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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Railings for Raised Patios: Versatile Style with a Sturdy Look and Feel

For a few years while working as a contractor and landscaper, my bread-and-butter projects were raised patios, usually built with stone pavers and raised with retaining wall blocks. While not all of these projects required a railing, many did – either to comply with regulations or to add the right look and finish to a patio area.

Working frequently in the wet climate of the Pacific Northwest, I focused on finding and installing railing that hit several criteria. I wanted to make sure it could stand up to the crazy weather, was pleasing to the eye, and also had the ability to look good with a variety of materials like stone, concrete, wood, composite, and metals. Over the years, I’ve tried many different materials, and I’ve found that galvanized steel or aluminum paired with a tough coating (preferably more than one coating) is the most capable of delivering my list of aesthetic and functional demands.

The Ideal Aesthetics of a Patio Railing

Not all raised patios will need a railing. Much of the time, if they are fairly low to the ground they may look better without any railing. Patio are generally spaces where people and sightlines are meant to flow freely, and maybe include only one or two rows of steps to gently connect them to a lower patio, lawn or garden. When I do put railings in, it’s either instigated by safety considerations or it’s because in that particular case, the spatial definition that a railing provides brings some beauty to the yard and patio.

In general, there are a few aesthetic elements that I look for in a raised patio railing.

  • Simple Lines: Overall, I look for a railing with simple lines--clean enough for a modernist aesthetic, but able to accent other design schemes, like Victorian or neoclassical. Clean lines are the most versatile, and if a homeowner decides to change up the outside look of the home or the style of furniture on the patio, railings with simple lines will still fit in with any style. Both aluminum and galvanized steel deliver this kind of versatility and can be customized as well.
  • Customizability: When the space calls for a little more ornamentation, a railing system that is easy to customize, either at the factory or on-site, can be exceedingly helpful. Sometimes all that is required to turn a space from good to great are some railing knuckles and custom pickets. In addition, deck railing lights using LEDs, whether on the post caps or attached to the rails, can be the perfect addition to a raised patio. When looking for a system that makes adding lighting easy, I’ve found it’s best to choose a manufacturer who makes lighting meant to be integrated with the railing system.
  • Interesting Finish: With things like railings or fences with larger surface areas, I like to have a finish that isn’t completely flat and offers a bit of texture. I find that this to be more interesting, and visually gives the railing a subtly earthy, aged feel. Other types of finishes can certainly pair well with a patio and work effectively, and there are nearly infinite ways to make a space look beautiful. I simply find a slightly textured metal to be an ideal pairing with stone, brick, or concrete.
  • Looks Great with Stone: And speaking of stone, most patios are constructed using this material, so selecting a railing that matches is important. Metal, wood and even glass can all complement stone very well. For outdoor railings with stone steps, I generally pick either a metal railing or a railing with wooden rails and metal pickets. Both of those options have a kind of “elemental” nature that both echoes and uplifts the heaviness of stone.

My Choice for Railings for Raised Patios

When it comes down to it, my personal favorite railing for a raised patio is a high-quality galvanized steel railing. A good steel railing system has all the qualities I mentioned above, plus tends to be heavier and sturdier than aluminum. Since rust is undesirable and is common with steel that isn’t properly protected, I pick railings with the best possible protection. These days, that translates into railings that are coated with a layer of extra zinc protection (galvanized steel is already coated in zinc), and an e-coat (more often used on car undercarriages than railings) along with a premium powder coating. This combination translates into a railing that will last for a very long time in many climate types and make a great match for a brick or stone raised patio.

Finding this sort of railing can sometimes be a challenge, though there are certainly a number of premium railings available on the market. One of the places where I start in the design process is Fortress Building Products. Their railings are some of the few out there with the right combination of premium coatings, strength, and beauty. Beyond great railings, they have a complete line of outdoor products that are definitely worth looking at, like decking, fencing, and ornamental hardware. So, for anything your raised patio needs – rest assured you can find help from beautiful, long-lasting Fortress® products.



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