Deck Rail Systems: What Should I Choose? Composite, Wood or Metal?

Summertime home improvement projects often revolve around the deck because that is where everyone wants to spend their time. One of the most important parts of your deck is the railing. It’s what gives the deck personality and it’s the part of the deck that you’ll see most often as you are enjoying the view. Whether you’re building a new deck or updating an existing one, you’ll have many different deck rail systems to choose from. We’ll help you pick the deck railing that best meets your needs!

The Cost and Upkeep of New Deck Rail Systems

Deck rail systems can be broken down into three classes: Budget-friendly deck railing, midrange and high end.

  • Budget Friendly. Budget friendly deck rails are generally wood, usually pressure treated lumber, cedar or pine. The materials are inexpensive to buy and install but wood rails do come with increased maintenance costs. Over the years, you’ll need to keep them splinter free and you’ll also need to periodically replace cracked or warped balusters. You’ll also need to treat them every year or two, either with a new coat of the finish of your choice or with a weather sealant.
  • Mid-Range Option. Composite deck railing is the mid-range option. These rails can either be a composite material made from wood and plastic fibers or they can be wood wrapped in a protective plastic or vinyl shell. Composite deck rails are more expensive than budget-friendly wood, but maintenance costs are greatly reduced. Timbertech, for instance, offers composite rails that are splinter-free and resistant against the elements.
  • High End. High end deck railing comes in many styles. Metal deck railing, mixed glass and metal and cable railing are all high-end railing systems, as are expensive woods like mahogany. Metal rail systems are virtually maintenance free, while high end woods come with the same maintenance concerns as budget-friendly woods.

Your Deck’s Personality

Budget is important but so is the personality of your deck. Different types of deck rail systems will give your deck an entirely different look. Wood rails are the most flexible when it comes to design options. Traditional wood deck railing is normally woodsy, with plenty of rustic appeal, but you can also use wood to create beautiful sunburst designs or any other pattern you can imagine.

Metal deck rails, on the other hand, tend to go one of two ways: Either they are very contemporary, or they have an elegant, old-fashioned look. Cable rails, straight horizontal or vertical metal rails and metal rails with glass balusters all look very modern. Wrought iron, curvy metal balusters and other more complex designs usually (but not always!) come with a vintage look.

Composite rails are available in a variety of designs, allowing you to create any number of looks. Most commonly, however, you’ll find composite railing systems that have a traditional, formal look. Posts are smooth, topped with ornate caps and balusters are often straight or feature a traditional Colonial spindle design — a lot like those offered by Genovations.

Does Your Deck Railing Interfere with the View?

The final thing to consider is the view. If you don’t mind having the view obstructed, then install a more ornate railing that is harder to see through. However, if you want to be able to lay back in a deck chair and admire the scenery, then you should definitely consider a railing system, like cable or metal and glass.

Even though your budget may be your primary consideration, you should also make sure to account for your deck’s looks and the way it may or may not interfere with the view into your backyard. You may find it worthwhile to save your money for a railing system that gives you the look and feel that you want along with less maintenance to worry about in the future.



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