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16.3 Railings: Glass Panels in a Wood Frame

One alternative to a wooden rail on your deck is a wood framed rail, with heavy tempered glass panels in place of the traditional wooden balusters. A wood frame glass paneled rail allows the view from your deck to remain virtually unrestricted. It’s also a great option when the architectural style of the house calls for something more modern.

Tempered glass panel in a wood railing frame doesn't obscure the view from the deck.

Glass Panel Railing Specifications

Glass panels present a couple of challenges to rail building. First, their breakability makes them a safety hazard, calling for a specific type of glass. Second, they are heavier than the equivalent wooden balusters, and require adequate support to prevent structural failure.

Since the wooden frame of your rail is fully exposed, a decorative species, such as cedar works best. The pieces will need to be structurally sound and capable of supporting the following live loads.

  • Your Top Rail needs to support a horizontal pressure of 50 pounds per lineal foot, or 250 pounds across the length of each section.
  • The Top Rail must support a vertical force of 100 pounds for lineal foot.
  • The bottom frame will need to support a glass panel of 6 mm tempered glass.
  • The glass panel itself must be capable of sustaining a horizontal pressure of 113 pounds per lineal foot.
  • Use three inch screws to fasten the top rail and top and bottom frames in place.

Confirm all construction details with your local building code.

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