Any developer, architect, or contractor knows that balconies are often something of an afterthought--they’re a selling point, but they typically don’t receive any special design treatment. Yet balconies are desirable outdoor living areas that typically use a minimum of space. This makes them a great way to add value to a condo or apartment without adding additional square footage. For most large-scale multi-level dwellings, balconies are a standard part of the design with identical dimensions and style. But an attractive, high-quality railing can make a balcony infinitely more attractive to a buyer or renter, and even change the feel of a building.
The good news for developers and property managers is that there are manufacturers who make railing products that not only adhere to all necessary code requirements, but also have some unique features that make them attractive to both buyers and builders. Some are now making railings that are specifically designed to be easy to install and that use high-quality steel and coatings to create a long-lasting railing that even looks high quality.
Choosing a Balcony Railing That Meets Your Needs and the Buyers’ Desires
During a project, you’re always keeping an eye on the bottom line, because it’s important for the long-term financial implications of a business. Balconies are one area where you can create value but also enjoy cost savings. A high-quality railing can be a great investment that elevates the look and longevity of the balcony and increases resale value. Here’s what to look for:
- Safety: Your first concern is of course, safety, and parents in particular will be concerned about making sure balcony railings are child safe. Choose a manufacturer that sells code compliant railing systems to eliminate headaches and ensure peace of mind. A quality railing manufacturer will know the codes and be able to recommend a railing system for your project.
- Aesthetic appeal: A railing that has a classic look and is clearly high quality will draw buyers. From the exterior, a railing can make or break a building. A beautiful railing on your units’ balconies can act as an advertisement for the units themselves.
- Durability: Along with safety, durability is just as important to your building. Railings with highly durable materials such as steel can withstand all sorts of weather with little to no maintenance required and will remain attractive looking over time. This reduces the amount of time and money you’ll need to spend on upkeep for you and your residents.
The Best Balcony Railing Designs to Complement Your Building Style
Apartments and condos often end up with the same bland railings no matter the style the building. It’s just easier to go with what you know. But using a railing material and design that specifically fits with the style of the building can do a lot for aesthetic of the property as a whole. Here are my recommendations for railings based on building style:
- Modern Urban-Style Apartments: The go-to railing style for hip, urban living is cable. It has a trendy aesthetic that speaks to the popular industrial style, but it also gives an air of sophisticated minimalism. This is perfect for an upscale apartment building situated in a downtown or up & coming area. The cables in these systems are typically stainless steel, but they’re not all made using the same quality stainless. The best stainless steel cable railing systems use marine-grade stainless steel, which will look great for nearly forever.
- Classic-Style Condominiums: Traditional architectural lines fit with a number of different styles, but it’s best to choose something classic and versatile. I recommend simple metal or even glass railings to complement a classic-style building.
- Garden-Style Apartments: These smaller style dwellings with fewer units and floors can stand to have a bit more detail and style in their railing systems. I really like a metal railing with ornate balusters and designs for these styles, especially near landscaping for ground floor units. Steel railing panels with wood posts also adds interest to balconies.
- Student and Subsidized Housing: With this type of tenant building, it’s often important to minimize the cost per unit, especially with larger scale, higher-occupancy builds. But building owners can still add a bit of style and interest to balcony railings without breaking the bank. For these types of balconies I like aluminum railings. They can be simple, safe, and easy to install while still adding a touch of interest with multiple color choices, or choosing to add small inexpensive features like post accents.
Balcony Features that Save Money on Installation Labor Costs
The one thing everyone wants during any project is to minimize the time spent on the job. To ensure that building goes smoothly and that your team is in and out as fast as possible, choose a railing system that doesn’t need to be welded onsite, and that is engineered to make easy to install. A few factors that will help:
- Pre-assembled railing panels: Using metal balusters and rails that are already welded together into pre-assembled pieces makes railing installation a snap. This is crucial in large-scale projects like apartment complexes which require hundreds of railings to be installed. A pre-assembled railing panel takes half of the work out of installation. Once posts are anchored, then the panels can be quickly attached with hardware.
- Pre-measured balusters and posts: One thing to check with a manufacturer is whether or not each baluster in a railing system needs to be measured and cut. This can add hours, and consequently cost, in labor. If you’re using individual balusters rather than a panel system, find a manufacturer that pre-measures and cuts balusters so they can easily be attached to top and bottom railings.
- Easy mounting systems: Hardware is the final consideration in a railing assembly. For easy iron baluster installation, choose solutions like screw-in mounts that allow you to slide the balusters onto connectors to attach them to the rails. Some manufacturers also offer adjustable stair railings that “rack” to the incline without making it necessary to check that the balusters are square or that the rails are parallel.
In my experience, balconies are generally a great way to provide an outdoor space for tenants while saving square footage in a property. For multi-level buildings like apartments and condominiums, this can really add up in savings. And for even more savings, builders and owners should look for easy-to-install railing systems that meet the unique needs of a particular building.
Everyone wants their building to stand out and attract potential buyers or renters. Balcony railings can provide that curb appeal. Fortress Building Products is where I’ve turned to for some of my projects. They have code compliant railing systems that are easy to install, as well as the customization options you need to make your balconies stand out from the herd. One of their specialties is creating innovative products that make installing their systems a snap. For pool deck or balcony floors, I also like their composite decking. To see this and other products from Fortress®, take a look at the Fortress Building Products site.