The importance of railings in deck design

People often underestimate the importance of railings in good deck design. The right railings can add remarkable drama to the look of a deck. Lighting effects can be built right into the railings for a spectacular look after the sun goes down. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your railing decision.


Aluminum railings are usually your best bang for the buck. They’re extremely low maintenance, and look fantastic with wood, vinyl or composite deck surfaces. Because they’re hollow, it’s easy to insert electrical conduits and lighting into the railing. They also come in a variety of colors and can be easily painted.


Glass railings, especially the large seamless panes that are becoming increasingly popular, are a great design choice in places where you want to make the most of a spectacular view, because they offer an unimpeded view of the surrounding landscape. They are very expensive to install, not just because of the cost of the material but because of the engineering requirements that municipalities place on glass installation for liability protection. Engineers may have to sign off on the design and installation process, which dramatically adds to the cost. They are very low maintenance, but need to be cleaned much more often than other types of railings because even the water spots following a rainfall affect the look of the railing. Glass railings are not recommended for families with young children because kids love to touch them constantly, leaving marks that need to be cleaned — sometimes many times each day! If you have pets, such as dogs, you will also need to think about the impact they have on glass railings. A wet dog brushing past the glass or walking along the top of the railing will have an immediate and noticeable effect on the look of your pristine glass surface.


Wooden railings work great with wooden deck surfaces. They don’t look good against most other deck materials because of the mismatch between the organic look of the wood and the synthetic look of vinyl or composite flooring. Wooden railings could be used very effectively with a stone deck surface.

Wood requires the highest amount of work to install because the railings have to be cut, sanded, painted or stained and it can be very challenging to deal with the small nooks and crannies that are often encountered when installing a railing. This type of railing material is also the most maintenance-intensive because it’s a natural material susceptible to algae, mold and mildew. While aluminum or composite railings can be rinsed off easily using a hose, wooden railings need to be cleaned with a brush and that takes time.

Trex Pro Composites

Composite railings are best suited for composite decks. It’s not a good idea to use wood railings with a composite deck surface. Even though composites look like wood, when you put actual wood next to them there’s a subtle difference in appearance that becomes apparent. It’s like the difference between laminate and genuine hardwood flooring. Laminate floors can look pretty much identical to real hardwood floors when seen on their own, but if you lay one side of a floor with laminate and another with real wood the difference would be noticeable.

With composite railings, the colors will perfectly match the tones of your decking materials right out of the box. There are a wide variety of styles and many of them have lighting already built right into the railing, so creating dramatic lighting effects to light up those summer evenings with romantic warmth is an easy process. They are a great choice when building curved decks because it’s easy to match the shape of the curves. The railings are custom-made to precisely match the look of your deck. Another benefit of composite railings is that we can match their look to other aspects of the design already in your home. For example, we can match their look to what’s already used in other railings in the house. Or we can even match them to a look prevalent in the neighborhood, creating a nice sense of symmetry between your deck design and the look of the surrounding area. The possibilities are huge with composition railings.

Cost factors

Glass railings are the most expensive by far, and can cost as much as ten times the installation cost of other types of railings. Aluminum is the least expensive and is a great choice because of the low maintenance. Composite railings are one of the more costly materials when it comes to initial installation of your railing. However, composites require the least amount of maintenance, so keep that in mind when you are planning the building of your deck. When evaluating the long term use of your deck, put the initial cost in perspective. Even though it may cost more to build, the satisfaction of a deck that is perfectly designed for your needs will often outweigh a slightly higher cost to build. We also provide a way for you to finance your deck with low interest payments that make the additional cost seem inconsequential.

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