The railings or banisters for a porch are one of the finishing touches on a home's exterior. Depending on the style of your home, aesthetics, and budget you may be curious about the best material to use. Not to worry, as we have researched the best materials to use for the railings and banisters on a porch. Read on and discover helpful information regarding sprucing up your porch.
Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
There are more than a few excellent choices of material for creating the perfect porch railing or banister. Create a beautiful and long-lasting porch using the following types of building materials.
- Stainless steel
- Wrought Iron
- Metal Cable
If you are still unsure about the right choice of material to complete your porch, read on to learn more. Discover the benefits of different types of railings and banisters for porches that are stylish and elegant.
About Porch Railings And Banisters
A home with a porch that has decorative railings and banisters adds a pleasing aesthetic touch and adds value. Especially for homes that have traditional architecture and historical points of interest, there is nothing like a beautifully executed wrought iron or wooden railing and banister. Railings and banisters are not only visually appealing but they make your home safer in case of a slip or fall. Contemporary or modern homes may eschew porch railings or banisters, or opt for minimalist cable railings.
You can successfully install custom porch railings and banisters or hire a trusted professional. When selecting railings you want to look for materials that can perform under various temperatures and weather conditions, are aesthetically pleasing, and fit your budget. Do choose railing solutions that are durable, easy to clean, and fit the style of your home.
Before you learn about common materials for porch railings and banisters let's look at some terminology. If you are considering constructing a porch as a DIY project, you should be familiar with the following concepts.
- Guardrail- Note this is a horizontal board that runs across the railing posts.
- Balusters - Also called pickets or spindles, and these fit into the top and bottom rail or into the flooring.
- Posts- Commonly 4x4 pieces of lumber that are vertical supports which rest on the piers and hold up the beam
- Cap Rail- The board that is aligned with the posts that make up the length of the porch or deck
- Railing Post - Posts that are vertically aligned and hold up the rail
- Rise- A step's height
- Run - A step's length
Please realize that two or more steps lead to a porch a handrail is required for safety in many homes. A handrail may not necessarily be a banister but helps people safely walk up any stairs leading to a porch.
Compared to wood and iron, aluminum railings and banisters are an inexpensive and durable solution for porches. Many homeowners love to use aluminum because it is resistant to corrosion from inclement weather and doesn't easily warp or shrink. Choose an aluminum railing and banister for a traditional or contemporary home for practicality and a clean look. Aluminum is prized because it can be easily cut to custom sizes and it is lightweight and cost-effective.
Stainless steel railing and supports for a porch are attractive and suitable for modern, contemporary homes. Handrails made from steel withstand rain, snow, UV rays, and do not succumb to rust. Compared to lightweight aluminum, stainless steel is another cost-effective choice that complements homes with an industrial, classic, or traditional style. In some instances, instead of metal supports, porches can use stainless steel cables.
Porches made with wrought iron offer a level of visual appeal and longevity that cannot compare to wood or cables. Wrought iron is a desirable type of railing because it is malleable, comes in many decorative and elaborate designs, and offers a high level of security. Homes that have a Victorian style, bohemian look, or classic features look stunning with wrought iron railings and handrails for porches and staircases. Do take a closer look to ensure you are purchasing wrought iron and not cast iron or steel. Certain metal railings and banisters may have deceptive finishes.
A modern and chic form of railing for modern, industrial, and contemporary homes are metal cable. Cable railings offer plenty of versatility, aesthetic appeal, and are sturdy. Compared to wood or wrought iron, metal cables are desirable because they offer unobstructed views on porches and decks and it's inexpensive. Braided or rope cables are nature-friendly and allow animals the ability to move between railings and are easy to clean and install. Families with small children or older people may want to avoid using metal cables and opt for other types of railings.
Porch railings made from wood are a classic and time-honored choice. Although wood railings may need occasional replacement, weatherproofing, and staining they look elegant. Choose wood railings made from cedar, mahogany, or redwood for a versatile and durable porch. Wood is an excellent material for homes that are vintage, traditional, farmhouse, or minimalist.
What Is The Difference Between A Porch Railing And Banister?
The word railing is a general term that can be used to define balustrades on a porch or a handrail. The term banister is used to denote railing on a handrail that runs alongside a staircase. Thus a banister is a handrail and its accompanying supports, but not a handrail alone. The porch railing is usually placed with a vertical or horizontal orientation but a banister is usually positioned on an angle.
Does A Porch Need A Railing?
Depending on the style and dimensions of your home and porch you may not need balustrades or railing. In the United States, any porch that is lower than 30 inches above the ground does not need to have a railing. In some places, porches that are 15 to 24 inches above grade must be outfitted with railing. Overall, if a porch is 30 inches or higher above the ground safety requirements demand that there is an installed railing.
Should Porch Railing Be Horizontal Or Vertical?
Choosing to install horizontal or vertical railing on a porch is a matter of aesthetics and safety. Railings with a horizontal orientation have a modern look and allow for more light to pass through, but reduce security in case of an incident. Most porches have balustrades that are placed vertically and closely together. Typically, metal cables are an inexpensive porch railing solution that is horizontally secured to the posts. Vertically placed railings are usually wrought iron, wood, or aluminum.
What Is The Standard Height For A Porch Railing?
According to the IRC, guardrails need to be a minimum height of 36 inches spanning between the top of the deck and the top of the railing. The IBC has a required distance of 42 inches for guardrails. As a result, most porches are outfitted with railings that measure between 36 and 42 inches in height to comply.
What Is The Maximum Distance Between Deck Railing Posts?
To ensure a safer porch or deck it the maximum distance between railing posts is 4 inches apart. Typically, most decks will have 3 railing posts for every foot, but balusters can be closer. The posts should have no more than 8 feet of distance between them.
How Tight Should Cable Railings Be?
When installing cable railings on a deck or porch they should not be too tight or too loose. The cables should be taught enough that they look attractive and do not cause the posts to buckle if you were to lean on it. Cable railings should never be saggy or overly loose because it is unattractive and unsafe. The required tension for cables vary, but they should be spaced 4 inches apart, allow for some elasticity, and not be warped.
The railings and banister for a porch go beyond mere aesthetic value. The type of material used for your porch adds value to your home, provides visual ornamentation, and upholds safety codes for buildings. Depending on the type of home you have specific types of banisters or railings may be more visually pleasing. Modern contemporary homes look chic with open, minimalistic cable ropes. Farmhouse style homes or traditional homes with vintage details look beautiful with wood or wrought iron railings.
Please consult and hire a professional to ensure that your porch is up to code and lasts for years. Your choice of porch railing material and banister is an investment in your home's beauty, security, and increase its price on the market. Choose wisely when selecting construction materials, and enjoy a porch worth coveting and showing off for parties, lounging, and entertaining houseguests.
Click here to read more informative articles about porches.