Manufactured Deck Railings Look Good, But Do They Last?
Learn about low-maintenance alternatives to wood railings.
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.
- 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.
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Stainless steel, vinyl, aluminum, and composites are now viable alternatives to wood