Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: Choosing a deck railing

By Lance McCarthy

First, a few fyi’s.  Deck railing looks really good, but it has a purpose.  And that is to make sure that your beautiful 18 month old daughter that just learned to walk doesn’t walk right off the edge of the deck.  Or your drunk friend Jason.  Either one.  Because of that, smart people made rules for deck railing:

  • Any deck over 30” off the ground needs a rail
  • If there are three or more stairs they need a rail
  • The rail has to be at least 36” tall
  • There can’t be gaps in the rail bigger than 4” (I guess that’s how big a baby’s head is?)

Now the fun stuff.

Back in the day when I started building decks (early ‘90s), deck railing was simple.  Take some 2×4’s for the top and bottom rail, and then nail some 2×2 spindles to them and then crack open a Natty Light (I didn’t do that, it just sounds like something that would happen in the early ‘90s after you built a deck) and admire your work.

Now there are literally hundreds of options.  The way I will describe them is by starting with basic and then upgrading gradually to the more expensive ones.

Basic wood:  This is all wood.  Either 4×4 or 6×6 posts, 2×6 or 2×4 top and bottom rail, and wood 2×2 spindles.  There are variations you can do with different designs, but they are all wood.  Can look great, and is timeless, but requires a lot of maintenance over the years ‘cause, well, it’s wood.  

Metal Spindle upgrade:  An easy way to spice it up is to do metal spindles instead of wood.  There are all different styles of metal spindles, and the cost change is pretty slight.  Here’s a link to Deckorator’s spindle options.

Composite Railing:  If you are doing a composite or pvc deck, there are railings to have been designed to match the decking.  Trex, Fiberon, Timbertech, all the big brands have railing to match, like this one from Azek.  These usually use sleeves that slide over the wood deck posts.  Pretty easy to install.  

Metal Railing:  The that is growing the most in popularity are metal.  These are extremely durable and strong, and require very little maintenance.  And are usually the most expensive option.  They can be custom made for your deck, or come in pre-assembled panels that you connect between posts.  Options include cable, glass or aluminum.  Here’s one option from Fortress.

Railing is required, but can be a beautiful addition.  If you want to talk more about these options, drop me a line.  We are happy to discuss.

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