Manufactured Deck Railings Look Good, But Do They Last?
by Scott Gibson
Cable Rail: Less is more
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
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Deck Railings Grow Up
Stainless steel, vinyl, aluminum, and composites are now viable alternatives to wood
by Scott Gibson
Stainless steel, vinyl, aluminum, and composites are now viable alternatives to wood.