Houseworks: a hallway makeover

Replacing timber bannisters with glass panels can let light in

According to staircase firm Neville Johnson,  customers who’ve had glass panels fitted  say  that  kids gravitate to the wall side of the stairs and stay clear of the glass.

According to staircase firm Neville Johnson, customers who’ve had glass panels fitted say that kids gravitate to the wall side of the stairs and stay clear of the glass.

 

If you’re planning a hallway makeover, and the space in question is quite tight, replacing a wooden balustrade with glass panels can let light flood into dark halls and breathe life into enclosed spaces.

“The biggest fear most people have with the thought of a glass balustrade, especially anyone with kids, is they are dangerous. But we use only safety laminated glass, like that used for car windscreens, so it can shatter but you won’t fall through it,” says joiner John Mulcahy, from Dublin company The Handrail Man.

The second-biggest deterrent apparently is the thought of having to clean the glass non-stop. However, staircase firm Neville Johnson says, “feedback from clients who’ve had them fitted is that the kids gravitate to the wall side of the stairs and stay clear of the glass. And because there’s typically a wooden handrail and posts, this is what the adults grab onto, not the glass. So, actually, they tend to need only a good clean a few times a year.”

Installation

And as long as the staircase in question is structurally sound, the installation process is fairly straightforward. After an initial site visit and consultation, a joiner will measure up the stairway. When they return they remove the old balustrades and fit the new frame of wooden or metal newels and the handrail. With the new structure in place, measurements are taken so the glass panels are cut to the nearest millimetre, ensuring a bespoke fit, as most stairwells will differ.

The process generally takes a day to complete and the joiners will return a few days later and pop the glass panels in, which takes half an hour. “People typically use these few days to have the stairs and hallway painted and fit in new carpets,” says Mulcahy.

Most homeowners opt for glass panels held securely in place by steel clamps and the handrails. However, you can choose a frame-free glass balustrade. “This is much more expensive and complex to cut and fit, and the glass used is much thicker. For just an average staircase, the glass can weigh up to a tonne in weight, so even if the aesthetic is preferable, in most residential situations it’s not feasible as the stairwell can’t support the weight,” says Mulcahy.

Cost wise Mulcahy suggests €1,500 will cover removal of the old structure and all fitting and materials for the average staircase. For a frame-free, cut glass balustrade, you are looking at €10,000 but that does not include any structural reinforcements that may be needed to be made to the stairwell to support the weight of the glass.