The Case of the Glass Stairway Railing

Question About Glass Stairway Railing:

Hi Glass Detective,

I have a home with a loft and ‘open’ stairways between floors. The house was built before the safety standards for stairways and ‘balconies’ were set in this county. The loft/baclony, for example,  is about 16′ wide, and the ‘barrier’ that keeps one from falling off is a 2×6 that runs from wall to wall, with an upright 2×4 about 3′ tall at each end and in the center of the span.

I’d like to bring this barrier up to code (42″ tall, no space greater than 4″). I’m debating between adding 42″ ‘pickets’ spaced 4″ apart, or adding two 42″ x 8′ glass panels (or four 42″ x 4′ panels).

I also plan to add such panels to enclose the stairway where it is exposed to the landings.

I plan to use tempered glass, but I don’t know how thick it needs to be to comply with current safety standards. Any assistance that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.


Robert M.

Answer About Glass Stairway Railing:


Thank you for contacting the Glass Detective regarding your request for some help with your glass rail project. Let me begin by stating that you would be well served to work with a reputable local glass contractor who can help you with local code information and pricing alternatives. Please also understand that the integrity of the glass being used is only as good as the framing system being used to keep it in place.

The design (aesthetic considerations) is only the beginning of the project and it is our opinion that safety concerns are much more important. With this in mind, I would like to offer a couple of opinions based on 42 years in the glass business and extensive background in both the initial installation of glass rail systems as well as the repair/replacement of same.

First, my glass type of choice for an installation of your type would be ½” tempered/laminated. This would be two pieces of fully tempered ¼” glass with an .030” polyvinyl interlayer. This configuration provides strength and will tend to hold together in the opening (depending on the frame system) if it did break thus helping to prevent anyone from falling through the opening. My preferred size (of the ones you mentioned) would be the 42” X 48” ones although the others would be OK too.

Again, I cannot stress enough the value of dealing with a glass contractor who is experienced and of good reputation. If you need assistance with this, we can help. Again, thank you for contacting the Glass Detective and we wish you good luck with your project!

-Glass Detective


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One response to “The Case of the Glass Stairway Railing”

  1. Thanks, this information is very helpful.
    I was hoping to mount the glass without a frame, per se. I had planned to attach the panels to the existing wooden rail that extends across the loft and to a wooden rail along the floor, with the panels extending above the existing rail. The existing rail is about 3′ high, so the panels would extend about 6″ taller than the rail.
    I’m considering this more for ease of construction than for appearance.

    Robert M.

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