For starters, you need to decide whether you want a deck railing or not. Not everyone needs or chooses one, and your approach to your railing will depend on a number of different factors.
As a general rule, if your deck is below 30 inches, you don’t technically need a railing. However, keep in mind the safety risks. Even if your deck is just a couple of feet tall, you’re still increasing the fall risks for family and guests.
Some people are willing to accept those risks for a few reasons. Perhaps they want to save a little money by not installing a railing, or maybe their deck is a unique shape and they’re concerned about the railing matching up with its contours. They may not want to be limited to specific entry points to their deck, or they may really love the open concept look. If you’re considering holding off on a railing, just make sure that you check with the local building codes to make sure that you’re in compliance.
The Perks of Having a Railing
On the other hand, railings present many benefits.
- Provide safety
- Prevent injuries for adults, children, and others
- Give many options for customization
- Add value and luxury to the deck
- Give the appearance of a clear boundary for your deck
- Add convenience—you can leash your pet to it, hang a towel over it, set a drink down on it, etc.
If you feel like a railing is the right choice for your deck, you’ll want to start by weighing the pros and cons of different railing materials:
Wood—Wood is a great choice if you love a traditional look and want a cost-effective railing. It can be stained to match any color scheme. That said, if you want to keep it looking its best, you will need to clean and stain it regularly as it’s not as durable as other materials like steel and aluminum. If you don’t care for your wood railing, it can dry out and crack or, if you’re in a high moisture area, it can rot and mold.
Composite—It looks natural like wood but doesn’t require the same effort to paint and stain it regularly. Plus, you won’t get slivers from composite material. If you like the classic look of wood but don’t want the maintenance of wood, opt for composite—and be prepared to pay a bit more.
Vinyl—this is a popular choice because it’s relatively low maintenance and versatile. You don’t have to repaint or stain it like you do with wood, and you can find it in basic color schemes that match most any home. It’s affordable, resists insects, and if it starts looking worn, you can clean it up with soap and water. It’s not a perfect choice, though. Some people think it’s not as rich and natural looking as wood. You’re also stuck with the original color as it can’t be easily repainted like wood. Another challenge is that it can fade or crack under intense UV rays like we get here in Denver.
Stainless steel—if you’re looking for durability, look no further than a stainless steel deck railing. It requires almost no maintenance and resists corrosion. It’s also very sleek-looking if you favor a clean, modern look. If you’re on a budget, however, steel may not be for you. It’s one of the most expensive deck railing materials, and it’s very time-intensive to install. Even seasoned DIY-ers will likely find steel railing installation to be a headache.
Aluminum—If you like the clean look of steel but don’t want the high cost, consider aluminum. Like steel, aluminum railings are also very durable and strong. They come in a variety of colors and tend to stay nicer for longer than vinyl and wood.
Cable—These high-tension cables allow the safety of a railing without creating a visual barrier between your deck and the yard surrounding it. They’re often made of steel and work well with most any type of post material (steel, composite, wood, etc.) Like other metal railings, cable is low maintenance and durable; however, it can be a little hard to install yourself because if you don’t achieve the right amount of tension, it may not meet safety codes.
Remember that you’re not locked into just one material. Perhaps you want a composite rail cap, wood rail post, and aluminum balusters. Or maybe you want vinyl railings and posts paired with stainless steel balusters. Ask your Denver custom deck builders about mix-and-match options that fit your aesthetic, budget, and desired maintenance.
Once you’ve settled on the material you like, you can choose your design. You can go geometric with elaborate shapes and angles, choose the rustic farmhouse design with its characteristic X, or go modern with sleek vertical lines.
There are a lot of memories to be made on your deck. Your railing can help make it safe, practical, and beautiful. Talk to your Colorado custom deck installer to see different options.