Decks and Docks Choosing the Right Railing

You’ve chosen the perfect material for your new deck, but you’re not done making design decisions just yet. Now, it’s time to choose the railing — but how do you choose the right style, height, and materials?

If you’re having trouble deciding, just turn to the experts at Decks & Docks. We understand that the right railing can make or break your new deck, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you make the right choice.

Why Is it Important to Choose the Right Railing?

Your deck railing has a bigger job than just looking good. It should also improve the safety of your deck by preventing falls and keeping kids and pets safely inside. Choosing a railing that’s either too low or with gaps that are too wide can be dangerous, so you’ll want to consider these factors carefully.

Researching your decking options now will also help you save money in the long-run. Instead of picking the first inexpensive railing kit you come across and having to replace it in a few years, you’ll be able to choose a high-quality railing option that lasts you decades to come.

Understand Your Material Options

Just as you chose a material to build your deck, you’ll need to choose between several materials for the railing. Here’s a brief rundown of the most popular railing options, along with their unique pros and cons.

Choosing the Right Railing: Stainless Steel Cable

If you don’t want your deck railing getting in the way of your view, then consider cable railing. The thin cables are easy to install, making them a popular choice for interiors as well. You can even customize the look by adding a beautiful hardwood like Ipe to the top and bottom rails.

Made from 316L stainless steel, cable is extremely durable and weather-resistant. This makes it a great choice for decks near the water and in areas that experience harsh storm seasons.

Pros: Weather resistance, low-maintenance

Cons: More expensive than other options

Choosing the Right Railing: Aluminum

Do you love the stately look of wrought iron, but don’t want to deal with the high price tag or constant maintenance? Aluminum railing can give you that high-end aesthetic for a far more reasonable price. And because aluminum is far less prone to rust and corrosion, you’ll save extra on maintenance costs.

Despite being a sturdy metal, aluminum is actually very lightweight, making it easy to install. Just make sure you get aluminum railing that’s powder coated to ensure its longevity.

Pros: Classic look, easy maintenance, inexpensive

Cons: May not work with your home’s design

Choosing the Right Railing: Wood

To match your wooden decking, you might decide to go with wooden railing. Inexpensive and easy to install, wood is a popular choice for homes and large commercial decks alike. And if it’s made from a durable hardwood, this type of decking can last upwards of 25 years.

However, keep in mind that wood requires regular maintenance to stay in good shape. It will need to be sealed, stained, or painted every year or so.

Pros: Cost-effective, looks great with wood decking

Cons: Requires more maintenance than other materials

Choosing the Right Railing: Vinyl

Vinyl railing is inexpensive, durable, and comes in a variety of styles. That’s why you’ll see it used everywhere, from front porches to marine decks.

Unlike wood, there’s no need to seal or paint vinyl, so maintenance is a breeze. Vinyl post sleeves can also be used to cover and protect your existing wooden railing, helping you save on replacement costs.

Pros: UV protected, cost-effective, easy to install

Cons: Not available in darker colors

Choosing the Right Railing: Composite

Composite materials combine the natural look of wood with the easy maintenance of options like vinyl and aluminum. Made from a mix of wood fiber and durable plastic, composite railing won’t warp or splinter.

Pros: Looks like natural wood, easy to maintain

Cons: Colors tend to lighten over time

Things to Consider When Choosing a Railing

There’s more to choosing the right railing for your deck than picking out a material you like. Here are some more tips to help you navigate the process.

1. Determine Your Budget

The first step to making any major investment in your home is to determine your budget. Softwoods like pine are easily the most affordable railing material, but they won’t last you as long as composite or vinyl. Aluminum is also fairly inexpensive considering its strength. Hardwoods and stainless steel cables tend to have the highest price tags, but you may decide that it’s worth it to spend a little extra for these low-maintenance materials.

2. Make Sure It’s Safe

The recommended height for a deck railing is between 36 and 42 inches. This will keep kids (and adults who may have had a little too much to drink) from accidentally falling over the edge while still allowing you to easily see over it.

To find out the exact safety requirements your railing needs to meet, contact your local building department.

3. Consider Your Style Preferences

While everyone should make sure that their railing choice is safe and within their budget, not everyone will have the same style preferences. Before you start shopping around, decide what yours are.

For example, do you want to be able to see through the railing easily, or do you want your deck to feel more private? If your deck overlooks a scenic shoreline or gorgeous garden, cable railing can be made so thin that you don’t even notice it’s there.

Color and shape are important, too. Would a black aluminum rail clash with your light-colored beach house, or go perfectly with your Victorian home? Do you prefer a traditional turned baluster design or a more modern geometric shape? Deck railing is more customizable than you might think, giving you the flexibility to create the perfect design.

Explore Quality Deck Railing Options at Decks & Docks

You don’t have to look very far to find quality railing options from top brands like Trex, AZEK, Atlantis, and Westbury. Decks & Docks has all of the materials, accessories, and hardware you need to bring your dream deck to life!

Check out our railing options to complete your next project. With everything from cable to composite, we guarantee you’ll find the perfect match at one of our many locations along the East Coast.

Still have questions about choosing the right deck railing or anything else marine construction related? Call us at 866-628-0328 to ask an expert!