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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Commercial Railing Solutions: Safety and Aesthetics in Business Spaces

Similar to residential construction, commercial patios, rooftop decks, mezzanines and similar outdoor spaces are typically required by building code to include railing systems. But just because it is required does not mean that commercial railing needs to compromise a design vision. A railing can be a subtle means of defining a space and its uses, tying different “zones” together with a seamless aesthetic and ensuring a safe and accessible environment.

Finding the right commercial railing solution is not without its own challenges. It can be tricky to strike a balance between function and form. That said, railing systems made from lasting materials like steel and aluminum check off multiple boxes: sustainable, strong, durable and stylish.

Meet building code requirements for the long-term with the right commercial railing system

Because building code compliance is a requirement to pass inspection, it is important for business owners to choose commercial railing systems that meet or exceed minimum requirements. However, because code-compliance depends on a number of factors, it is recommended that business owners work closely with architects and a local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to clarify what requirements they need to follow.

In general, the International Building Code (IBC) states that rails should be located along open-sided walking surfaces that are more than 30 inches above the floor (with a few exceptions). These railing systems also need to be no less than 42 inches high with less than a 4” gap between the floor and their bottom rail. They also need to be installed within 36 inches of the edge of the open side and be of adequate strength and attachment.

While all commercially graded railings can meet these requirements initially, it is important to flag that when commercial railing is used in outdoor applications, it is subject to the elements. This can cause rot, corrosion and other types of damage that might turn a code-compliant railing into a safety hazard. Fortunately, select steel and aluminum commercial railing options can resist this type of damage for long-term safety and integrity.

Townhouse complex with caried color schemes featuring steel railings on balconies for safety and design

Reduce operational costs with low-maintenance railing systems

Commercial railing that can withstand the damaging effects of weathering can contribute to a business’s bottom line. Because both steel and aluminum can resist rot and corrosion, they will stand strong year after year without the routine maintenance traditional railing systems require. This translates to less investment each season and a longer lifecycle overall—both of which lower cost of ownership significantly.

In fact, Tom Wyche, a contractor who renovates 500 multifamily units every year, says that using the right materials can extend a maintenance cycle by at least five years. For the apartments he works on, he has seen repair and replacement cycles go from every seven years up to every 15 years by using powder-coated steel or aluminum commercial railing components.

Modernizing outdoor business spaces with steel and aluminum railings

Serving up form and function, commercial railing solutions made from alternative materials like steel or aluminum make it easy to design an updated outdoor space that looks inviting for potential customers or tenants. For example, with its increased strength, steel railing systems can have narrower posts and pickets than vinyl or wood options. When finished in black, these railings can all but disappear for a more “open” outdoor space. Likewise, when steel railing posts are used in conjunction with different panel infill options, like cable or glass, their ability to support open sightlines further increases. In addition to sleek profiles, steel railing from select manufacturers is available with accent top rails and easy-to-install panel gates. These options allow for greater personalization so building owners can add their unique touch to an outdoor space, setting them apart from neighboring businesses or complexes.

Evening view of a rooftop deck with pergola and LED-lit railings overlooking a city street

Go beyond the basics with commercial railing lighting

On its own, commercial railing made from steel or aluminum components can help support a long-lasting, beautiful and structurally sound deck, patio or mezzanine. But its benefits don’t have to stop there. These systems are fully compatible with select LED lighting kits, which will help elevate the safety factor of a commercial space after hours while adding sought-after ambiance and warmth.

For more commercial railing design ideas and outdoor living inspiration, check out our blog and filter the content by “railing.”


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