Though it may seem like a minor detail, railing plays a big part in the function and overall appearance of any deck. It’s often the first thing you see, so make sure it’s a good choice. There are tons of options available, so you can definitely find one that meets both your safety needs and your personal style.
Railing comes in several different materials. Wood is a class and can nicely match your wooden deck, but like your deck, it’ll require staining and maintenance to keep it looking good. Iron is durable, but heavy and hard to work with. Glass is beautiful but requires cleaning to keep it looking good. Composite and aluminum are a good alternative, requiring less maintenance and offering a versatile, attractive look.
Safety is obviously the most important thing when it comes to railing, especially if your deck is high off the ground. Decks that lie closer to the ground don’t require as many safety precautions, although a railing around the perimeter and handrail for the steps is always a good idea. But more-elevated decks need a little more, possibly a higher railing to reduce the risk of falling over. Consider a railing with more tightly spaced posts to prevent anything (or anyone) from falling through. You may also want to consider how much privacy you want. If you don’t want your railing to interrupt the view of your backyard, consider one with thin balusters in a dark color to blend in with the environment. However, if you want more privacy from neighbors, you might opt for railing with thicker posts to block the view and give yourself a little more seclusion.
The color and style of your railing will have the most impact, visually. This is a fun part of the process, and there are countless deck and railing pairings out there. You can coordinate it with your deck color so that they match. That’s a classic, foolproof choice if you want a cozy, traditional look. On the other hand, if you want to try something different or are having a hard time matching your deck color, you might try a contrasting look. You could do a light color, or even a crisp white, against a darker deck, or a rich brown or black railing against a lighter deck. Black or white are classic options that can compliment any backyard or color scheme. Dark colors give a modern feel and also tend to blend in more with the background, whereas lighter colors tend to make more of a statement.
And if you’re especially daring and want to get creative with it, go ahead! There’s no wrong answer when it comes to railing as long as you’re happy with the results. Don’t be afraid to mix colors and materials, using differently colors for the posts and balusters, playing with texture, and so on. Make it as dramatic or as subtle as you want. Whatever pairing or combination you choose will have a big impact on your backyard and your home’s aesthetic, so make sure you love it!
One more thing to take into consideration is your local building codes. Most towns and cities have rules regulating the construction of decks and railings. For example, the International Residential Code (IRC) requires guardrails if your deck is elevated 30 inches or more off the ground. There may also be rules governing the specific products and materials used, so before you buy anything, check to make sure it meets your city’s guidelines.