Fortress Blog

Monday, June 25, 2018

Curved Deck Railing Ideas That Don’t Require a Custom System

I’ve worked for a few people who wanted a deck that stood out. One way to do that is to choose a curved deck. And while a curved deck definitely delivers on style, owners can tend to underestimate the cost. That’s because flooring and framing a curved deck requires custom systems and advanced plans.

Custom curved railings are expensive and most of the time, nonrefundable. There’s a lot of room for error in any custom job, and one bad measurement or misplaced cut could cost hundreds of dollars. However, there are plenty of out-of-the-box railing systems and alternatives that can work with a curved deck. That can reduce the cost of the installation while still working perfectly with your overall look. Here we’ll talk about some of my favorite curved deck railing ideas that don’t require a huge investment or lengthy professional installation.

Curved Deck Railings Ideas and Options

If you’ve already built a curved deck, chances are you’re no slouch when it comes to doing-it-yourself. If you had the deck put in by pros, there are still options for you that don’t require loads of professional know-how. The best options I’ve determined for adding a railing to a curved deck are:

  • Bend the railing yourself: Certain railing systems, like those made of PVC or aluminum, can be bent, usually via steam, to create a custom curve in a straight system. The problem here is that putting in the bend could also compromise the structure of the railing. You should only use this method on systems that indicate they’re specifically designed for it.
  • Mix a custom rail with out of the box balusters: This option limits the need to customize everything. With this option, you’ll create or buy a curved wooden top and bottom rail and then use premade enhanced iron balusters that don’t require a custom cut. You’d still need a custom rail but could save on the system as a whole. For easy iron baluster installation, try side mount balusters or go with a surface mount system and use hidden connectors that the balusters slip over. For a really unique railing design, try using curved balusters. They’ll mimic the curve of your rails and deck.
  • Use an octagon-shaped plan: This is probably the easiest way to add a railing to a curved deck. In this method you’ll take straight sections of panel and attach them to the perimeter of your deck. This is also a bit easier when it comes to measurements, as it’s likely you’ll be working with identical pre-welded panels, with posts no more than 72 inches apart when measured on center. These straight panels will be strung together to follow the curve of the deck. If the deck is fully round, this would wind up creating an overall octagon shape (which explains the name). This is also a good option for decks that are mostly straight but have a few gentle curves in them. 

With many of my customers, I’ve been able to use pre-welded, straight railing panels to create an octagon shape that looks fantastic and is less costly than a custom railing. It’s also a lot less labor-intensive than putting in a curved railing, which can get complicated. Because it’s my preferred system--and has served me so well in the past--I’ve put together a few tips for those thinking about installing an octagon-type railing on their curved deck.

Tips for Installing an Octagon Shaped Railing

Installing an octagon-style railing on a curved deck isn’t much different than installing one onto a standard octagon base, it just means that your post placement isn’t quite as obvious. Here are a few tips for installing your railings in an octagon style.

  • Choose surface mounts over fascia mounting: You’ll want to choose a surface mount style, where your railing posts attach to the surface of your deck, as opposed to using a side mount system. Surface mounting makes it easier to create straight lines, and you won’t have to ‘force’ the railing to follow the curve of your deck.
  • Plan the pattern in advance: Preferably, you want to start laying out your idea for your pattern before you put your floorboards on so you can see where to attach the posts to the framing beneath the deck. With a custom or straight railing, this step is a bit easier and you can tell even with the floorboards on. However, with a curved deck, you need to be able to plan around the curves by looking at the straight lines of the framing underneath.
  • Use pre-welded panels: Pre-welded panels can make it easier to ‘square off’ curves, and they make installation less complicated. A good aluminum panel system is ideal for this type of setup due to its ease of installation and reasonable cost.

Building a curved deck can be pricey. But adapting straight railing systems to work with a curved deck can take a lot of the burden, and the expense, out of the project. It’s true that, with a very curved deck, a straight railing system can shave off a bit of deck space because of the way it doesn’t completely follow the curve, but for most curved decks I’ve found that this is a minor issue. It’s just a matter of what your priorities are.

Speaking of priorities, it’s important to note that the brand that makes your railing matters. If you choose to go the pre-assembled route, it’ll make all the difference in how your railing lasts and how easy--or frustrating--it is to install. I generally use the Fortress Railing system. Recently, I’ve been drawn to the aluminum railing in a matte black finish. The aluminum panels are ideal because they’re easy to lay out and install, allowing anyone from an experienced builder to a DIY enthusiast to complete the job quickly. Their multi-layer coating also ensures that they’ll stand up against the elements for years to come. Fortress Building Products offers a wide range of options for completing a job like this, as well as other products, like decking, fencing, and ornamental hardware, for any other projects you might have in the works.

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