You’ve decided on installing glass railings for your deck renovation, indoor staircases, or upper balcony. Most likely, you have discussed what you want to accomplish aesthetically and functionally with your contractor. You expect to receive a blueprint or detailed plans on the design and installation timeline, but your contractor says you need to decide on several details before they can do that.
Choosing deck railing components for a glass base shoe railing system can be complicated for first-timers. This article will break down the factors you must consider and offer tips on making the best balcony glass railing selection for your home.
What Is a Glass Base Shoe Railing System?
The base shoe railing system is the most popular choice when it comes to frameless glass railing systems, which generally remove the need for posts and/or rails by using clamps and other glass anchoring methods.
Base shoe systems, in particular, hold glass panels in place by anchoring them inside a strong, continuous channel (called a “base shoe”) that runs on or along the edge of a deck or balcony. The earliest design of the base shoe was made to accommodate half-inch-thick tempered glass panels. Today, base shoes are often customized to suit whatever choice of glass the customer wants (tempered, frosted, tinted, etc., in various thicknesses).
A base shoe can be exposed for aesthetic purposes, but for designers who want to create a completely frameless glass railing effect, the base shoe is embedded flush in the floor or deck with grout or silicone. This is one of the aesthetic matters you’ll need to consider when choosing deck railing styles for your home.
Benefits of Base Shoe Railing Systems
Many property developers and homeowners look into glass railings because of the structural and aesthetic benefits of base shoe railing systems:
- Modern-looking; fits the popular minimalist aesthetic
- Sturdy and reliable; offers balcony safety
- Makes indoor and outdoor spaces feel bigger and wider
- Creates a seamless, jointless effect for glass railings
- Compatible with laminated and tempered glass
- Lightweight; they don’t overload balconies and decks
- Faster and quicker to install than pure concrete railing
- Suitable for indoor and outdoor installations
Wet Glaze vs. Dry Glaze
To ensure the glass is firmly attached to the base shoe railing system, installers must opt for a wet glaze or dry glaze.
Wet Glaze Installation
The glass panel sits on top of a setting block in the base shoe molding, which ensures the glass is right in the middle of the base shoe with a bit of space on either side. Installers then pour cement, grout or silicone in these spaces and allow them to cure (harden) so that the glass is held in place.
Dry Glaze Installation
This method is faster and easier because it doesn’t include any wetwork. It uses extruded rubber or plastic components instead of cement, grout or liquid silicone to hold glass panels inside the base shoe. Aluminum or steel fasteners are also added at the base and along the sides of the glass for added stability and strength against strong winds and other external factors.
Wet glaze has been the primary installation method for glass railings for decades, so contractors often recommend it for balconies or deck glass railings. However, dry glaze systems have undergone a lot of evolution over the years and now offer many advantages over wet glaze, especially for residential and DIY applications.
The table below compares the qualities and advantages of each installation type:
|Best for Which Location
|Typically used outdoors and in high-traffic areas.
|Any system can be used indoors. Designs that include sealing gaskets, like ours, can also be used outdoors.
|Ease of Installation
|Requires more time and manpower; should be installed during sunny, non-humid days.
|Faster, simpler and can be done regardless of the weather or season.
|Labor costs are expensive because wet glazing is more labor-intensive and takes longer to do.
|Parts and materials may be more expensive than wet glaze railings, but the labor costs are cheaper because they are easier and faster to install.
Factors To Consider When Choosing a Glass Base Shoe Railing System
Now that you know more about base shoe railing systems, let’s discuss other important factors for your balcony glass railing selection.
- Flooring Material: A base shoe railing system designed to be flush on the floor must be installed as such, especially if you’re going with a wet glaze. An extruded base may not be as sturdy, so you need to consider whether digging through your flooring or deck is possible.
- Type of Glass: Your choice of glass dictates which installation and railing systems you can use. For example, laminated glass can be framed or frameless; but if you choose frameless, a dry glaze is the best way to install it. This is because sealants like concrete are incompatible with the materials used in laminating glass.
- Glass Dimensions and Weight: Glass thickness, size and weight are all crucial details in a balustrade, balcony or deck renovation. The combination of a shoe-base railing system and laminated glass is ideal. Still, you can explore additions like a top railing and upper glass fasteners if the panels go higher than usual. Leaning on tall glass panels may cause them to tilt over time. A top or cap rail will help anchor the glass panels and ensure they stay upright and stable.
- Time Constraints: Do you need to install glass railings as quickly as possible? If yes, then a dry-glazed frameless glass railing is your best choice. Alternatively, if you have a longer window for the project, you can consider a wet glaze, especially for outdoor glass railings.
- Landscape: A glass base shoe railing needs a stable base. Otherwise, the entire glass railing could be structurally compromised over time. It will be difficult to build a glass railing on a sloped path, for example, unless you have a lot of time and resources to spend constructing steps from the lower to the upper levels.
- Location: If you’re installing a railing in an indoor or outdoor area that will potentially get exposed to a lot of water (i.e., rain, pool water, splashes from the shower), either a wet glaze system or a dry glaze system with rubber inserts for sealing the base shoe will be ideal.
- Budget: Money is one of the most critical factors in a glass railing project. You can save more on labor with a dry glaze, but you might spend more on the materials. The opposite is true with a wet glaze: labor is more expensive, but the materials might be cheaper. However, if you’re doing a wet glaze over a long stretch of glass railing, the cost of the cement or other sealants can also shoot up. Work out the costs of the materials and labor with your contractor to avoid financial headaches.
- Local Building Guidelines: Check if your local building authority has released guidelines for glass railings to ensure your home will be up to code. Guidelines are based on the authority’s knowledge about your area’s soil composition and other environmental factors. Violating these guidelines could put your safety at risk, so verify your plans if you’re doing a DIY installation.
How To Select the Right Glass Base Shoe Railing System for Your Deck or Balcony
Choosing a base shoe railing system is all about finding what works best for your property, design preferences, lifestyle and budget. Your situation may be unique from others, but you could still get insights by looking at what’s been done on other properties. Get inspired, then work with people whom you can trust to give sound advice about base shoe railing systems.
eGlass Railing can help you enjoy the full benefits of a base shoe railing system. We offer custom glass railing systems that address common industry issues like wind rattle resistance, durability, aesthetics and more. We have many products in stock, including tempered glass panels, and can ship upon order in most cases.