I have a lot of friends, and they all live in homes with very different looks and personalities. For the most part, these homes started off as similar ranch-style homes with the occasional turn-of-the-century bungalow or Craftsman-style cottage. Over the years, though, my friends have marked their homes with their personalities inside and they’ve also altered the exteriors to better suit their tastes.
Often these exterior alterations are in the form of decks, and custom deck railing systems are one big way my friends tend to express their senses of style. Customized farmhouse porch railings can add a rustic touch to the classic ranch-style home and outdoor craftsman-style railings can bring a touch of modern, industrial flair. The wonderful thing about decks and railings is that they don’t require altering the structural elements of a home. That means they’re relatively easy and inexpensive ways to add useful space to your home and enhance its style. And the good news is, custom doesn’t have to mean expensive and it doesn’t have to involve a long installation process.
Simple Custom Deck Railing Systems
When I say custom deck railing, what I mean is a prefabricated railing system with features that allow you to customize the railing to your tastes. Admittedly, this type of railing offers fewer custom options than you’d get with traditionally fabricated railing, in which each piece is chosen and put together to spec. However, a railing system is much easier to install and the customization doesn’t require near as much work. And, for most homes, customization won’t mean a lot of additions and ornaments–I’ll explain why.
In the early twentieth century, we moved away from the more formal and ornate homes of the past and toward more flexible living arrangements and open living. This shift led to the ranch, Craftsman, split-level, and numerous other styles of homes. These styles focus on textures and colors, rather than ornamentation, to lend the homes a certain aesthetic. If you look at the typical rancher’s blend of block and masonry or wood siding and masonry, you’ll get the idea. When choosing railings for these homes, the emphasis isn’t usually on ornamentation, but on choosing contrasting materials and textures to complete a look.
If your home falls into this category and your tastes don’t run to the ornate, an attractive finish might be the only customization you need. In cases where the home has wood siding, stucco, or masonry, steel railing with a gloss black texture can contrast nicely with the rougher surfaces. Conversely, if much of the home is smooth, painted block, a textured antique bronze finish can add visual interest. Capping a steel railing panel with wood or composite can also make a pleasing contrast, and if the wood handrail matches the home’s trim, this can tie the whole exterior together. If you’re not in the “less is more” camp, on the other hand, railing panel systems still have plenty of more baroque ornamentation to offer.
Customizable Railing Ornamentation
If your home’s style emphasizes ornaments and details, you might not think a pre-assembled railing system offers enough in the way of customization options. Owners of Victorian homes, for instance, may think that intricately sawn wooden panels or railings with chunky balusters are their only options. Mediterranean, Gothic, and Tudor style homes also embrace ornamentation, and their owners may feel that only expensive fabricated railings will suit their homes. In either case, it isn’t so. There are steel panel railings that can be customized for extra detail with ornaments like:
- Accent panels simply attach to the top of the railing, above the top rail. These have patterns that differ from the main panels, like circles, ornamental baskets, or scrollwork.
- Accent rails attach to the top rail to give it a wider appearance and emphasize the wrought iron look of steel panel railing.
- Knuckles are two-piece ornaments that wrap around the baluster and are held in place by screws. These make the railing look more ornate and can be used to create unique patterns on a railing section, such as diamonds.
- Inserts are circular ornaments that go into the center of a panel to make it stand out. They come in a variety of shapes from stars to curling steel vines. Railing panels with insets do usually have to be ordered in advance.
There are some advantages of customizing a deck railing system rather than commissioning a craftsman to fabricate a wood or metal one from scratch. The first advantage is knowing that the end result will meet code. The second advantage is long-term durability. There aren’t that many craftsmen that have fully-equipped workshops with paint booths or powder coating setups. Without these, even a skilled craftsman will struggle to create rust-resistant steel railings. A galvanized and powder coated railing that comes from a factory will stand up to the elements better than one with mere paint and primer. On top of this durability advantage, buying a railing system is much more economical than fabricating one from scratch. Of course it’s still perfectly possible to end up with a cheap, flimsy railing system, so it’s important to find one that you’re confident will hold up over the years. The key elements to look for are fully welded construction and a multi-part coating process.
One railing system with a thorough, multi-part coating system is the Fe26 deck railing system from Fortress Railing. It’s a fully welded railing system made from pre-galvanized steel which is given an e-coating (the type of coating they put on cars to keep the underbellies from rusting), and finished with a DuPont powder coating. It’s also customizable with accents rails, knuckles, and handrails to match home styles from the simple to the ornate. Contact Fortress Railing to find out more about Fe26 or their other customizable deck railing systems. Customizability, beauty, and resistance to the elements are features found in all of Fortress Building Products’ lines, such as their decking and fencing, so if you’re in the market for other outdoor products, take a look.