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Home Improvement Porch Deck Railings - Great Remodeling Design Ideas

Updated on September 27, 2014

High Design and Low Maintenance

It used to be high design for porch or deck railings came with both a high installation price tag and a high cost of upkeep and maintenance. As a former CFO, I coached my stakeholders in the fact that the on-going maintenance is often the real price tag not the upfront installation cost. Thankfully for decorative railings, this is no longer true. You can now have pristine white vinyl railings or warm wood tone railings that never fade in a variety of options and with a variety of accessories. The design ideas are simply endless but we give you a great start here. Check out our remodeling tips and be sure to review all the accessories before you begin. An educated consumer is a smart consumer - these are frugal times, we must spend wisely.

Maintenance free has never been better than with the new vinyl railings. No peeling, no fading, no chipping and best yet, virtually no maintenance over their lifetime. From vinyl railings, pergolas to even no maintenance vinyl decking - all of these offer a great investment potential in your home. Weigh the options and many many benefits against the upfront costs, you may be surprised. Home improvement with new railings for your front porch or private lanai can be a great investment in your home. Simpler than bathroom cabinets and much less expensive than kitchen remodeling, improving your railings adds both beauty and safety too.

Porch Deck Railing Options and Accessories

maintenance free vinyl railings
maintenance free vinyl railings
another design option for your railing - columns and a pergola together
another design option for your railing - columns and a pergola together
never need to paint - completely maintenance free
never need to paint - completely maintenance free
pergola over a cement patio
pergola over a cement patio
light caps on your railings
light caps on your railings
glass railing and solar caps homesteadfence
glass railing and solar caps homesteadfence
detail of one optional lighted cap
detail of one optional lighted cap
Faux Copper
Faux Copper
Real Copper
Real Copper

Home Improvement Remodeling Tips

Vinyl railings come in a variety of quality levels - like many things in life - you do get what you pay for. If you plan on staying in your home for longer than 8 years, do the research and do spend the money for better quality. The thickness of the plastic is the main quality item to compare. The other quality item is the color saturation. In the end, the most critical item for your railing or your fencing is the expert installation.

Word to the Wise

All major construction projects, all custom designs, need accountability and your involvement. This means holding back a portion of the job to make sure your wishes and your needs are precisely met.

#1 Design Rule - Match Your Railing and Accessories with Your Fencing and Your Home's Architecture

Careful planning will be rewarded if you review all the options before purchasing. Carefully consider your budget, carefully consider the architecture you must work with. Never compete with existing architecture. If your home is modern, keep the railing and fencing modern. Likewise, if your home's exterior is traditional, keep all elements traditional. Your goal is to complement and blend not shout this is another element and make the rest of the structure sad to be sitting next to an element that doesn't belong. This is a long term investment, consider it carefully. Spend wisely and your dollars will be returned to you.

Your color options are very broad today. From white to almond to wood tone, search and ye shall find.

Know Your Building Codes

You can design, you can plan and if the building code goes against you, you have wasted your time. Never, never spend a dime until you have called your local building official. Plan your questions carefully. Make a list and check the list of question twice with another pair of eyes before you call. Many a building inspector appreciates a visual review before the construction - don't be afraid to ask for help. When in doubt, speak up! It is your wallet that is footing the bill. The building inspector is there to help. Ask, question and recheck.

Railing Options - Style

A spindle is not just a spindle, choose the railing that best fits your architecture. The spindle you choose for your railing could be vinyl, aluminum, clear glass, etc... Additionally, your posts could be different - do consider a larger posts for more impact.

Railing Options - Colors

White railing with wood flooring offer a high contrast and high style. Also, in the sample show to the right, the grey decking is another option for complimenting the white railing. Remember railings are available in wood tone and white. Fencing has an even broad spectrum of colors and design availability.

Railing Options - Privacy

If your railing is framing a work of wonder such as the ocean or other beautiful body of water, do consider the glass railings. Also, don't be afraid to mix it up. If you need privacy, add in a railing or fence that provides that convenience for you and your family. A little bit of privacy fencing/railing goes a long way. Don't be that house with yards of privacy fencing, be consider of the overall look and feel and contribution to the neighborhood.

Railing Accessory- Number One - Decorative Posts

If your budget and your architecture can manage it, consider large decorative posts between your railings. Remember, this will change your calculations so plan ahead. Changing the post between the railing can add a great design detail that will provide years of visual delight.

Railing Accessory - Number Two - Lights

This one is my personal favorite - how great! Nigh time drama and safety too. Adding lights to your post cap will provide a visual guide at night for safety and a distinctive glow. These accessories are maintenance free too! Except for the light bulb of course.

Lighting Options Include:


  • Copper Solar with Real Copper
  • Copper Solar with Faux with Weather Resistant Materials
  • Decorative Copper Solar
  • White Maintenance Free Solar
  • Architectural Series White Maintenance Free Solar

Low Voltage Lights

  • Copper Low Voltage with Real Copper
  • Copper Low Voltage with Faux Weather Resistant Materials
  • Decorative Copper Low Voltage
  • White Maintenance Free Low Voltage
  • Architectural Series White Maintenance Free Low Voltage

Copper Patina

Many people love the blue-green patina of copper. Often seen on older copper roofs, ancient cathedrals as well as bronze statues and other copper metal surfaces exposed to the weather. When purchasing, don't forget about the look that you wish to achieve for the long term - be mindful the shiny copper is short-term only.

Railing Accessory- Number Three - Copper Caps for the Caps

Copper caps on your posts are another great design feature for both your fencing and/or your porch railing.

The variety of copper caps range from the lighted variety to just a simple copper cap. Generally the copper is used on the wood tone not on the white. Remember, you need to keep your architecture consistent - rule number one above.

When purchasing faux copper, check for durability. This is a long term investment and you want to make sure this addition will last the life of your new railings.

Pergolas and Columns

Railing Accessory Number Four - Pergola

Porches, patios and decks all offer a great opportunity to add a pergola to your design. A pergola is a fantastic addition to any landscape. It offers a shaded walk way, may add some shade to a back yard sanctuary or may simple be the support needed for your garden vines.

I love pergolas over the garage with vines - delightful. Word of caution - do not use wisteria vines on a delicate structure - wisteria demands strength.

Origin of the Term - Pergola

The term pergola is derived from the Latin word "pergula" which refers to a projecting eave or edge of the roof. Many pergolas are simply stand alone garden structure to help decorate and complement roses and other flowering vines.

Best of all, pergolas now are available in maintenance free options from adding a vinyl sleeve to an entire vinyl structure.

Railing Accessory Number Five - Columns

This accessory is not for everyone to combine with their railing construction project. It is a great option and can add substantial height and drama to your project.

Railing and Column Installation Guidance

Installation tips for using both columns and railings is provided in a video at the right.

Victorian Porch

Victorian Porch in elaborate detail
Victorian Porch in elaborate detail | Source

High Design but High Maintenance Too!

privacy option
privacy option

Vinyl Pergola on Amazon

High Design and High Maintenance

Is maintenance free the only choice for fencing and railings? Absolutely not. Not every single design is available in vinyl - some high design choices as shown at the right sadly are not yet available in vinyl.

Every circumstance and need is different. If you can afford the upfront cost of maintenance free, strongly consider it - it may save you substantial dollars in the end. If you love the high design and your home's architecture and your neighborhood can complement this design, go for the high design with the full knowledge of the high future maintenance.

Home Improvement - Plan Ahead and Have Fun!

Kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces are all great home improvements projects. Your railing project, however, is more often "front and center" to your home's exterior. Whether the railing is for the front porch or the rear garden - it provides allot of visual interest in addition to safety.  Whatever your current home improvement project is - railings for your front porch or lanai,  simply remember to plan ahead, take it slow, consider your options, talk to your local building inspector and enjoy the journey of building and creating a railing of both beauty, purpose and safety. Most of all enjoy the journey! Have fun!

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© 2010 Ken Kline


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    Post Comment

    • drcrischasse profile image

      Cristopher Chasse 

      8 years ago from Boston

      Wonderful ideas, well done.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      8 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Hi GmaGoldie,

      You have given the beautiful designs of several railings. And you are correct to say that the most important thing lies in creating a railing in its beauty, purpose and safety.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      I think pergolas are underutilized for architecture - yes, I didn't now the origin - it makes sense.

      I find it amazing all the options now available. And the options are low maintenance too - more expensive up front but in the end a great value.

      I never wanted a long stairway but the one with the lights I thought was really cool.

      Thank you for stopping by.

    • readabook profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      I love porches and it is interesting to learn where the term pergola came from. Interesting topic for a hub.


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