Deck Railing Options

By Bill Christou, 05/18/17

When constructing your deck, we know meeting your dream of a beautiful and functional outdoor living space is at the heart of the design process.

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A deck without a proper set of railings is a potential accident waiting to happen. To ensure safety, individual communities in the United States regulate certain aspects of construction. Most regulations are outlined by the International Residential Code, although local building authorities often add additional restrictions for their specific conditions. When you’re constructing a deck, your local building authority inspects your plans to ensure that they meet or exceed local building codes before issuing a permit

In today's market there is a wide variety of posts, top rails, frame colors, and infill options for your specification needs. Homeowners can choose traditional wood, aluminum, glass or cable railing systems for their deck. Each option gives your deck a unique look, performance and sight lines for your deck applications. You can even mix and match elements to create a look that is unique and beautiful to match your home's personality.

As you consider the best railing solution for your project, keep this in mind:

Wood Post, Handrail and Baluster Infill

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Wind. Allows full air flow across the deck or balcony area.

Installation. Wood Posts, Handrail and Balusters are easy to install

Sustainability. Wood is 100% pre-consumer content and 0% post-consumer content.

Safety. Compliant with the International Building Code and International Residential Code.

The top of the handrail should be at least 34 inches but not more than 38 inches high. You can’t use a two-by-four but a two-by-two as a handrail would meet code. Some large decorative handrails are permissible, as long as their design offers a finger recess that allows secure grasping.

Balusters, the vertical guards that support the handrail, must be installed close enough that the space between them is no greater than 4 inches.

The structural integrity of the railing depends heavily on the posts that support the rail structure. These posts should be no farther apart than six feet on the flat deck and no farther apart than 5 1/2 feet on stairs.

Some balusters connect to the decking, while others connect to a bottom rail. If you’re using a bottom rail, make sure it does not sit more than four inches above the deck surface.

Maintenance. Periodic weatherizing with an oil-based deck protector is recommended. The more typical consumer application in a less extreme climate will require maintenance once every one to two years. Generally, it is advisable to re-apply the finish after six months and then repeat again annually for optimal residential decking results.

Aluminum Rail

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Wind: Allows full air flow across the deck or balcony area

Install: Aluminum rail is easy to install

Sustainability: Aluminum contain varying levels of pre-consumer post-consumer content.

Safety: Compliant with the International Building Code and International Residential Code.

The top of the handrail should be at least 34 inches but not more than 38 inches high.

Balusters, the vertical guards that support the handrail, must be installed close enough that the space between them is no greater than 4 inches.

The structural integrity of the railing depends heavily on the posts that support the rail structure. These posts should be no farther apart than six feet on the flat deck and no farther apart than 5 1/2 feet on stairs.

Bottom rail must not sit more than four inches above the deck surface.

Maintenance: Minimal. Periodic treatment with cleaner and protectant is recommended.

Wood Post and Handrail with Cable Infill

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Wind. Allows full air flow across the deck or balcony area.

Installation. Cable rail is easy to install

Sustainability. Stainless steel cables contain 70% pre-consumer content and 0% post-consumer content. Wood is 100% pre-consumer content and 0% post-consumer content.

Safety. Compliant with the International Building Code and International Residential Code when vertical or horizontal cable spacing is 3 inches or less.

The top of the handrail should be at least 34 inches but not more than 38 inches high. You can’t use a two-by-four but a two-by-two as a handrail would meet code. Some large decorative handrails are permissible, as long as their design offers a finger recess that allows secure grasping.

The structural integrity of the railing depends heavily on the posts that support the rail structure. These posts should be no farther apart than six feet on the flat deck and no farther apart than 5 1/2 feet on stairs.

Maintenance. Minimal. Periodic treatment with a stainless steel cleaner and protectant is recommended. Occasional cable tightening is a routine procedure.

For the Wood Posts and Handrail, periodic weatherizing with an oil-based deck protector is recommended. The more typical consumer application in a less extreme climate will require maintenance once every one to two years. Generally, it is advisable to re-apply the finish after six months and then repeat again annually for optimal residential decking results.

Tempered Glass

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Wind. Offers a full or partial wind break, which can be a consideration in coastal projects.

Transparency. Can be modulated from clear to custom tinted, helping manage light flow and privacy.

Environmental impact. Clear tempered exterior glass panels can prove to be a hazard to birds.

Durability. Tempered laminated glass can be specified for varying safety and security levels.

Maintenance. Requires periodic cleaning, though higher quality glass can help reduce cleaning time and frequency.

By Bill Christou, 05/18/17

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