How much thought do you give to your deck railing? If you're like most people, the answer is "Not a lot." Deck railings are seldom considered when homeowners first think about building a new deck. Size and shape, material choice, color, elevation, and placement all tend to take priority. It's not until we ask, "What kind of railing are you thinking about?" that our customers even realize they have a choice!

Today's deck railing options go well beyond the traditional post and rail giving homeowners plenty of choices. Deck railings are essential to deck safety, but they also provide an important aesthetic function. Railings are the icing on the cake, so to speak. They are the final finishing touch that gives a deck its' own unique look and feel. You can have two decks that are exactly the same in size, shape, and color, but if you install different deck railings on them, they will look like two completely different decks!

With that in mind, we wanted to share with you some of the most popular deck railing options available today.

Deck Railing Materials

Deck railings come in even more materials than decking does, allowing you to design the deck that's perfect for you in both looks and function! Top deck railing options are:
  • Composite and PVC. These non-wood deck railings are popular because they mimic the look of real wood with none of the maintenance needs. You can find entire railing kits full of everything you need to install your railing or you can mix and match pieces to create a truly custom look. We use TimberTech railings for their beauty, durability, and varied selection.
  • Metal railings are often used in conjunction with wood or composite materials. We most often see metal deck railings in the form of aluminum or steel spindles that are used in place of wood balusters. Metal is another low maintenance choice and the spindles can be spray painted if you want to change their color, although steel can rust.
  • Glass, Plexiglass, and Acrylics. If you love unobstructed views and a clean look, tempered glass, acrylic or plexiglass panels are a good option. These clear panels make it easy to enjoy the view and give decks a sleek look. In many cases, the deck actually recedes from view and they are very popular on second-story decks. Choose tinted panels to prevent birds from flying into the glass. Keeping the glass clean can be a challenge, so keep that in mind before you install these types of panels.
  • Wires and Cabling. Cable or wire deck railings are one of the hottest trends in decking right now. They are another great way to open up the view and create a sleek, modern look. Stainless steel cables are strung through posts made of composite, wood, or aluminum to keep the cables taut and level. Tension must be maintained on the wire for the look to work, but that is easily controlled with a turnbuckle located discreetly at an end corner.
  • Wood is the classic tried and true deck railing choice. You'll find wood railings at every price point and in many different styles and designs. The benefit of wood is that it is easy to find and thus, easy to replace, but it's the most high-maintenance of all of the deck railing options.

Deck Railing Design

Get creative with your deck railings! Railings don't have to match the deck surface material. Mix and match colors and materials to achieve the look you want. Using different material creates a unique look and provides great contrast. The difference in colors can help enhance your deck's appearance too. A very dark deck can be lightened visually by adding light-colored rails, glass panels, or wire railings.

Did you know deck railings can be curved? Yes, they can! It's easiest with today's high-tech composite materials, but can also be achieved with both wood and metal railings. A curved railing adds a strong Wow! factor to decks because they are still pretty rare to see. They look particularly good with long decks, decks that surround a pool, or those that have a lot of other elements to them like an outdoor kitchen or a gazebo.

Another thing you'll want to consider in your deck railing design is maintenance. Wood railings are traditional and classic, but they require annual maintenance whereas modern wire railings don't have those same maintenance requirements. If you love the look of wood railings but are leery of the maintenance needs, look into composite or PVC decking and deck railings or even metal deck railings for some low-maintenance options.

Words of Warning

Remember that local building codes will have a lot of influence on what type of deck railing can be used on your deck. Most municipalities accept all of these common railing materials, but you will have to adhere to building code safety standards when designing your deck and choosing railings. For example, railings are required on decks that are located a certain amount off the ground, typically 30 inches or higher than ground level. Another requirement? The railings must be at least 36 inches high and you can expect to find strict spacing requirements for vertical rails and posts.

The best approach is to hire a professional deck installer like Erdmann Exteriors & Construction to help you with your deck railing project. Our local pros are familiar with all local building code requirements and can help you design a deck that is both safe and beautiful.

If you've got a sound deck but want to update the look of it, a new deck railing may be just what you need! Contact Erdmann Exteriors & Construction to explore deck railing ideas and options so you can start enjoying your deck again!

Call 1-847-357-9607 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today!