The deck railing designs you choose can enhance or detract from your house.
Before you start hammering things together, think of the various looks you can create just in the way you construct your railing.
Are you building entirely with wood?
Will you add in railing components like metal balusters or rail connectors?
Or are you using a system of aluminum, vinyl or composite?
How about glass railing panels?
The character of your deck railings design will come from the variations that you can find among these four components.
Believe it or not, there are many, many design permutations you can devise.
Consider each railing component and how it can be used when you design your deck. The components of deck railing designs are posts, top and bottom rails, and vertical or horizontal balusters, sometimes called pickets.
Let's consider the visual impact of different materials, design and building techniques.
Big - Bold - Busy
In this example the wood posts and balusters are simple and common with the posts attached on the outside of the rim joist.
Although the railing sections show off good carpentry and artistry, the cedar skirt, with the posts and the railing compete visually, creating a very busy appearance.
Light - Airy - Subtle
In this example you can see how the design creates a more "airy" open appearance by using smaller aluminum pickets that do not obstruct your view.
Do not under estimate the size of railing elements like balusters. Although this railing is very strong, some might say it "looks" flimsy and want a more robust appearance.
Different look. Different sense. You decide what is best for your view, budget and taste.
Plain - Straight - Clean
In this example you can see the effect of using an all wood structure with a continuous flat 2x6 top cap rail and 4x4 posts and 2x2 wood balusters.
This is a more traditional style and simple construction. The materials are less expensive and it provides a very nice, clean look.
It will require regular maintenance to keep the wood railing in good shape.
Two Tones - Gets The Second Look
What about working with color? It sounds simple but the effect can be very pleasing.
Here you can see a very simple wood construction with two tone coloring; where the top rail and posts are a darker shade than the rest of the railing.
Very subtle yet clever because the darker tone on the posts and top rail pulls the eye to the exterior lines of the deck rather than to the repetitive and imposing size of the railing section elements.
Play with color in your deck designs. It's an inexpensive way to create contrast.
Here are some alternate concepts of railing designs to keep in mind.
Mix And Match For Maximum Effect
Contemporary styles come from using traditional and new materials.
Check out this aluminum cap rail with glass panels. You could even consider adding a low voltage indirect lighting inside the panel for a beautiful effect.
It's definitely not your "run of the mill" railing design!
Try Designing Your Railing As A Built In Bench
On low level decks it may be appropriate to incorporate a bench seat with a backrest that can also function as a guardrail. The design works!
But it's not suitable above heights where "true" rails are required.
Designs like this serve to subliminally define special purpose areas on any deck. In this case, it's a spa area with a hot tub.
The surrounding bench makes the large area more cozy and conducive for socializing! Which are exactly the attributes you want if you are designing a hot tub into your deck.
As you can see, if you are building your own railing, there are many unique combinations.
These are just examples of general themes that you can impart when you are building your deck or railing. For more specific building and construction tips there are some great articles below to check out.
Some Other Great Reading...
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