Parapet Walls – Types And Uses

What Is Parapet Wall?

Parapet walls are short and thin walls constructed at the edges of a building’s roof, preferably around its perimeter. It can be constructed in the form of balustrade or other architectural shapes. Parapets can also be found in houses, bridges, walkways, and balconies.

They are made up of stone masonry, brick masonry, stainless steel, fiberglass, GI pipes, Aluminium, concrete, or a combination of the above. The types of parapet walls are further discussed.

Parapet walls are different from normal walls in a building. A parapet wall is exposed to the environment on five of its six sides.

This means that these walls are subjected to as much as thrice the sunlight, rainfall, snow, pollution, dust, and chemicals than a conventional wall. This demands the parapet wall be more specifically durable than a normal wall.


Purpose Of Parapet Walls

1. Safety

Parapet wall provides safety for movement. It prevents any accidents due to falling over at the edges of the roof.

2. Utilisation of space

Parapet wall allows people to make use of the space on the roof or balconies without fear. This increases the utility area of a building.

3. Aesthetics

These walls add beauty to a building. A parapet wall acts as an architectural element that enhances the view of the building. Modern houses often use parapets made of glass to boost the elevation of a building.

4. Privacy

A parapet wall also acts as a barrier to vision, thus ensuring the privacy of space. It may also block an outsider’s view of unpleasant equipment like pumps, tools, etc. which are usually kept on the terrace, thus improving the aesthetics of the building.

5. Tackles wind

If parapet walls are not provided, the wind forces would act on the edges of the building. The parapet wall prevents that from happening. It, therefore, reduces pressure difference at the edges of the building.

6. Prevents fire

Parapet wall acts as a firewall during break out of fires preventing the fire from spreading. It acts as a blockade for fire.

7. Provides a clean facade

The parapet wall does not allow the dust or debris accumulated on the roof to fall down. Doing so avoids staining and improves the sight of the façade of the building.

8. It makes the building look taller and more elegant.

Types Of Parapet Walls

The different types of parapet walls are discussed below.

1. Embattled Parapet Walls / Perpetrate Walls

These are the first kind of parapet walls to have been built by man. These walls consist of complete openings provided at particular distances in a recurring fashion.

In ancient times, these walls served the purpose of providing safety cover for the archers during the war while the openings helped them to aim and shoot their arrows.

  • Easy to construct.
  • Difficult to maintain. Dust and water may accumulate in the corners of the openings.
  • Serves the basic purpose of safety and privacy.
  • It boosts the architectural view of the building. It makes the building look historical.

2. Plain / Solid Parapet Wall

These walls are solid structures that run throughout the length without any openings in between. They are most common in places where safety is the main priority over aesthetics.

  • Easy to construct.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Serves the basic purpose of safety and privacy.
  • It does not provide great aesthetics to the building.
Solid parapet wall
Solid wall

3. Perforated Parapet Walls

These walls unlike plain parapet walls, will have openings in between. The openings may be of any shape. Since the openings are provided, formwork should be used to support the wall materials from falling down. However, the process is very simple if prefabricated perforated steel is used.

  • Difficult to construct.
  • Difficult to maintain. Dust and water may accumulate in the corners of the openings.
  • Serves the basic purpose of safety.
  • It does not offer complete privacy.
  • It provides a good elevation to the building.
Perforated Parapet Walls

4. Paneled Parapet Walls or Double Walls

These walls have projected shapes on a solid wall without any openings.

  • Difficult to construct.
  • Difficult to maintain. Dust and water may accumulate in the corners of the openings. It is even difficult to clean as there are no openings.
  • Serves the basic purpose of safety and privacy.
  • It provides great aesthetics to the building.
Paneled parapet wall

Special Types Of Parapet Walls

1. Composite Parapets

These parapets are made up of one or more materials. The most common composite parapets are

  • a) Brick masonry and Steel rails
  • b) Stone masonry and steel rails
  • c) Fiberglass and steel rails
  • d) Concrete walls and steel rails
Composite Parapets

2. Parapets At The Bridges

These types of parapets act as barriers to vehicles and regulate traffic. They are made up of concrete and sometimes even reinforced. They are structurally designed to take care of loads involved in the crashing of vehicles into the barriers.

3. Green Parapets

These are the recent trends in metropolitan cities that are steering towards reducing the carbon footprint and increasing sustainability.

In this type of parapet, special claddings are installed over the existing parapet and those special claddings are used as a medium of growth for plants. The greenery not only improves the aesthetics of the building but also improves the air quality in the vicinity.

Things To Keep In Mind

1. Slope: Provide an inward slope on the top of the wall to make sure that the water drains inward. This will ensure that the façade of the building remains clean and unaffected by rainwater and dust particles.

2. Plan and build: Parapet walls are not necessary for roofs without access. If the roofs are not going to be used, it is wise and economical not to build a parapet wall unless the sight of the building has to be improved

In case of brick masonry,

3. The minimum height of a parapet wall is 1 meter, and the thickness is 5 inches.

4. If the building is used by elders and children, a steel railing may be provided above the parapet for increased safety.

5. Provide proper plastering to the wall and finish the surface with a waterproof paint/coating.

6. Properly cure the wall to prevent shrinkage cracks from occurring.

7. The walls should be provided with sufficient plastering to act as a barrier to fire.

Also Read

Types Of Walls Used In Building Construction

Types Of Patio Covers (Patio Roofing Materials)

20 Different Types Of Houses (With Pictures)

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