Deck railings are available in a wide variety of styles, materials, and designs; but when it comes down to it, all deck railings are meant to perform the same job no matter what they look like. A deck is a great place to hang out or entertain when the weather's warm. Deck railings are there to make sure that large objects don't fall off the deck and injure someone below; they're also designed to keep a small stumble from turning into a 15 foot drop.
Making the most of a Deck Wall
The exterior wall of the house that the deck is built onto can be a great asset. Anchoring the railing to the deck wall is a way to increase the stability of the railing. The deck wall is also a good place to install outdoor lighting. Though this wall will often have a small light already in place, putting up additional lights is often a necessity for safety and nighttime card games, alike.
Deck Railings and Building Code
As building codes vary greatly from place to place, make sure to check out what it is in your area before you shop for materials. In most places, deck railings are supposed to be a certain height, and the balusters need to be spaced at certain intervals, but in some cases, what you build your railings out of is also an issue. Deck railings around a pool will often be subject to different codes, as well.
Comparing Deck Railing Materials
Of course, the most common material used for this type of railing is wood, and it is often the same type of wood used to build the deck itself. However, because the amount of lumber used for deck railings is far less than what is used for the deck, some people opt for a more exotic wood as an accent.
Railings, especially those on stairs, will come into contact with a lot of hands. This makes them splinter territory. No matter what you build the deck out of, make sure that the railings are constructed of a durable wood that is sealed and treated to prevent splintering.
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A safe railing needs to be strong enough to not budge if a person falls into it. For this reason, many homeowners choose metal railings or metal reinforcements for wood railings.
Composite and plastic lumber decking is becoming more and more common as people become more environmentally conscious. These materials can certainly be used to create the railings, as well. The problem here is that these materials haven't been popular for very long, so it is hard to say what their performance will be like over many years. If you are thinking of using plastic or composite for your railing material, check with the manufacturer about which of their models has tested best (and about the warranty, too).
The Best Look
The last, but certainly not the least thing, to consider is how will your deck railings look in conjunction with your house. There aren't any concrete rules here, but those who are thinking about painting the railings (or leaving them unfinished) should do some research on the various materials available. Some will take paint or stain extremely well, while others can hold up for decades without any finish at all.