Choosing the Best Railing System for Your Composite Deck


Many homeowners spend a significant amount of time picking out the perfect composite decking for their outdoor living space but often overlook the significance of the railings as an essential visual (and safety!) element. Deck rails are always in plain sight when people are either standing or sitting on the deck. That’s why determining the way the railing system either blends in with -- or stands out from -- the existing landscape is an important decision for homeowners to make, and for deck builders to understand. Here are a few things to keep in mind when helping homeowners choose the best type of railing for their new composite deck.

First Step: Know the Deck Railing System Code(s)

First and foremost, deck builders must understand the specifics of all federal, state and local building code requirements for the project. For example, contractors should make sure that the brand/style of railing balusters they are recommending are readily available and suitable for the specific height(s) that the homeowner wants. 

Customers will often become frustrated to learn that a particular style of railing for their new composite deck isn’t available for them after they’ve already fallen in love with it. Deck builders should do their homework before presenting any deck railing system to ensure that it will comply with the building code parameters established by the town. It’s also a good idea to ask homeowners if there are any other design, construction or material requirements that may be mandated by neighborhood homeowners’ associations or historical districts that the home is located in.

Second: Ask What the Customer Wants. Tell Them What They Need.

After you’ve determined what the building code requirements are for the new deck, the next step is talking with the customer. The purpose here is to learn what’s important to the individual homeowner in order to then tailor a railing solution that meets these needs. It’s important that decking installers observe both the environment that the new composite deck will be built in, as well as the makeup of the people who will be using it. For example, a homeowner with young children might prefer more traditional style of white PVC instead over cable railings, and vice versa for those with a waterfront view.

Composite decking manufacturers, including DuraLife™, now offer several styles of strong, low maintenance, contoured rail designs with architectural details and hidden bracket hardware to accommodate most homeowners’ needs. On the other hand, customers who want to minimize the visual obstructions that traditional column and ballasted railings can create, cable railings are certainly an exciting option. Again, always check with local building codes before installation. If possible, look for vendors that offer pre-drilled post sleeves. This simple step can save hours of time and frustration measuring and drilling hundreds of cable holes freehand.

Along the same lines, builders should look for composite decking and railing makers who offer not only proprietary solutions, but also make structural hardware that can be used with third party products, including lighting, cable rails, glass panels or metal balusters. This gives the customers greater variety while minimizing the chances of purchasing incompatible components.

Third: Understanding Long Term Maintenance Costs

Customers who are looking to replace an aging wood deck will likely jump at the opportunity to install composite railings and balusters – especially if they’ve had to clean, prep and paint traditional wood railings in the past. Today’s durable, capped composite materials won’t splinter, rot or loose strength over time like natural wood. Hidden, stainless steel hardware keeps everything connected, safe and wobble-free for years.

Similar to the vastly lower amount of maintenance needed to maintain composite decking, compared to that of natural (PT) wood, the time and effort required to keep a composite rail system looking great is practically nil. Deck builders should make sure that customers fully understand the amount of time and energy that installing a natural wood railing system will cost them over time. In many cases, the relatively higher initial cost of installing a composite, metal or glass railing system will essentially pay for itself (in saved labor and material cost) after only a few seasons.

All DuraLife railing systems include a 5-year limited warranty on labor and a limited residential lifetime warranty on staining and fading. 

New Composite Railing Options for 2019

Recently, DuraLife announced two new composite railing systems for 2019. The all new Merrimack™ and Nantucket™ railing systems provide the option of using DuraLife composite deck boards as the top rail, opening a range of brilliant design possibilities. The Nantucket rail solution also includes powder-coated aluminum that has been tested to resist over 10,000 hours of salt spray, making it ideal for coastal locations.

Get DuraLife composite decking samples and a DuraLife Step-Clip Fastening System sample. Order yours now! 

This article is made possible by DuraLife.DuraLife’s unique polypropylene and hardwood composite decking materials simply outperform all other wood and composite decking products. More solid and safe under foot, DuraLife decking is backed by a 25-year warranty. It is stain and fade resistant, mold and mildew resistant, and is available in the colors and deck railing options you want. Get Samples, try our Composite Deck & Railing Visualizer, or contact DuraLife now to learn more.