best deck railing material

The Best Deck Railing Materials Explained

Are you building a deck but feeling unsure about the best deck railing material to choose? With a plethora of railing options, it can be challenging to know which material to opt for.

But fear not; we’re here to break down seven common handrail options homeowners enjoy. So keep reading to learn about the different railing systems and get some deck railing ideas.

Steel Railings

Steel is a heavy-duty metal that can withstand most weather conditions. Of all the metal railings, it’s the most durable and least likely to succumb to corrosion.

Pros of Steel Railings

The superior strength of steel is its top benefit Steel railings are long-lasting and come in several color options.

Cons of Steel Railings

Steel is difficult to install because of its weight. This makes the installation process longer and more expensive.

Plus, it’s not easy to modify steel to fit your deck shape, so steel railings lack versatility.

However, if you want to incorporate steel into your deck railing design, you can use stainless steel cables. Cable railings use horizontal or vertical cables as the rail infill instead of:

  • Glass
  • Mesh
  • Spindles

You can even get a DIY cable deck railing kit for easy installation. Install a steel top rail and use cabling railings for rail infill on your outdoor deck.

Wood Railings

Wood railings provide a classic and timeless look for any outdoor space. Wood deck railings continue to be a favorite for homeowners.

Pros of Wood Railings

With wood, you have hundreds of color options. You can always paint or stain your wood railings a new color. There are also many different wood baluster style options.

Wood is one of the most versatile options. For example, you can create earthy and rustic looks.

Cons of Wood Railings

Wood railings require higher maintenance (making them more expensive) and are prone to wear. Regular upkeep includes:

  • Painting
  • Sanding (to avoid splinters)
  • Staining

Additionally, wood isn’t great for all weather conditions, especially humid and wet climates. The moisture leads to mold and rot.

If the cons outweigh the pros for wood railings, consider composite railings instead. Composite deck railings use a mix of wood and PVC to create a more durable material. This improves their functionality and lifespan while lowering costs.

Vinyl Railings

For those asking, “What is the best material for a deck railing?” many homeowners will say vinyl railings. They are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), making them versatile and traditional looking.

Pros of Vinyl Railings

Vinyl railings are low-cost, low-maintenance, and easy to install. In addition, they are smooth and clean to look at.

A metal framework can help improve the strength of vinyl railings.

Cons of Vinyl Railings

Vinyl is not as strong or durable as other railing materials, especially metal.

Additionally, vinyl is not a suitable material for all weather conditions. Areas with large temperature fluctuations should reconsider vinyl as the material can expand and contract, weakening it.

While vinyl comes in various color options, you cannot paint it.

Aluminum Railings

If you want a metal deck railing, aluminum is an excellent choice. Aluminum deck railings are lightweight, eliminating many of the challenges associated with steel.

Pros of Aluminum Railings

Aluminum is weather-resistant to extreme temperatures, making these railings low-maintenance. They also will not rust or corrode. Plus, installation is much easier because of the lessened weight.

Further, aluminum balusters come in different styles creating more versatility.

Compared to other metal railings, aluminum is more affordable.

Cons of Aluminum Railings

The initial costs of aluminum can be more expensive than other railing materials. But with less maintenance, the overall costs remain comparable to other railing options.

Glass Railings

Glass railings simply look stunning. Consider glass panels or balusters if you want something luxurious and extravagant.

Pros of Glass Railings

Glass is strong and low maintenance. While you must keep your glass railings clean, the required maintenance doesn’t extend beyond this.

Glass also opens up your deck to amazing and unobstructed views. Plus, it blocks the wind.

You can use aluminum posts and rail frames to increase your glass railings’ durability, too.

Cons of Glass Railings

Glass is one of the most expensive types of railings. The material itself is costly, and glass railings’ labor costs are significantly higher than other railing materials. This is because special skills are required to install it.

Iron Railings

Wrought iron is another strong metal to consider. It’s on par with steel but can rust if you ignore the upkeep.

Pros of Iron Railings

Wrought iron is more versatile than other metals because you can paint it any color. Iron balusters also come in many different decorative styles, making them more versatile than steel.

Cons of Iron Railings

Iron railings can be pricey. They also require regular maintenance to prevent rust and corrosion.

Plastic Railings

While vinyl is the most common plastic railing you can choose from, there are other options. One example is polymer, which some consider a composite material.

Pros of Plastic Railings

Polymer is low-maintenance and easy to install. In addition, it’s often more durable than vinyl because of its chemical makeup. It can also withstand high heat, making it less susceptible to warping.

Polymer and vinyl railings are environmentally friendly because you can recycle the materials.

Cons of Plastic Railings

Compared to vinyl railings, polymer railings are more than double the price. Unfortunately, many homeowners cannot justify the price increase despite the durability.

Best Deck Railing Material for Bad Weather

Aluminum is the best material for all types of poor weather conditions. However, if you experience cold winters, it’s best to use a powder coating to further protect against extreme weather. Powder coatings come in many different color options.

What Is the Most Economical Deck Railing?

Composite deck railings and vinyl railings are the most economical options.

Pressure-treated wood is also an inexpensive option to consider.

Which Deck Railing Is Easiest to Install?

Traditionally, the easiest deck railings to install are aluminum and cable railings.

Because wood railings don’t come preassembled, they are the most difficult to install for DIY-ers. Steel is a close second in installation difficulty.

Find Out More About Our Deck Railing Supplies

With more knowledge about all the deck railing options, you can decide which is the best deck railing material for your needs. For more assistance with your deck-building project, get in touch with us at Harbor Exports. We’ll help you source the deck materials you need for an affordable price.

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