely secure solution.

With glass Juliette balcony systems less is more and the secret here lies very much in the strength of the handrail – the stronger the handrail the fewer supporting posts, connectors and cap rails will be required, resulting in a greater span of glass. Installers should also look for a system that makes maintenance easier, with any necessary replacement of glass panels able to be carried out from the safe side, internally and with no need for scaffolding.

With the right systems specified the end achievement will be a graceful Juliette balcony that takes full advantage of the strength and aesthetic qualities of glass, while being virtually maintenance free and very straightforward to install.