Questions and Answers for modernizing your Condo’s Railing

As foremost experts in glass guardrail modernization, our team at Poma works with Condo Boards to eliminate concerns regarding guardrail modernization. We’ve published below many of the common questions that arise when an HOA or Condominium comes to us for modernizing their building’s balcony condo railings with Poma.

Frequent Questions regarding Glass Railing systems

Q: Are glass railings as solid as older metal and picket railing systems? Can they withstand repeated impact from hurricane force winds?

A:  Yes, glass railing systems made by Poma are tested and have Miami-Dade product approvals. Our railings undergo rigorous certification processes. This includes testing the assemblies to 2x the design load to ensure an immense safety factor. Glass railings from Poma are as solid and structurally safe as a masonry wall, and without the chance of concrete deterioration.

Animation of the Poma Pin installation for best guardrail practices.

Poma Pin: Watch the video to learn how to install the best guardrail systems for condominiums. Learn more about the Poma Pin.

Q: How far from the balcony slab will the glass panels be, and how large will any of the gaps be between the new railing and the existing lateral structure?

A:   Glass railings are typically situated 6 inches on center from the slab edge. The gaps between the railing and the structure range from 1-1/2 inches to 3-1/2 inches. Building code requires rejecting any gap larger than 4 inches for safety. It should be noted that railing set back may increase due to a variety of factors such as wind pressure, concrete compressive strength, existing rebar and rebar placement, and balcony type/configuration. Final railing set back will be determined at the time of shop drawing development.

Q: What is the life expectancy of glass railings if properly maintained?

A:   The life expectancy of properly maintained glass railings can be 40 years or more. Glass railings for condos are a durable and long-lasting option.

Q: Are there any Turtle code requirements required due to the railings being glass? Will the association inherit more problems with Turtle code due to more light from the units being allowed through the glass and onto the beach/ocean?

A: Turtle code requirements are typically related to preventing light from emanating from inside units, not from exterior elements such as glass railings. Glass railings themselves do not require Turtle glass. However, other elements like sliding doors and windows must meet Turtle code requirements.

Q: How much more time will be needed during the balcony/envelope concrete restoration project due to the installation of glass railings?

A:  If scheduled properly, the additional time needed for glass railing installation should be limited to 25% of the total duration of the concrete restoration contract. Please note that no two projects are alike and there may be a variety of factors that influence project duration. The contractor and railing contractor should provide you with critical path schedules to determine the overall project duration.

Q: What is the average cost per unit to modernize a building’s glass railing?

A: The average cost per unit will depend on the number of units and the complexity of the installation. Refer to your project management team, owner’s rep, or general contractor for pricing.

Q: How will the railings be attached to the existing structure? Who is responsible for it?

A: Poma uses a modern patented anchoring system. This system ensures proper installation without causing premature deterioration of balcony slabs or railing post anchors. The responsibility for proper installation is collaborative to some extent, but the pursuit of the installation falls under our team, and we have had great success with this method. The collaborative portion entails the proper preparation of the concrete substrate, waterproofing, and sequence of activities among other ancillary details.

Concrete spalling will require both railing replacement as well as concrete repair.

Concrete spalling will require both railing replacement as well as concrete repair.

Q: Will the attachment system of the glass railings to the existing structure cause premature wear and tear on the current balcony structure, rebar, spalling, water infiltration, etc.?

A:   No, with Poma’s patented anchoring system, there is no accelerated wear and tear, corrosion, or water infiltration. The installation is designed to preserve the integrity of the existing balcony structure.

Q: Who is ultimately responsible in case a railing fails, and a unit owner gets injured or even dies due to improper design, manufacturing, or installation?

A: If a failure occurs due to faulty manufacturing or incorrect installation, it will fall under the railing manufacturer’s general liability coverage. We can proudly say that we’ve never had such an incident with Poma railings, which have been installed for millions of feet without issues.

Q: Will a professional engineer inspect each and every balcony railing installation on all units and sign off on it? Will the HOA get an attestation from an engineer on the conformity of installation?

A:   We recommend you refer to your Project Management team, Owners representative, or General Contractor for further information. However, the inspection process may vary depending on the Engineering firm. In our previous experiences, a special inspector does inspect each unit. This ensures compliance with engineering standards and proper installation.

Q: Who is responsible for maintaining the inner glass, outer glass, and what will the costs be and borne by whom and at what frequency?

A:   There is no specific requirement to clean the glass, except for maintaining its clean visual appearance. Cleaning of aluminum frames should be performed quarterly to maintain the coating applicator warranty. Maintenance costs will typically be borne by the HOA.

Q: Will HOA insurance premiums increase due to the presence of glass railings?

A:   We recommend consulting the insurance agent for more information. The HOA might have the option to add additional glazing coverage, which van lead to added premiums.

Q: How often will the railings need inspection, and at what cost?

A:   After proper installation, no routine inspections should be necessary. However, we encourage feedback to be provided if any issues are noted during routine cleaning or maintenance. In the event an issue is noted, this will allow us an opportunity to quickly address and minimize risk to any tenant or visitors.

Q: Is there any advantage to removing the current railing system/knee walls vs. the proposed glass railings in terms of the building structure/balcony structure?

A:   Yes, the installation of glass railings can reduce weight and dead load on the balconies since concrete is denser than aluminum and glass. Additionally, the glass railings will no longer conceal defects and concrete deterioration that might have been covered by an 8-inch masonry wall.

Q: Will there be an added solar load on the building’s cooling system, and will the glass railings affect energy costs for the HOA or unit owners?

A:   It is unlikely that there will be a significant added solar load due to the glass railings. Feedback from previous projects where POMA installed glass railings did not indicate any substantial impact on energy costs. Note that visible light is a prominent source of heat. Even clear laminated glass reduces visible light transmittance to a small degree and there is also some degree of absorption at play. These two characteristics will lessen the degree of heat on a balcony.

Q: Will the new glass railings block the wind and create a magnifying effect and increase heat on the balconies?

A:  Railings only extend 40% of the height from floor to ceiling, so there is no need for ventilation concerns. All of the remaining open area allows for voluminous wind flow. Any wind that blows from the outside and makes contact with the glass will flow up and over the top rail adding to the ventilation. This wind will then make its way to the vertical faces of the building wall and then disperse back into the balcony creating ample windflow all around. Alternatively, if you or the association would like to see a larger gap of air space between the railing posts or railing glass panels, we can also do that.

Q: Can we get an unbiased opinion from a local real estate agent (not residing in the building) on the value of having glass railings for the owners? Will it add value or curb appeal?

A:  Retrofits with POMA glass railings have experienced significant property value increases, ranging from 30% to 40% and sometimes even more. You can contact licensed real estate professionals or property managers of buildings with glass railings for more insights.

Q: What is the total cost of modernizing a building’s glass railing?

A:   We recommend you refer to your Project Management team, Owners representative, or General Contractor for project pricing, as the total cost can vary based on specific project requirements, including but not limited to accessibility or equipment requirements, scope of work, general conditions, safety requirements, work phasing, extent of concrete restoration etc.