The Finishing Touch

The Next Level

A great railing transforms even the simplest wood deck into something memorable. But most people aren’t aware of the sheer number of choices in railing products and designs. There’s an almost baffling array to choose from.

Basic Overview

Railings can be built or bought. Your contractor can either build a railing system on-site or purchase a manufactured system to install. More homeowners than not opt for site-built wood railings, which account for about 71 percent of the market. It usually comes down to cost: it’s easy to spend $30 per foot for a railing system, while a basic wood railing can be built for as little as $10.

Railings On The Rise

More homeowners are choosing railing systems than ever, thanks to low maintenance, strong product warranties, lots of style choices, and ease of installation. In some areas, site-built railings have actually become rare. “Of the more than 100 decks we build each year, we might do five that have wood railings,” Says Matt Breyer of Breyer Construction and Landscape, in Reading, PA. Even building inspectors prefer manufactured systems because most are certified by independent testing labs to meet building codes.

Mix and Match

Railings aren’t an either-or choice—a skilled contractor can build an attractive, code-compliant hybrid. Most hybrid railings combine wood posts and handrails with low-maintenance, manufactured infill pieces like metal balusters, glass panels, or stainless steel cable rail. “We’ve built decks that mixed four different types of products in three different colors,” says Dave Lombardo, owner of American Deck & Patio in Baltimore, MD.

Keeping It Simple

While design pros can help homeowners sort through the overwhelming number of product options, manufacturers are also simplifying the selection process. Fortress Railing, which makes aluminum, cable, glass-panel, and iron railings, has organized its marketing materials to walk customers through the selection process.

Endless Variety

Making the selection process easier is great for DIYers, but it also benefits homeowners working with a designer. The products displayed in the showroom represent just a fraction of what’s available because dealers are relying more and more on special orders. Designers can bridge the gap between the options on display and the wide variety of design choices actually available.

Standing Out

There are more than enough attractive railing products to choose from. So if you want something special, you will need to spend a bit more time on your choice. But that’s no different than any custom build. Don’t let the volume of choice prevent you from getting the perfect railing for your deck. It’s worth the effort.

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