Railing Systems often incorporate a variety of options which are designed to be used in conjunction with each other. Posts are designed to be installed to the surface of or side of structures, rails in the form of rail kits are designed to be cut to the length and installed with the help of rail brackets to posts, after posts have been installed.
Aluminum railing tends to be the best option for railing. Nearly all cable railing products have aluminum posts and rails. Iron can be a good choice, it is less expensive than aluminum, but over time has the tendency to rust. This means that any abrasions in the material needs to be coated with paint to prevent damage. Composite railing is still a great traditional railing option. The larger sized posts and top rails give a more substantial feeling. Often times comoposite is more expensive than Aluminum rail, but less than cable railing. Composite with cable is certintly an option but on the higher end price wise.
Railing Collections include Rail Kits (Rails, balusters and brackets,) Rail Panels (pre-assembled rail and baluster panel, with or without hardware,) Rails, Post Kits (with flair, may include brackets and cap,) Post Sleeves (sleeve over 4x4 actual 3.5"x3.5" wood post,) rail bracket hardware, support blocks, caps, skirts, low voltage lighting, and accessories. Collections like the one below, C10 Tuscany, have great selection of face mount post kits and rail kit sizes.
Aluminum type railings are durable, are warrantied against defects such as warping or fading, and have an attractive price. The best priced Aluminum Railings utilize horizontal top and bottom rails with vertical balusters or pickets between, however other options such as 3-rail, and additional drink rail are available to add value and aesthetics. C10 Tuscany is a great choice for railing, contractors love Westbury products for their quality and profiles. C30 Riviera is another of their railings and utilizes a third rail. Prestige Rail is another system which has high quality and longevity, characterized by a large selection of add-on products like lighting, drink rail, and more. Fortress Railing Products has two similarly named aluminum systems which can add some confusion. Al13 is a high quality welded panel railing system with a 1-5/8 inch wide flat top. Al13 Home is pre-fabricated paneled system with a 1-1/4 inch wide top rail, and is the best priced aluminum system we carry, rivaling the price of iron railing. DesignRail is another option for aluminum picket railing (among other infills,) and is often times specified for commercial application for its versatility and profile options. Some other options for aluminum rail are Impression Rail Express a panel aluminum system, and A210 Slimline which has a unique top profile and a darker colored bronze. Aluminum railing is great choice, but not for everyone.
Cable railing is the premier selection of railing for viewablity. Typically, Cable Railing refers to the infill. Cable railing still needs a strong top rail, made from aluminum, composite 2x4, iron, or wood 2x4. This article Cable Railing Systems talks about the differences and varieties of Cable Railing a bit deeper. Feeney is becoming a household name with regards to cable. They have a unique quick-connect system and sleek stainless steel fittings in a variety of connection types from lag quick connect to through-post and even specialty fittings like wedge anchor quick-connectors. Fittings from Build Your Own Rail allow you to choose what works. DesignRail, is Feeney’s customizable railing with loads of rail options, post types, and infills. DesignRail Kits is the more condensed version with the same quality utilizing standard posts, series 150 rail in matte black. C80 VertiCable is an excellent system and competitively priced vertical cable railing with an easy-to-install panel cable. Cable Railing can be worth it, it just depends on your view!
Composite type railing consists of extruded wood fiber composite coated with a cap stock for an effective and lasting handrail. Composite railings are typically more robust and fit well with traditional style houses. TimberTech is one of the largest manufactures in composite; however other products have done well in the market. Composite railing can incorporate a variety of infill options from standard ¾ inch balusters to horizontal cable railing, composite balusters, and even glass. Composite rails still need to attach to posts though. Composite posts used to be a popular product, but for several reasons including cost, weight and design, Composite sleeves are standard. Most composite sleeves are adapted to fit over a 4x4. If you are looking for the least maintenance, structural newel posts made from iron and high density plastics allow for face mounting of posts and are easily sleeved. Other newel posts like cedar 4x4s and even treated 4x4s work well with composite sleeves. Once newel posts are installed, composite sleeves can be slid over, with the post skirt. The rails and infill can then be attached to the sleeve and post. Post Caps and foot blocks are then added to complete the railing.
TimberTech/Azek - Feeney
Premier Rail with Cable Infill
It is important to understand what items are include in each railing product. Reading the manufactures installation guide is the best way to understand the installation process, required products, and tools.
Railing is used on Decks, Patios, Walkways and other surfaces to prevent people and pets from falling off. Most residential codes require a 36 inch railing when there is a large drop off in elevation from the side of the deck. The best quality railings in terms of longevity are materials made from Aluminum, Composite, Stainless Steel, Glass, and Iron to an extent.
The most cost effective railing type is wood; however wood needs care, resulting in added maintenance. 2x4 Treated Pine Wood is not the best choice for railing because it naturally want’s to curl. This will pull the nails right out of the rails. However, if you screw it to the posts, it should hold. Treated is the least expensive option, so it is an available choice if necessary, just make sure to use wood for the balusters as well! A higher quality railing is to use Cedar Wood for Railing. Cedar will not warp like Treated wood, but it does require maintenance (costing more in the long run) and is currently priced at an all-time high. Cedar 2x4 Cedar Rail looks great with ¾ in. round aluminum baluster and 4x4 or 6x6 cedar posts, and can even be capped with a deck board if using composite decking, otherwise a 2x6 or 2x4 is placed atop the railing for a larger, flat surface. To learn more about general costs of railing see our post on Railing Cost Comparison.