Glass panels give the traditional deck railing a modern twist and help to enclose your deck more completely without blocking the view. While glass panel deck rails work well in some applications, they may not be the right choice for every homeowner. Before investing in glass panels to surround your deck or patio, consider the disadvantages of these railings to determine whether they are a good fit for your property.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Keeping glass panel railings clear and free of fingerprints requires a great deal of cleaning using rags, squeegees and a variety of cleaning supplies. These panels suffer smudges from pets and children, as well as drips and deposits left by birds, bugs and even tree sap. Think twice about whether you are prepared to keep glass panels clean before installing them around your deck.
The Cost Factor
Standard deck rails constructed from lumber help keep the cost of building a deck down, while adding glass panels to your deck rails can greatly increase material costs. Prepare to pay $240 for each 5-foot section of 3/8-inch tinted, tempered glass as of 2014, estimates The Family Handyman. Though 1/4-inch glass costs about half this amount, it might not meet local building codes and may be too thin to withstand everyday use and impacts.
A basic deck with traditional wooden rails can be completed in a weekend using lumber from your local home improvement store. Adding glass rails not only requires advanced building skills but also adds time to your project. Plan to construct special framework and channels to hold the glass, then custom-order your glass panels to fit your deck.
Lack of Privacy
Glass panels in a deck railing allow for uninterrupted views of nature and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, they also allow anyone walking by to see exactly how you spend your time while you're lounging on your deck. Consider whether glass rails provide enough privacy around hot tubs and other private areas. For greater protection from prying eyes, use traditional wood rails spaced close together or add full wood or composite panels in place of glass.
Safety and Liability
While glass panel deck railings are typically constructed from tempered glass to improve safety, even this specially treated glass can pose safety and liability risks. Sharp impacts from people, pets or falling objects can shatter glass, causing injury for those on the deck. Falling glass can also injure people or damage property below the deck, making it a significant liability. Follow all local building codes and consult an architect or engineer for safety when installing glass panels.
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