Exterior railing ideas

Updated February 21, 2017

Exterior rails are used on porches, decks, patios and outdoor stairwells to prevent falls and add aesthetic appeal. Several materials exist that exterior rails are manufactured from, such as metal, plastic and wood. Exterior rails can be made plain or they can have intricate designs throughout them. Metal and wood rails can be painted in any colour, and plastic rails are manufactured in a wide assortment of colours. Exterior railing can set the home apart from other homes in the neighbourhood. Railings can be made to fit any porch or deck style and can complement any landscape.


Wood railings are a rather expensive material choice that can make a considerable impact on a home's exterior. They can be purchased or hand built; many custom homes use hand-built wood railings. Custom-built log railings add style and character to log homes. Rustic railing can connect the log home with its surroundings. Wood railing can be built to the porch or decks precise specifications so that the railing and floor surface blend seamlessly. It can be painted to match a home's exterior or can be left unpainted to showcase the natural finish. Wood railing is available in many different species of woods, such as poplar, oak, cherry, pine, maple, ash, hickory, white oak, walnut, mahogany, lyptus and Brazilian cherry.


Exterior railing can be made from metals such as wrought iron, aluminium, stainless steel and brass. Stainless steel provides a maintenance-free finish that can give older homes a more modern look and feel. Aluminium is lightweight and durable, making it the preferred choice for many builders; it also costs considerably less than some metal railing alternatives. Wrought iron has been used for many years and in many historic buildings. It is very strong and low maintenance; wrought iron is almost impossible to repair and is difficult to weld if damage occurs. Brass railings were common among the wealthy in medieval times and were used by many railroads. Brass is rarely used because it must be polished often to maintain its appearance, but it may be the ideal choice for homeowners who want railings that stand out.


Two types of plastic railings are available to homeowners: vinyl and composite. Vinyl rails are a favourite choice in new home construction because of their easy installation and low maintenance costs. Vinyl railings will not crack, rot, splinter or mould, making them an ideal choice for homeowners who want pretty railings that will last a long time. Vinyl railings are available in many styles and colours and can be purchased at most home improvement stores. Composite rails are manufactured using PVC and are a durable alternative to vinyl. Composite railings can be made to look like wood. Little to no maintenance costs are involved with composite railings; simply wash the railings with soap and water to regain that brand new appearance.


You have many ways to decorate exterior railings to make homes more appealing. Intertwine holiday lights and garland around and through the railings to give your home a festive look. In the spring and summer, wrap floral garland or hang garden lights from the railings to dress the home up for outdoor entertaining. Wider railings are the ideal place to display Halloween carved pumpkins. The railings can be decorated for any occasion with potted plants or over-the-rail flower box planters. Ivy can be trained to grow up railings for an appealing blend of soft and hard features.

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About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.