Deck Rails: Choosing the Perfect Finishing Touch
Looking for a way to personalize your deck? Focus on the handrails. Deck designers have more handrail options than ever these days. And because the rails are one of the most visible parts of any deck, they’re a wonderful venue for customization.
Regardless of what decking material your deck is made from, customized deck rails can add a personal flair your neighbors will appreciate. To help you choose the perfect handrail for your decking project, this article describes the different types of handrails currently on the market.
If you want to show off breathtaking views, glass handrails are a wonderful choice. Glass deck rail systems consist of glass panels supported on all sides by metal, vinyl, or wood. The central panels of glass are often recycled from sliding glass doors, so glass railing systems are environmentally friendly. The transparency of the glass panels allows the surrounding landscape to shine. Glass railing systems are also highly customizable, since the central glass panels may be tinted in a wide range of colors. Finally, glass offers protection from the wind without obscuring the view, so many seaside homes are outfitted with glass handrails.
Although aluminum is lightweight, it is quite strong, so it’s a good choice for areas that could receive rough treatment. Aluminum’s strength makes it a good choice for security purposes, as well. Aluminum is also easy to customize—it may be twisted into nearly any scroll, twist or line. A final advantage of aluminum handrail systems is that they are virtually maintenance free. Aluminum handrails will not corrode under moist conditions and do not require regular maintenance, as wood does.
Cable handrails are strong, sleek, and subtle. They are constructed of stainless steel cable stretched between sturdy posts. Like glass and aluminum handrails, cable deck rails require very little maintenance. Many homeowners use cable handrails to show off a stunning view; when viewed from the side, the cables are nearly invisible. Small cedar decks and balconies are also great candidates for cable handrails, as this type of deck rail makes small spaces appear larger. Finally, cable deck rails are minimalist and modern and will look stylish for decades to come.
Today’s vinyl is incredibly long-lasting and will not scratch, fade or crack. Nowadays, vinyl will only break under extreme conditions, such as when it comes in contact with a lawnmower blade. Even in wet climates like the Pacific Northwest, vinyl will not chip, rust, rot or corrode, making it a low-maintenance option. A simple rub with a soapy cloth will make vinyl handrails look like new. Unlike wood railings, vinyl railings are not susceptible to insect infestations. A final reason to choose vinyl is that it is available in a range of colors. An easy way to achieve a classy look is to match your vinyl railings to the color of your home.
With all of the beauty of wood and all of the strength of plastic, composite deck rails offer the best of both worlds. They are a great choice for homeowners who want the warm look of wood without any maintenance. The plastic in composite handrails, which is usually recycled from post-consumer bottles, protects the wood pulp from moisture and pets. The wood, which is often recycled from shipping palettes, helps provide a slip-resistant surface. Like composite decking, composite handrails are sustainable because they’re made of recycled materials. They’re also long-lasting and will not weaken or fade under extreme weather conditions.
Although it requires maintenance, wood is a popular material for deck rails. That’s because wood is strong, beautiful and easy to work with. It’s also easy to create unique shapes with wood. Round, square or even triangular elements may be echoed in wood deck rails. Another way to customize wood handrails is to stain or paint them to complement your home’s color scheme. Many homeowners choose to install cedar handrails, since cedar repels pests and stands up to the test of time better than other woods. Keep in mind that just like a cedar deck, wood handrails require consistent maintenance to keep their initial luster; even cedar must be refinished every few years.
Gone are the days of metal pipes sticking out of concrete pilings; nowadays, handrails come in a variety of materials. Whichever material you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the sophisticated look that customized deck rails will bring to your deck.
~Colleen Welch, 2010