A balustrade is a decorative railing or wall designed to prevent people from falling over the edge of stairs, balconies, landings, etc. Balustrades are most commonly made of timber, iron, wrought iron, aluminum, stone, concrete, glass, and / or stainless steel (commonly abbreviated as S / S). Balustrades have been used since as early as the Assyrian civilization and, while they were not used in the architecture of either the Greek or Roman Empires, balustrades were used extensively in buildings of the Renaissance period. Balustrades today are more popular than ever and whilst they may not always be made of stone, they are neverless an important feature of many buildings and homes.
There are many options for a balustrade "in fill", but the best ones that do not obstruct the view is to use either glass or S / S wire rope. Glass balustrades look good and, if tinted glass is used, can provide a little privacy. The downside to glass is that it needs regular cleaning. Stainless steel wire rope, on the other hand, requires only periodic cleaning and obstructs the view less than tinted glass. Whilst occasional tensioning may be required with S / S wire rope, this is a simple task that will only be required every 3-6 months at worst. Some have opted for system where the glass is used for part of the height of the balustrade and stainless steel wire rope is used for the reminder.
Under current Australian law, wire rope or bar balustrading "in fill" can be horizontal for heights lower than four meters, but must be vertical if any higher than that.
The most common types of balustrade posts and rails used are timber, powder coated aluminum, powder coated mild steel, and stainless steel. Powder coating can chip and scratch. Mild steel will rust without powder coating or where the powder coating has chipped or scratched. Some timber finishes will also fade over time and some may even peel. Many timbers will dent if accidently knocked. Stainless steel looks better than aluminum and is more resistant to the elements than all of the other materials. Many people opt for the combination of timber posts and rails and stainless steel wire rope. As with anything architectural, the option chosen depends largely on environmental issues (eg the style of building, the view (if any), exposure to the elements, pollution level, procurement to salt water, etc), the level of maintenance desired, budget, and, of course, the eye of the beholder.