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How Do I Choose the Best Deck Railing?

Selecting the best deck railing involves balancing aesthetics, safety, and maintenance. Consider the view, local building codes, material durability, and your lifestyle. Whether you prefer the classic charm of wood, the sleek look of metal, or the low upkeep of vinyl, your choice defines your deck's character. What will your deck say about you? Explore the possibilities with us.
Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

In order to choose the best deck railing for any application, you must decide on the intended purpose of the deck and railing. If it is to be merely ornamental, there are several options such as poly or aluminum materials which are not suitable for a restrictive railing. When the deck railing is to serve a utilitarian purpose, such as preventing a person from falling off of the deck or from gaining access to the deck from a lower level, a strong and reinforced iron style may be the best material choice. When deciding on the best railing for any purpose, the fitment, style and price will aid in determining the best materials for the job.

Some of the earliest deck railings were merely the same wood used to construct the deck itself, typically pine lumber in small dimensions that could be painted or stained to match the deck. As the popularity of the deck has expanded, the urge to create a modern and individualized appearance has also attached itself to the outside deck area. Ornamental railing is replacing the painted wood, and several manufacturers are marketing railing from lightweight ornamental-only railing to fully functional wrought iron and aluminum railing strong enough to discourage an unwanted intruder.

Painted wood a simple option for a deck railing.
Painted wood a simple option for a deck railing.

If constructing a deck for a home with small children or pets, a restrictive deck railing with low confinement rails may prove to be the best option for eliminating the hazard of falling over the edge of the deck. If the deck is to be used primarily for entertaining adults, a deck railing that incorporates seating or small table tops may be the best choice. Often, deck railings lead to a lake or boat dock; in this scenario, a lighted railing system could prove to add a certain luxury to the property. Many railing manufacturers can duplicate an existing architectural railing used in other areas of a property to tie the look together.

Some of the better deck and railing manufacturers offer the ability to use photo software to project images of particular railings onto a photo of your property, allowing you to easily see the visual impact of a number of different deck railing styles on your deck. This procedure often gives the best opportunity to choose the best deck railing for any location. By explaining the intended purpose of the railing to the manufacturer, any railing that would fail to meet the needed requirements would be eliminated from the process. This process allows a homeowner to choose only from a list of capable products.

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Discussion Comments


Many contemporary homes have simple, wooden decks, so wood deck railing is a great choice. This material lasts a long time, and can be painted or strained to fit any exterior color scheme.


If you want a rustic look for your deck, or you have an older home that you want to enhance, you can't go wrong with choosing iron deck railings. This material has a very decorative feel, so it compliments older homes. It is also great for people who don't use their decks for a lot of entertaining, but prefer to accentuate the deck's style and looks.

If you have a busy lifestyle with pets, kids, and guests spending a lot of time on your deck, PVC or vinyl deck railing are the best options for your deck railing needs. These materials hold up in all kinds of weather and last through a lot of wear and tear.

In addition, if you use your deck a lot for entertaining, grilling out, or relaxing, PVC and vinyl railings are easy to clean and maintain. Simply wipe them off with soap and water and they will be ready for your next activity on your deck.

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    • Painted wood a simple option for a deck railing.
      By: trailfan
      Painted wood a simple option for a deck railing.