Fortress Blog

Friday, August 4, 2017

Farmhouse Porch Railings: Styles That Will Bring the Look of Your Home Together

In my past, I’ve suffered from a lack of home décor refinement. My bachelor status meant that my furnishings include:

  • One corner desk built from wood reclaimed from pallets. It’s bilingual, with wood stamps in both English and Chinese
  • A retro game center built from a gutted TV from the 1950’s. I think distressed mahogany is classy.
  • A forest green couch that has developed mint and teal highlights around the edges.
  • Shelving made from 2x6’s and cinder blocks. I call it modular, and technically, I’m right.

Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered a style that speaks to me, and has helped me move forward with a bit more sophistication. It’s called farmhouse style. It incorporates natural and reclaimed wood, so I can turn my shelves around to show off their stamps, and my desk is already good to go. Knicks and signs of wear are allowed, so my gaming center is also good as-is. I’m only a few accent rugs, console table, and lamps away from turning my home from inhabited to comfortably lived-in.

The exception? My outdoor space. I had outdated diamond lattice railing on both my front and back porches. Luckily, there are plenty of types of farmhouse porch railings that can reinforce the farmhouse theme and turn a basic porch into a stylish one.

What Is Farmhouse Style?

The idea of “farmhouse” style comes from the farmhouses of the 1800s. A home would be built in the fashionable style of the day, and then over the course of generations, would acquire a mix of architectural features and interior decorations as things broke and were replaced, technology got updated, or even as tastes changed over time. Expansions might get made that didn’t perfectly match the original house. Eventually what was left managed to work together. A loose definition of farmhouse style could be “what was kept” across generations of owners. This means hard wearing--and often worn--materials like natural woods, stone, brick, and iron. It also means neutral colors that complement each other without being “matchy.” It’s an encompassing style that can edge into shabby chic, but its real focus is on comfortable living.

Types of Railing Systems That Suit Farmhouse Style

How do you bring farmhouse style to your porch? Most people’s first thought is to use thick timber for all parts of the railing. However, there are other options. Steel is a strong, lasting material that also has a traditional, farmhouse feel. It can also be matched with other materials, like wood, for a unique look that ties together the whole house. Some of the best options I’ve seen for farmhouse porch railings:

  • Wood: This is the option most people think of when they think “farmhouse style.” Wood railings involve thick wood posts and top and bottom rails that aren’t much thinner. Balusters are usually turned on a lathe or left square. Sometimes balusters are left out entirely, and wood the same dimensions as the rails is used in an x-shaped pattern. While wood is a great natural material, outdoor wood requires a lot of maintenance, and, in my opinion, all that wood can get just a tad boring.
  • Wood posts and rails with steel balusters: One good compromise involves using wood posts and wood rails, but adding steel balusters between the rails. These balusters can either fit into holes drilled into the top and bottom rails, or can be fascia mounted to the outside face of the rails. Some manufacturers also make hidden connectors that screw onto the rail that the balusters just slide over. One benefit to using metal balusters instead of wood is that there is a wider range of looks available with metal. These balusters can be plain, ornamented, or even curved to give people leaning on the rails some extra knee room. Using a mix of metal and wood is also a quintessential farmhouse look that gives your porch a little more interest than an all-wood railing.
  • Steel panels: In this option, the top and bottom rail and all the balusters are part of a welded steel panel. This system may not sound very versatile, but it actually offers a lot of options for customization, and makes a good alternative to wrought iron railings. The panels can be attached to steel or wooden posts (so you can still get the steel-and-wood look), and wood can also be attached to the top rails. Some manufacturers even sell brackets that make it easier to attach wood caps to your top rails.

All of the available options have their appeal, but I like the narrow posts and balusters of steel panels the best. My current patio railings block my view, especially when seated, and I’d like to replace them with railings that open that view up. Some railing companies offer a variety of customization options for their steel panels, so I can opt to have the balusters of each panel feature ornamental knuckles, baskets, or double baskets.

Installing Farmhouse Porch Railings

Prefabricated railing systems offer nearly the same customization options available to me if I were to try and fabricate my railings myself. But instead of having to weld them together, I simply specify the style and ornaments I want, and they will arrive pre-welded with the ornaments I want already in place. And, as much as I hate to admit it, a factory powder coat will hold up to the elements for far longer than any spray on coating I could do. Higher end manufacturers of steel panels will even go beyond powder coating, and add additional layers of rust protection, like hot dipped galvanization and an electronically deposited coat of water-resistant material.

Installation is also a lot easier with a prefabricated railing system. It’s simply a matter of cutting the panels to the proper length, installing the mounts to the ends of the rails, and fastening them to the posts. My existing posts are rather flimsy 2x4s, so I’ll have to decide whether I’d rather install new 4x4 wood posts or order steel posts to replace them. If I opt for wooden posts, I can attach a wooden rail to the top (a handy place to set drinks) using a simple clip to create a timber-and-steel vision of the farmhouse style.

I like the idea of a prefabricated steel railing system because it will tie together my home in the farmhouse style while saving me money on tools and materials (and a lot of time). A well-engineered steel system is versatile enough to let me create exactly the version of farmhouse style that I like.

I’ve looked at a lot of railing systems, but the company that’s always impressed me most is Fortress Building Products. Their Fe26 steel railing offers a simple look that is perfectly suited to farmhouse porch railings and is customizable with wood additions and baluster ornaments. Their four-coat coating system is engineered to last, as are their mounting systems that are designed to keep coatings to protect the steel. That thorough engineering extends to all of Fortress® lines, like their fencing, decking, and hardware. All their tough, stylish products are worth a look for anyone looking to adopt the farmhouse style.

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