What's New With Deck Railings

Low-voltage lighting incorporated in post caps and balusters requires a transformer located out of the weather. Hollow railing pieces—metal, vinyl, or composite—make it simple to snake the requisite wiring.

White or light-colored balusters tend to make the eye stop at the edge of a porch or deck (if the deck is close to a neighbor’s house, for instance). But if you want to look past the railing at the surrounding landscape, use dark-colored ones.

Many decking manufacturers offer railing systems that complement or match the colors of their decking. Usually rail parts are packaged separately, making it easy to match the balusters and rail cap with one color of decking, and the posts and rails with another, as shown with these MoistureShield composite products.

Fairway Building Products’ Contour (fairwaybuilding.com) one-piece vinyl top and bottom railings are reinforced with aluminum inserts.

The mounting brackets for this rail have vinyl covers that slide into place over the brackets, concealing the bracket fasteners but creating a rather bulky profile.

Vinyl rails are typically reinforced with internal aluminum channel, allowing spans of up to 12 feet.

Tempered-glass balusters don’t block the view, if you keep them clean with soapy water and a squeegee. Stop blocks between the lower rail and the decking distribute the weight of the glass.

Full-width, tempered-glass panels are very heavy and can be difficult to handle. They also tend to block the wind, which can be either an asset or a liability, depending on the climate.

AFCO’s aluminum stair railings are available with adjustable post brackets that pivot to accommodate stair angles between 0 and 36 degrees.

AFCO sells adjustable brackets to fit its standard square posts, as well as brackets for the fluted posts shown in the previous slide.

Fixed stair rail brackets are designed for standard stair runs of about 34 degrees, and usually offer a few degrees of variance. They’re less expensive and faster to install than adjustable brackets, and have a lower profile.

Horizontal cable rails are popular not only for their sleek, contemporary look but because the thin cables are almost invisible. Many cable-rail companies sell pre-engineered railing systems complete with surface-mounted posts and cable runs.

Cable balusters can be integrated into a wood rail system, though most manufacturers have special post installation requirements, such as separate posts at each corner. In-house design assistance for engineering the railing is usually available from cable rail manufacturers.

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