Home Branded Content How to choose the right deck railing

How to choose the right deck railing

How to choose the right deck railing
TimberTech Classic Composite Series Railing with Drink Rail and Aluminum Balusters.

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Questions to guide your railing discussions

Does the railing sometimes feel like an afterthought in the design and sales process? Do you dread customers’ questions about railings? You don’t have to.

The following questions can guide discussions to help find the right railing solution for each composite deck project.

9 questions to simplify the deck railing purchase process

General questions:

What price range are your homeowners comfortable with?
This feels like an obvious question, but knowing the budget upfront will help ensure you don’t get homeowners excited about options that are well outside their price point and set them up for disappointment. However, it’s good to show stretch options slightly beyond their budget—just don’t stretch too far.

To find the right style:

Who will be using the space?
Knowing who will be using the space will influence your railing choice. If the deck is for a home with children, for example, you may want to avoid cable rails because they can act as a dangerous built-in ladder for kids. If the space is for an older couple, perhaps they need easy-to-grasp handrails along stairs or edges for additional support. You should also check your local building codes to determine stair railing requirements.

What will it be used for?
Think of the deck as you would a home’s interior, and design for the space and use. Outdoor living spaces have become an extension of the indoor living area and now serve a more functional role in addition to featuring a more sophisticated look and design.

Will the deck be used for lounging and appreciating a view? Consider the slimmer profile of aluminum railings, or glass infills for additional protection from the elements without obstructing the view.

Does the homeowner love to entertain? A flat, wide top rail provides space to rest drinks and small plates, while composites and capped polymers stand up well to heavy use while offering a longer life and less maintenance. The new Drink Rail from TimberTech® AZEK® achieves this look with a flat, all capped polymer deck board top rail that provides a sought-after wood-look accent.

TimberTech Classic Composite Series Railing with Drink Rail and Aluminum Balusters.

Look for resources from deck and railing manufacturers, such how-to-buy guides, that walk you through what you need to order and when. TimberTech also has tried-and-true combinations that recommend railings for specific deck board styles and colors to help eliminate guesswork.

What’s the home’s style?
Modern? Traditional? Vintage? Find a deck railing that complements the home’s style. For example, traditional-style railings work well with Colonials while more modern and sleek railings complement Craftsman-style homes.

To find the right color:

Do your homeowners want railings that match the deck or complement it with color or contrast?
While matching the railings to the deck board color isn’t a popular choice these days, some homeowners prefer the look. You should consider the house’s siding and trim color. If the siding and trim complement one another, continue that look with your deck board and railing color choices. For a truly cohesive look, match your trim and rail colors. If your trim and siding colors are more dramatic, use a contrasting or darker rail color.

What are the surroundings?

Is the home in the woods surrounded by greenery or is it on the plains with more neutral tones? Take cues from nature’s color palette to either blend in by using similar colors or stand out with contrasting colors.

To find the right material:

Do your homeowners want composite or metal railing? Do they like metal, composite, or glass infills?
While there are many railing material options, composite, aluminum, and steel are three popular choices for composite decks. When making a decision, consider the level of maintenance the homeowner is looking for in addition to the flexibility you want for a quick and easy installation.

Composite railings offer more styles, colors, finishes, and details than aluminum and steel, while offering durability and low maintenance. They typically come with a longer warranty than other railing materials. To make things easier, some manufacturers offer composite railing kits, such as the TimberTech RadianceRail Express Smart Set, with everything you need in one box to simplify the installation process. Smart Set includes top and bottom rails, 4×4 post sleeves, 4” post cap and skirt, hardware, footblocks, and balusters in black and white finishes.

Aluminum railings are known for being lightweight, sleek- and clean-looking, and easy to install with little to no maintenance thanks to powder-coated finishes that are more resistant to chipping or flaking. You can also find aluminum railing kits, such as TimberTech Impression Rail Express® railing kit, a pre-assembled panelized system available in Black, White, and Bronze. You simply snap on the top and bottom rail, making it easy to order and install.

Weyerhaeuser TimberTech
TimberTech Impression Rail Express Railing Kit

Steel railings are less popular than aluminum because they tend to be more expensive, and heavy, which makes installation more difficult. As a metal, it’s extremely durable but does require more maintenance to avoid rust; if painted, steel will need touchups as it’s more prone to chipping and fading.

In addition to kits, many companies offer mix-and-match options with post caps, top rails, infills, and balusters to create a truly custom look.

The details/upgrades:

Would your homeowners like accent lighting on post caps, under rails, or on steps?

Many building codes require lighting on stair risers for safety purposes, so be sure to check if it’s a must-have or nice-to-have for your project. After that, the decision ties back to how the space will be used. If the homeowner plans to use the deck at night, lighting is an important safety element as well as a nice aesthetic touch. It also taps into the trend of bringing indoor living elements outdoors.

Post cap lights are extremely popular and create a nice ambience that brings the space to life at night. In addition, under-rail lighting is a great option if you want to outline the deck perimeter.

Weyerhaeuser Post-Cap-Lighting
TimberTech post cap lighting on TimberTech’s Radiance Rail Express in black.

Other tips:

Use photos and ask for photos of what the homeowner likes.
Many homeowners have done a ton of research online, particularly on sites such as Houzz and Pinterest. Browse what they’ve saved to quickly discern what they like and don’t like in terms of aesthetics and functionality.

Use a visualizer tool to help paint a more accurate picture of their specific application.
The TimberTech 3D Deck Designer allows you to experiment with styles and colors while helping the homeowner visualize how their choices will come together before it’s too late to change their minds. It also can help show them the importance of railings in the overall feel of their deck.

Have railing questions?

Contact your local Weyerhaeuser Distribution Sales Representative for more information and to discuss your needs.