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3 Deck Railing Options

Aug 29, 2007
Wooden railings are generally the most commonly used type of railing system utilized in deck design. However, there are many other deck railing options.

Some systems use wood posts and rails but replace the balustrade with cables, pipes or glass panels. Alternative systems use metal or plastic materials or combinations of the 2 to replace the wooden components.

Although these optional railing systems may be more expensive in terms of the cost of materials, they may:

1. be installed more quickly than conventional types

2. be less intrusive visually because of the nature of their design

3. be able to match a particular style that would be difficult to reproduce in wood

4. radically decrease the amount of maintenance required

5. completely eliminate the need for maintnenance

Glass Panel Railing Systems:
Tempered glass panels may be used to create virtually invisible railings that can also act as windscreens. These panels are inexpensive and widely available. The actual glass is tempered which makes it strong but uncuttable. As a result the spacing between vertical posts must be done with the glass panel size in mind. The panels may be held in place in 1 of 2 ways. In the first, a series of grooves cut into the posts as well as the top and bottom rails fix the glass panel in place. In the second, the panels are fixed in place by wooden stops applied to both sides around the perimeter of each glass panel. This method permits panels to be removed easily for replacement or repair.

Cable Railing Systems:
This system uses 1/8 inch diameter stainless steel cables with end fittings. It is used for its unobtrusive presence rather than for its looks. Installation of pre-drilled wooden or metal posts is the first step. The cables are then threaded through the holes in the posts and made taught by tightening a nut on a threaded section of each cable strand. Cable installation is a simple process that is completed quickly. Cable systems in stainless steel involve material costs that are more expensive than they would be for wood.

Manufactured Railing Systems:
Premanufactured railing systems are available in composites, plastics and metals. They are quite a bit more expensive than wood systems. Their advantage is that they are mainly maintenance free. Some imitate wood while others create styles that would be difficult to reproduce in wood. Components come in precut pieces and are ready to assemble.

1. PVC Railings - are smooth and maintenance free. They can look like wood from a distance. They do need internal wood or metal reinformcement. Posts can vary from stand alones to sleeves that cover 4x4 pressure treated lumber. Painted, galvanized or aluminum pipe or square tubing with a mounting flange are 2 other types. PVC balusters come in a huge variety of shapes and provide a great deal of choice to a homeowner.

2. Metal Railings - are available that can be mounted tp regular or factory made posts. They are generally made from aluminum and come with a durable factory baked on finish. Their higher strength capablilities enables them to have smaller sizes which interfere less with spectacular views from a deck.

3. Resin Composite Railings - contain recycled materials and imitate wood extremely well. They are generally produced by manufacturers of composite decking. This material does not shrink or warp and needs little maintenance. Composite components are readily available specifically for railings and can be color coated if desired.

With so many deck railing options available it is always a wise decision to check with the local building department for regulations governing railing types and approved materials. This will ensure that the railing system selected will comply with codes and enhance the look of the deck at the same time.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Railings and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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