Ideas for Deck and Porch Railings

Options about for unusual railings

The standard porch railing typically has plain balusters at regular 4 - 6 inch intervals. Made of good quality cedar or redwood, it makes a protective boundary around the perimeter of your new deck. It's also, unfortunately, really dull. Otherwise attractive homes can easily be diminished by a so-so deck with uninspired details.

When planning your deck and selecting a deck rail style, consider the style and materials used in your home. The deck itself can be either wood or composite depending on your preferences, but the rail should harmonize with your home's overall character. Since cost is often a driving factor, a solution might require an extra dose of creativity and maybe a little sweat equity.

Sources of deck or porch rail ideas include other homes in your neighborhood, especially if one of your neighbors has done something exceptionally spiffy. Home and garden magazines can often provide a rich vein of inspiration. Home shows are a terrific way to see the materials and meet vendors. Last, but not least, consider hiring a designer who can help you home in on the perfect solution quickly (and often for less money than you might think).

Rail choices

Railings are are required if decks are more than 30 inches above grade. Even if the deck is less, some practical means of preventing relatives and friends from taking a tumble in the dark is a good idea.


Chinese Chippendale table

Wood railings are everywhere, but don't necessarily need to be dull. If your home is older—a vintage bungalow for instance—consider slats with cut outs to complement rafter tails. Homes with ethnic touches such as Mediterranean or Asian influences might incorporate decorative turned balusters or a Chinese Chippendale effect. Alter baluster spacing to create more interesting effects. Take a look at furniture detail for fresh ideas.

Wooden posts and balusters can be carved or turned and home centers often carry a fairly decent array of railing parts that you can mix and match to create a one of a kind look.

Incorporate planters, benches, and arbors to create outdoor rooms as well as provide security.

Vintage finials or gingerbread to add character. Lattice can be used and provides a reasonable degree of privacy.


Vinyl for fences as well as deck and porch railings is readily available, often quite affordable, and easy to maintain. Though colors still tends to be limited, and it can't be painted with good results, vinyl pickets, balusters, and rails are often a viable solution for many different styles of home.

That's the upside. The downside is its environmental impact. We understand its popularity, but can't recommend a product that contributes substantial toxins to the waste stream both in manufacturing and disposal. (That said, we know this is an imperfect world and if someone offers you free vinyl fencing for your deck project, it's better to use it on your deck than see it go to the local landfill.)

Tempered glass or acrylic

Glass railings for unimpeded view

Another modern look is tempered glass or acrylic installed between metal or wooden posts. Transparent and simple, there is virtually nothing to impede a view. Check with an architect for appropriate, safe design and installation.


Steel cable is a sleek look that does justice to contemporary homes as well as adding modern snap to many older homes. It can be used with wood or metal posts and run either vertically or horizontally. Cable railings are elegant, strong, and low maintenance.


Canvas, duck, or Sunbrella®-type fabric is an alternative if you want a colorful, casual look. Available in bright colors, fabric can be finished grommets along the edges which can be attached to the railing using eye screws and rope.

It's appropriate especially for beach cabins, though easily used anywhere. And if you change the color of your house, it's reasonably easy to swap out the fabric panels.


Metals range from wrought iron, copper, and aluminum to wire mesh or even rebar. Though wrought iron and aluminum are used to create strong, beautiful railings, it is more common to use other metals to fill in the spaces between the posts.

Rods and tubing can be run vertically like wood balusters or horizontally parallel to the rails. Because it might look climbable to a child, consider its attractive nuisance factor, especially if falling over the side could result in serious injury or worse.

Sculptural effects can be achieved by cutting steel panels for truly artistic appeal. For a whimsical effect, you could even solder a variety of metal items together.

Hardwire cloth and horse fencing can be cut and framed to create sturdy panels that are unusual and very cost effective.

Siding and low walls

To incorporate your deck or porch into the architecture of your home, use low walls instead of railings and finish with the same siding material as your home. Combine with a pergola or arbor to create the ultimate space for dining al fresco.

Material combinations

When you consider the infinite number of possibilities of materials and how they might be worked, it becomes obvious that there is no reason you can't create the deck railing of your dreams. With a little research and planning, you can combine new materials with old, and high style with fun.

Railing jewelry

Post caps and finials can add the finishing touch to your deck railing. Materials are available in metal, glass, wood, and ceramic. Design, cast, or carve your own for something unique.

Deck project on your plate? It's one of the most popular home improvements and can add value to your home. Hire a qualified professional to get the job done right the first time. UpdateRenovate can help.

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