Deck Railings Buying Guide

Deck Railings
  • Getting Started

  • In terms of safety and aesthetics, nothing adds more flare than a deck. However, without a railing, the deck can be quite bland. Not to mention the fact that deck railings are required for decks located higher than 36 inches from the ground.

  • What to Consider

  • The most important features of any deck railing are style, material and performance. Railings come in a variety of colors and designs so it's easy to find the most elegant railing within the budget.

    Speaking of performance, a deck rail should stand 36 inches or more from the deck boards. If your deck is higher than 10 inches from the ground, increase the measurement to 42 inches. Moreover, a deck rail should be strong enough to carry the weight of anyone who can potentially lean to it, or it will be knocked. Simply put, search for a deck that is hard to push over.

    There are strict measurements that all deck railing manufacturers have to follow. The deck rail should be able to withstand the force up to 200 lbs. per square foot otherwise it cannot be sold. The balusters should be designed close to each other - so that a five inch ball will not pass through the railings. This is important if you have kids who can endanger their heads being stuck in between rails.

  • Materials

  • Composite Deck Railing
    Composite Deck Railing is the most popular option thanks to multiple advantages of the material. Composite is a very durable material which makes it an easy to maintain option that can withstand any climate. This railing is made from a combination of wood particles, such as plastic, sawdust and mulch. Then everything is combined to create a maintenance free and high resistant decking material.

    These railing boards look like the real wood but cheaper and do not require any additional maintenance. The textured wood grain is one of the key features of these materials, which allows for a beautiful but durable result. It will stay in place for many decades even in heavy foot traffic or under harsh weather conditions.

    However, composite deck railings are not perfect. If a traditional wood is damaged, you can just perform a spot repair or restore, which is not possible with composite railings. If the damage occurs, you will have to replace the entire board. Moreover, color choice is also limited. They are paint like natural wood and have a stain finish. Manufacturers provide different colors that imitate wood tones but you cannot get pink or blue composite deck railing.

    These railings are offered by the vast majority of companies. They only require occasional cleaning and provide deck uniformity that is harder to achieve with other materials. They can be expensive, though, so they are not the default railing selection. Some manufacturers combine composite railing systems with metal or natural woods to keep the price lower.

    Installation is easy as these railings come in a kit that is no more than an afternoon project. You can install everything yourself with all pieces easily fitting together. The average price for this type of a deck is around $200 for the 6 inches railing.

    Wood Deck Railing
    Wood is a traditional material for deck railings. It is the most customizable and can fit any style. You can even create a new design by yourself by using different wood species and different finishes. However, different combinations will vary in cost. Consider wood railings as a blank canvas, these are the most versatile of all railing types available on the market.

        •  Pressure Treated Lumber:  This material is commonly used for outdoor wood projects. Pressure treated lumber can hold up additional moisture and does not fade over time. This is the relatively cheap material that you can find in any home improvement store. These benefits make pressure treated lumber a common choice for homeowners looking to make a railing themselves.  This material can be shaped, painted or stained to fit all kind of different designs. This wood material is more porous than those listed below and you can easily refinish it yourself to match the style of your deck. Pressure treated lumber can cost you around $20 per square foot.

        •  Cedar:  Cedar is one of the most durable materials and this is what makes it so popular. If you want to see the beautiful wood grain as your deck railing design, this may be the perfect material for your wants. This material is naturally pest and rot resistant, so you do not have to care about its maintenance. Of course, you can also seal or stain the railing if you feel like doing it.  However, cedar is not completely maintenance free. You will need to treat cedar railings every two years. It is more often than a composite railing, but cedar will hold up longer that an average composite deck railing.

        •  Mahogany:  Mahogany is famous because of its unique color. However, it is also very durable and you can use it for outdoor projects. There are different species within this type of wood. Some of them are naturally rot resistant, others are not. Mahogany can give your deck a traditional look. As a rule of thumb, the richer and darker the color, the more resistant the material will be.  If you need an advanced material protection but love the natural color of mahogany, use a clear sealant to keep the material from graying. The only disadvantage is that mahogany is not produced locally so it is more expensive and can cost you $35 per square foot.

        •  Redwood:  Redwood is also pretty durable and can be used for outdoor applications. It can stand up against UV rays. It is also naturally insect resistant. Unlike other materials that grey over time in sun exposure, redwood will keep its rich red color and can be sealed for better protection.  However, multiple benefits of redwood make it the most expensive option for your wooden deck relining. The average cost is around $60 but you are paying for low maintenance nature of redwood.

    Metal Deck Railing
    Sometimes you do not want to get a traditional look. Some homeowners prefer to go in a different direction with their deck railing designs. Metal railings are the most popular in industrial and contemporary style houses. However, this durable material can easily fit in a Victorian style house as well.

        •  Steel:  Steel is the most common building material, but it is not the most popular when it comes to deck railings. It is very durable as you could expect from a metal but it is vulnerable to rusting with constant sun exposure. This can significantly affect the design and integrity of your deck.  If you still want to use this material, there are ways to prevent rusting. You should use either powder coated steel or galvanized steel as they are less affected by UV rays and weather. They both coat your railing in a protective barrier that will prolong the life of your railing.

        •  Aluminum:  When compared to the previous material, aluminum is much wider used in residential outdoor applications. Aluminum is rust resistant and can withstand harsh weather conditions without requiring any special maintenance.  The most common finish for this material is powder coat. Whether you need a bright centerpiece or a subtle color, you can achieve it with aluminum.

        •  Wrought Iron:  Wrought iron railings are often used in traditional style homes. They often have ornate spindles with designs molded into one another. Wrought iron railings look beautiful but they have the same maintenance issues as steel railings.  There are not any effective protective finishes for this material which means you cannot avoid rusting with exposure to the sun. Wrought iron is more susceptible to corrosion and rust.

    Glass Railing
    Glass railings have a lot of benefits and become more popular. They also offer security and safety for your pets and children and they are low maintenance. But because they are made of tempered glass, it will stay as beautiful as it was when you bought it even after many years.

    Cable Railings
    Cable railings are also known as rope railings and they feature vertical or horizontal cables in place of glass or spindles. Frames can be built with steel, wood, aluminum and so on for different settings. Cable railings are the most expensive, but keep in mind that horizontal cables are not safe for young kids who may want to climb them.

  • Cost Considerations

  • The price will depend on different factors such as railing material, design, and installation costs. For example, grade 316 stainless steel railings are quite expensive but you can easily find a cheaper option that would be as beautiful and durable as stainless steel.