In our ongoing series on planning and building a new deck, we have looked at popular decking materials so far. Now it's time to look at deck railings. Not all decks have railings, but they are a popular feature for both safety and comfort. They also have a broader range of material options to work with. Let's take a look at some popular railing types and why people choose them.
Wood is a traditional railing option, and for a good reason — it's a very affordable material, and easy to customize as needed. You can plan for nearly any size or shape of railing you want, and there will be a wood option for you. You may also find that it's easier to match wood railings to a current deck if you already use wood materials; Although, this may require choosing the wood type and stain carefully, so the two don't look mismatched.
However, wood also has its downsides. It tends to be weaker against the elements than other materials, and more susceptible to rot, pests, and wear and tear, which means maintenance is important after you build.
Composite railings are made of compressed fibers, which is usually a mix of plastic and recycled construction materials, compressed in a wood-like mold to give it a grainy texture. The big advantage of the composite approach is that your railings will be more durable, will be able to withstand moisture and wind much more easily than wood, and extreme temperatures more reliably than vinyl.
With composites, you have to be careful mixing materials, composite railings on a wood deck can look out of place. This material is best suited to decks that are already made out of composite materials. Also, for decks that face the sun, some composites can grow very hot in the summer sun.
Vinyl is a simple plastic material, known for being lightweight, affordable, and very easy to install. Vinyl cannot be stained, but it is available in many different colors, and like composites, vinyl is typically pressed in a wood-like mold (although it is unlikely to fool anyone up close, especially next to real wood).
The problem with vinyl materials is that they aren't well-suited to areas with extreme temperature changes. Some vinyl has been known to warp in hot temperatures. Other vinyl materials can grow brittle in cold weather, making them more susceptible to damage. This is an option best chosen in mild climates.
There are three popular types of metal rails: Aluminum, steel and steel cable. Aluminum is lightweight and typically painted, but has a unique look that doesn't work for all decks, especially those made of stained wood. Steel railing is typically a dark "ironwork" railing that comes in many different styles and pairs well with rich wood colors. Steel cable railing provides a more modern/industrial look that is also very durable, but not especially friendly for pets or kids.
Ready to start building your deck? Schedule your consultation with us at Owens Construction today! Don't forget to subscribe to our blog to stay tuned for the rest of our deck building series!