Railing Basics - Railing Materials
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Lightweight and durable, aluminum railing resists rust and corrosion—making it virtually maintenance-free for the life of the product. Aluminum is available in several colors and baluster shapes. DecksDirect offers aluminum railing systems from Westbury, Fortress, Deckorators, Afco, Solutions, and more.
Pros: clean look, ease of install, can be used between any newel posts
Cons: modern look doesn’t mesh with all architecture
Constructed of 316 stainless steel, cables are available in 3/16” and 1/4” diameters but are most commonly used in 1/8” diameter. Nineteen thin cables are wound together to produce one durable and attractive cable. DecksDirect carries a variety of horizontal and vertical cable, as well as the opportunity to do a fully-custom system with Feeney DesignRail®.
Pros: unobstructed views, modern design, easy to install, low maintenance, customizable
Cons: more expensive than wood, not child-friendly, may not meet code in certain areas
Cap-Stock Composite Railing
A wood-alternative material, that contains plastic, recycled material and wood fibers. Cap-stock is the result of co-extruding composite material with an exterior shell, typically made of PVC. The inner substance provides durability; the outer coating is an attractive finish available in several colors. Find options from Deckorators, TimberTech, Trex, and others.
Pros: durable finish, can’t rust, can look similar to wood, high color retention, resists stains & fading
Cons: bulky, can appear heavy, looks similar to wood, moderately strong, labor-intensive install
Allowing clear, unobstructed views, glass railings are tempered for safety. Some manufacturers add etched designs, lighting options and a choice of color tints. For minimal upkeep, glass can be treated to reduce water spotting. DecksDirect offers glass balusters or panels and compatible rails from several outstanding manufacturers.
Pros: Unobstructed views, modern design
Cons: may require frequent cleaning, can be costly to ship, can increase temperature on deck surface
Steel railing is a heavy-duty option that is great for replicating the look of wrought iron. DecksDirect offers the complete Fortress FE26 Railing System, which features pre-welded panels that are amazingly strong and durable, without the hassle of separate parts and pieces.
Pros: strength, ease of install, panelized versions available, adjustable stairs panels
Cons: possibility of rust, heavy to work with
For low-cost, low-maintenance, no-frills railing, vinyl is an obvious choice. Lightweight and easy to install, its non-porous surface won’t require painting or staining, though from a distance it can resemble painted wood. At this time, DecksDirect offers vinyl systems from Durables and Fairway.
Pros: price friendly, low maintenance, lightweight
Cons: limited color options, can appear cheap, can become brittle in cold weather
Traditional wood railings are still a popular choice, and the reasons are obvious: the stately, professional look is classic, elegant and economic. However, the very features that make wood so attractive also lead to time-consuming maintenance. Wood railings tend to damage more easily and require significantly more time to stain or paint on an annual basis. At this time, DecksDirect does not offer wood railings, though there are a number of aluminum and steel options that can be installed between wood newel posts.
Pros: natural look, inexpensive, can be painted or stained to match decking
Cons: high maintenance, susceptible to decay, warping and bowing, obstructed views
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