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Manufactured Deck Railings Look Good, But Do They Last?

comments (17) July 6th, 2010 in Blogs
Stainless steel, vinyl, aluminum, and composites are now viable alternatives to wood.
Stainless steel, vinyl, aluminum, and composites are now viable alternatives to wood.Click To Enlarge

Stainless steel, vinyl, aluminum, and composites are now viable alternatives to wood.

by Scott Gibson

Cable Rail: Less is more

Cable rail

• Unobtrusive. Won’t block scenic views.

• Flexible. Can be built with a variety of wood or metal post and rail components as well as tensioning hardware.

• Cables can run horizontally or vertically.

• Glass panels can be used in some aluminum-rail systems.

• More expensive than some other options.
• Horizontal railings barred in some areas because they pose a “climbing hazard.”

• Not compatible with all architectural styles.


Metal: Old-world look with a friendly price



• Quick installation.

• High strength and long unsupported spans.

• Material highly adaptable to custom shapes.

• Very low maintenance.

• Appearance may not be appropriate with some architectural styles.

• Railings made from ferrous metals can rust if finish is damaged.


Vinyl: A very long-lasting paint job


• Durable; very low maintenance.

• Longer unsupported rail spans than wood-plastic composites.

• Has the appearance of painted wood.

• Railing comes in kits that can be assembled quickly.

• It’s still plastic, which won’t appeal to all homeowners.

• Limited color selection.

• Some consider the manufacturing process environmentally hazardous.


Composites: A new life for wood chips and plastic bags


• Appears more woodlike than other low-maintenance options, so railings blend nicely with wood-composite decking.

• Feels more like wood than plastic railings.

• Wider color selection than vinyl.

• Unlike wood, won’t split, crack, or warp.

• Trex railings can't be ordered in curved sections, but can be bent using heat to create curves.


• Relatively expensive.

• Because wood composites contain organic material, they can support the growth of mold.

• With the exception of the PVC-coated variety, dark colors can fade in sunlight. Effect varies by brand.

• Requires support blocks under bottom rail to prevent sagging.


Read the complete article...
Deck Railings Grow Up
Stainless steel, vinyl, aluminum, and composites are now viable alternatives to wood
by Scott Gibson
Get the PDF



posted in: Blogs, deck, outdoor spaces, porch, lumber
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Comments (17)

TylerL TylerL writes: I am a contractor in Greenwich CT. I have found many different railing systems and hands purchased online. The website that I use for all my railing needs is:

They offer free shipping and have great service.
Posted: 11:22 am on April 14th

Skierarc Skierarc writes: Bob,

The cable railing system (Keuka Style) and Adirondack chair are both manufactured by Keuka Studios in Rush, NY.

The website address is:

Posted: 2:57 pm on December 4th

IronManDan IronManDan writes: To respond to BobKnights comment:
The railing pictured above is designed and manufactured by (were are actually not far from Penfield).
Posted: 4:42 am on November 6th

Marlo22 Marlo22 writes: Manufactured Deck Railings are more designer even they not last long. and every one want look & difference in every year.
Posted: 8:16 am on March 8th

MrHandrail MrHandrail writes: If you're considering Metal or Cable railings, check out this gallery for some good ideas about style and finish.

- Andrew
Posted: 9:54 am on June 11th

Benjamin1988 Benjamin1988 writes: Great comparison of the different railings and the pros and cons.

Posted: 4:33 pm on March 27th

jeschiller jeschiller writes: I think my favorite thing about composite materials is that it is great for the forests and the endangered species being threatened by deforestation. People need to start caring more about the environment, people, and animals effected by those cutting down trees in Africa, Brazil and Asia so they can have a nice long lasting deck. Really!!?

The good news is the new composite pvc materials look GREAT and don't require maintenance.Luckily many of the highend homeowners and deck builders in Charleston South Carolina are starting to push pvc decking more and more.

Please look into using this material before you choose an exotic hardwood.

James Schiller
SC's premier construction contractors
Precision Construction

Posted: 1:23 pm on February 28th

AmyStern AmyStern writes: Installing outdoor stair railings has lots of benefits. Safety is obviously the main benefit and having a hand rail to hold on to when going up or down the steps can help to prevent accidental falls. The most important issue is having them installed properly. If you decide to install your outdoor stair railings at your property, check out McGraw-Hill, my employer. There are so many choices of materials and styles to choose from. They have a complete list of what you need to know including what Supplies, etc., you will need. Remember safety is number one.
Posted: 9:56 am on September 13th

ebbs1939 ebbs1939 writes: I installed Premier railing three years ago in cedar color. I wanted the best warranty AND the best product. It sure looked nice up until this spring.
Guess what?
ALL post sleeves are cracked. ALL top rails are cracked. Some bottom rails are cracked. Some balusters are cracked. This was installed in Vermont but the product was developed in Canada and we had a really mild winter so they can't blame this on cold weather.
This is not an isolated event - see the Journal of Light Construction blog on the subject. I have contacted Azek for replacement but they have indicated they will not cover labor. PLEASE POST IF YOU ARE AWARE OF SIMILAR DEFECTS ON THIS PRODUCT. I am also wondering if trex railing holds up better.

Posted: 12:44 pm on May 6th

dobbsj dobbsj writes: I have looked at composite decking and railing for our new deck. I would never use. All I have looked at, including TREX, looks terrible after a few years. Even two of our local building centers who sell it don't recommend it.
Posted: 8:23 pm on January 23rd

littleshuswap littleshuswap writes: TO M Fournier,

Thanks for the comments. I do agree with the approach and in fact am not building the deck myself so your comments are particularly relevant. My only previous experience was with wrought iron and it has certainly served the purpose and done so without really affecting the view at all. I had pretty much decided this time around to go with vinyl but as cost is always a prime consideration I just wasn't sure how the various options compared and was looking to save some time. I was also concerned that I would miss an option that has developed or where prices have fallen since we did our previous deck. I appreciate the time you took to contribute.
Posted: 5:12 pm on January 15th

MFournier MFournier writes: To littleshuswap
Well First off I can tell you cost is always a consideration but cost is more then just the initial cost of the materials. There is the labor to install it as well as the cost of finishing preserving and maintaining the rail (and Deck) once it is installed.

So you really should consider the total cost of the rail over the amount of time you will be using that deck.

As for the cheapest rail as far as materials goes not counting finishing and maintaining it or the labor to install it is a simple pressure treated pine rail but if you consider the cost of hiring someone to put this together then apply a wood preservative or paint if you want that look and then the cost to refinish it over the years. And even the best maintained wood rail will need sections replaced over time especial if you went with cheap PT pine. (a high quality ipe or teak rail is another story but they cost even more then composite rail systems)
When you consider all these costs a composite or vinyl railing systems that goes together in less time then cutting and assembling a wood rail system and never needs finishing or wood preservatives starts to look like the cheaper way to go even though the initial cost can seem much higher.

Now if you are a DIYer do the cost evaluation yourself and don't forget to include your time remember what you get paid a hours at your job and think of your time as if you took time off from your job to do the installation and maintenance. I know all DIYers plan project for their free time but think if instead you put in a few extra hours at what you do for a living instead? Why? well after all doing home improvement is work no matter if it is your own house or not so think about it most professionals make more per hour at their own jobs then what most home improvement labors make per hour. So think about it you are putting in X numbers of hours of your time working are you paying yourself what you could make if you spent that time doing what you do for a living. I doubt you are saving what you could make. So what did that DIY project really cost??? If you make $50.00/ hour at your job and you put in a extra 8 hours at work on a weak end or doing work on the side in your profession you more then likely make more then enough to hire someone to do the DIY project and you still make a profit. And the job was done by someone who does that job every day and does it right. Instead of you taking the time to do something you have never done before.

I know it is not the way to day with all these DIY shows on TV and how they talk about how much you can save doing it yourself but I say people have it all wrong if you are going to spend hours doing extra work why not spend those hours doing what you know how to best your job or profession and hire someone else to do what they do best. For most professionals it is actually finically better to hire someone then to try and be a part time home improvement contractor. Just my 2 cents
Posted: 10:13 am on January 2nd

littleshuswap littleshuswap writes: First time I've commented on a submission on this site. I have looked at some discussions (not a lot) on manufactured deck railings. It is interesting to me that often the context is missing - sometimes it is clear people were looking for a lower cost alternative and got a lot of information that would be useful if cost was no object. I'm wondering if there is any definitive evaluation of deck railings for someone looking for a lower or least cost alternative. It was an intellectual interest before, now I'm heading into replacing a two level deck on a lake cottage where cost is king. Any suggestions?
Posted: 8:58 pm on October 20th

BobKnights BobKnights writes: Any suggestions where I might find the cable rail system displayed above? I've been looking and haven't had any luck.
Posted: 5:57 pm on September 24th

Mike_Guertin Mike_Guertin writes: One more Con for many of the manufactured deck railings: Most mounting systems will not pass the ASTM D7032 - 08 (Standard Specification for Establishing Performance Ratings for Wood-Plastic Composite Deck Boards and Guardrail Systems).

Though not specifically integrated into the 2009 IRC, I expect to see something pop up in the 2010 IRC Supplement. From what I understand most railing systems won't support the code required loads even many have ICC-ES reports for railing suitability.
Posted: 3:11 pm on August 11th

FHB_WEB FHB_WEB writes: Thanks for the clarification.
Posted: 10:09 am on April 29th

PatMc1 PatMc1 writes: Hi Jean-Paul:

I am a Representative of Trex and would like to comment on your article "The Pros and Cons of Manufactured Deck Railings. This article states under the listing for composites that Trex railings can be ordered in curved sections. Our Trex Railing products cannot be ordered in curved sections as stated but can be bent by heating.

Instructions on this process are included on our website in our Installation Guide here

If you need any further assistance, please contact me at 800-BUY-TREX or at

Pat M - Trex

Posted: 1:58 pm on April 22nd

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