A balcony in a city apartment, as usual, is practically not exploited living space, although in the BTI certificate this is not. Dust, snow, city dirt, debris and other “waste products” that inevitably end up on your balcony make it not entirely pleasant to stay. This is where the question arises: how to make these “square meters” convenient to use? And there is only one way out: to glaze the balcony. There are many ways to do this, but how to choose the best one? To do this, you must first of all understand what exactly you want to receive in the end..
Of course, it is necessary to protect your balcony from precipitation, snow, dust – this condition is achieved with any glazing option. Then warm. As you know, the main cause of heat loss is its wind drift. Therefore, to achieve the desired result, it is enough just to get rid of drafts..
The next issue is ease of use. Here again, you have a wide variety of options. You can install exclusive window blocks on your balcony or, saving money, install “trolleybus windows” made of freshly painted iron. Our task is to outline all the pros and cons of the many options that are now available to the consumer..
So, plastic windows. Their undoubted advantage is tightness and the highest thermal insulation properties. But is it so important in our case? Indeed, in order to preserve heat, one must have it. And on the balcony, heat appears only due to leaks from the heated area. So insulation is not that important. And the necessary tightness is achieved at the cost of the loss of space, because the swing doors quite fairly “devour” it. In addition, it must be taken into account that the thermal insulation of the balcony as a whole is not only the thermal insulation of the skylight, but also, which is no less important, the thermal insulation of the fence and balcony walls. It is certainly possible to achieve a high level of isolation, but it is technically difficult and entails a lot of financial and nerve costs..
To get an “additional room” from the balcony, of course, only plastic windows are suitable, but for their correct installation, certain conditions must be met. Indeed, the very structure of such windows provides for some restrictions in their use. The windows are designed to be installed “in a quarter”, which makes it possible to fully use their thermal insulation properties. When installing window blocks in our conditions, it is necessary to artificially create something similar to the standard design of a window opening. Due to the fact that there are no standard elements for this, this task completely falls on the installers installing the glazing.
Next comes the question of waterproofing from the outside. An ebb tide attached to the plate, of course, solves this problem, but this ebb tide should have a configuration that is somewhat different from the standard one, and have a low thermal conductivity, which practically excludes the use of aluminum eaves. The next problem that confronts us is the vapor barrier of the inner side of the balcony. The main difficulty here can be considered “excessive” tightness of frames. With the almost complete absence of natural ventilation, it is extremely difficult to get rid of water vapor, which is inevitably present in warm rooms. And in an unheated area, these vapors reach the “dew point”, even with seemingly insignificant daily temperature drops. As a consequence, we have condensation in the most inconvenient places. And after excess moisture, stubborn mold and mildew often appear..
If you do not set yourself the task of turning your balcony into a warm living space, then the number of options for making it simply habitable is increasing. In addition to the fact that the requirements for the vapor barrier of a balcony, partially isolated from residential premises, are significantly lower, for such glazing (plastic systems are considered), you can use not only standard PVC windows, but also sliding constructions made in Korea and Turkish frames from Pakpen. Although they are as heavy as other plastic windows, which significantly limits their use. After all, the fence not on every balcony is able to withstand a structure weighing more than one hundred kilograms.
Now let’s consider the so-called cold glazing. Its tightness, of course, is somewhat lower than that of plastic windows, but for our purposes it is quite sufficient. With very little wind drift, we have a significantly lighter structure, and most of it is sliding, which provides a clear space saving. This type of glazing is available on the market in several versions. The most popular can be called the “Provedal” system, developed by the German company “Reynolds” and manufactured in Spain. Glazing from this profile has a sufficiently high tightness necessary to retain heat, but at the same time it has “natural ventilation”, which is necessary to prevent windows from fogging up.
In addition, a large number of additional elements allows you to glaze balconies and loggias of almost any configuration with such a profile without much difficulty..
Practice shows that such glazing, in the presence of even minimal thermal insulation of the remaining elements of the balcony, allows, even in the frosty winters of recent years, to maintain a positive temperature on the balcony. Of course, this temperature depends on many factors: the prevailing direction of the wind, the thermal conductivity of the walls, leaks through window blocks, etc..
A stable plastic coating applied to the aluminum structure is highly resistant to natural and man-made factors. Polished glass 5 mm thick, installed in rubber gaskets, does not leak and provides a sufficiently high structural strength. Simple and at the same time reliable automatic latches make such glazing a completely reliable protection for your balcony. Sliding sashes move on rollers, which makes opening even a large (up to 2.25 sq. M.) Sash a business that does not require physical force.
The experience of operating structures of this type has shown that at the moment the “Provedal” system is one of the most successful in terms of price-quality ratio.
In recent years, the profile from which such glazing is made has been produced in the Moscow region, Samara, and Krasnoyarsk, although a somewhat limited range of additional elements reduces the possibilities and complicates the installation of complex glazing. The quality of the coating on such a profile is slightly lower than on Spanish.
In addition, in the city of Vidnoye, a similar profile is produced, the production of which was based on the Finnish glazing system. Unfortunately, its simplification compared to the prototype led to a noticeable decrease in the overall quality of the structure as a whole. At a relatively low price, which is undoubtedly a positive factor, the design does not provide sufficient protection and tightness.
There are also “frameless” glazing systems on the market, which are produced in Finland. These structures are certainly beautiful and extremely easy to use. With all these advantages, they are very expensive, and they can be safely attributed to the elite.
Similar to “frameless” and Swedish “two-plane” frames. Apart from the parallel movement, they are able to rotate around the inner corner of the frame. This makes it possible to open the glazing span almost completely. The main feature of such glazing systems can be called very high requirements for the parallelism of the installation planes, that is, the balcony ceiling and the fence. Unfortunately, our construction rarely meets these requirements, which seriously complicates the installation of glazing and, accordingly, increases the cost of work.
Another pole of the quality scale can be called wooden frames, which are still sometimes used for glazing balconies. Their main drawback can be safely called the fact that in a megalopolis, external painting of windows must be done at least twice a year. If this is not done, then the wood becomes covered with microcracks, which corrode the wood of the frame. After three to four years, such cracks increase, and the windows lose their tightness and acquire a very untidy appearance..
Somewhat better are the so-called “Trolleybus windows”, which are made of ferrous metal and welded and painted on site. Their main disadvantage can be called the fact that after a year or two, such structures are covered with bright orange streaks of rust, resembling a steamer that has not been repaired for a long time. In addition, the swing doors with which these structures are equipped do not always close tightly..
Installation of glazing from the “Provedal” profile has some peculiarities. Installation from this profile is as follows. First, the so-called zero level is set in order to ensure a strict horizontal installation. Then a pre-assembled frame is installed on it, along which the sashes move, with an upper ebb tide fixed to it. Further, the lower ebb and the window sill are started under the frame. After that, with the help of polyurethane foam and silicone sealant, the gaps that inevitably remain from the edges of the frame are closed. Unfortunately, in most houses, during construction, no one cared that the slabs forming the ceiling and floor of the balcony were parallel to each other. Therefore, sometimes you can see discrepancies of up to ten centimeters over a six-meter length..
And especially it is necessary to highlight the balconies located on the last floors of our houses. Due to their design features, they sometimes become easily accessible from the technical floor or the roof of the building. To prevent the entry of strangers, there is only one way out: to glass the balcony. For this purpose, in general, any glazing option is suitable, it is only important that the opening sashes are securely locked.
The last floors often do not have a top slab, which makes it necessary to erect a roof over the balcony. Practice shows that from the abundance of materials provided on the market, it is rational to use corrugated galvanized sheet metal for opaque ceilings and cellular polycarbonate for translucent roofs. The use of these particular materials gives the most favorable price-quality combination.
The main problem for such structures is, of course, the tightness of the roof to the wall. Our experience has shown that the most successful solution to this problem can be a flat “mask”, which is fixed with self-tapping screws and sealed with silicone sealant. Such structures, installed by our company, have remained tight for five years..
A few words about the cladding. A balcony glazed with one structure or another requires additional insulation from moisture and, to some extent, from temperature changes. There is no general rule on how to do this. It is equally possible to sheathe the balcony with both plastic panels and wooden clapboard. It all depends on taste. But this business has its limitations. If you prefer wood sheathing, then it should be borne in mind that wood tends to dry out under the influence of the sun during use. Therefore, when sheathing, one should try to avoid increasing the length of the lining. This also applies to the floors. Under the influence of rather harsh conditions on the balcony, because the daily temperature drop on it can be up to 30 degrees, a floorboard with a length of more than three meters can not only “dry out”, but it can also “lead”, that is, it will begin to twist around the longitudinal axis. And such changes, at best, will lead to the fact that the floors begin to creak..
If you decide to sheathe the balcony with plastic, then when choosing a material, first of all, you need to pay attention to the temperature range in which it can work. Most of the finishing plastic panels are designed for indoor use, therefore, their behavior at negative temperatures is unpredictable. Panels with a width of 200-250 mm are also not very suitable for this purpose. Such panels, as a rule, have a very small “run”, that is, when the temperature drops below zero, a narrow strip of plastic may break in such panels, for which the panel is attached to the crate. It is known from practice that the most suitable for cladding balconies are plain plastic panels with a width of 96 mm. Colored panels are usually made of a more fragile plastic.
Sheathing insulation can be done using a variety of materials.. But, the most rational can be called insulation with penofol or polyethylene foam. These materials, if they are not exposed to direct sunlight, have high durability and practically do not lose their thermal insulation properties over time..
If you are going to glaze your balcony, we wish you to do it with maximum efficiency and minimum cost. We hope this article will help you make the right choice..
Text: Oleg PRONIN (engineer), Olga STRASHNOVA (architect)