Deck Railing Design Ideas

An essential safety feature, your deck railing is also a key component of your overall deck design.


By: John Riha

Choosing a deck railing design is putting the icing on the cake of your deck-building project. You can add a railing system that matches the material of your deck, or mix it up, like adding a colorful powder-coated aluminum railing to your redwood deck.

Whatever you come up with, remember that building codes have a lot to say about how to build a deck railing. Railings are required on decks that are 30 inches or more above grade, railings must be at least 36 inches high, and balusters must be no more than 4 inches apart.

With the codes in mind, here are basic types of deck railings:

Composite + Vinyl

Composite and vinyl deck railings come in many styles and colors, and are virtually maintenance-free. Railing kits have posts, balusters, rails, and connectors that make installation a DIY-friendly project. The structural core of the system are pressure-treated wood posts covered with a composite or vinyl sleeve, and some systems offer mix-and-match baluster materials, such as steel and aluminum spindles. Composite and vinyl kits are readily available at home improvement centers for $25 to $30 per linear foot.

Porch and View: Island Retreat in Wilmington, NC

Porch and View: Island Retreat in Wilmington, NC

On rainy days, sit under the covered portion of the porch. On clear ones, drink in the view from under wide open skies.

Photo by: Intracoastal Realty Corporation, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Intracoastal Realty Corporation, a member of Luxury Portfolio International


At $40 to $60 per linear foot, glass makes an oh-so-chic but oh-so-expensive deck railing system. Nevertheless, they’re great when you want to see all the vistas your deck has to offer. Use tempered, shatterproof safety glass, but check with your local building codes about glass railings before you proceed. Look for modular railing systems with aluminum posts and supports. Choosing tinted glass helps prevent birds from flying into clear glass.

Modern Glass Deck with 360 Degree Views

Modern Glass Deck with 360 Degree Views

To coordinate the modern interior of this seaside retreat with its exterior counterpart, designer Madelyn Simon used metal, glass and mixed wood as her primary materials. She used the wood planks as deck flooring and created an enclosed railing with glass and metal to ensure the ocean views would be in clear view from every angle.


Metal deck railings are made of either powder-coated aluminum or steel. Both are rugged, but only aluminum is rustproof. Metal deck railings that you find at home improvement centers come in a limited number of styles and colors. Expect to pay $30 to $40 per linear foot for a metal tailing system.

Refinished Backyard Deck With Wrought Iron Railing and Dining Table

Refinished Backyard Deck With Wrought Iron Railing and Dining Table

The refinished deck and custom-made French country, wrought iron railing gives lots of space to enjoy this view. An outdoor dining table with a view of the lake is a perfect place to entertain guests.

Photo by: Sarah Wilson/ Getty Images

Sarah Wilson/ Getty Images

Cable railings

Cable deck railing systems are another good way to open up views, and to give your deck design a modern aesthetic. They include stainless steel cables and posts made of wood, aluminum, or composites, and a system runs about $125 to $150 per linear foot. The cables run through intermediate posts and usually end at a corner where the cable is attached to a turnbuckle for creating — and maintaining — the correct tension. To comply with codes, the cables must be no more than 4 inches apart, so maintaining the proper tension is vital.

Sawhorse-Design-Build_Outdoor-Living-Space_Stair Detail

Sawhorse-Design-Build_Outdoor-Living-Space_Stair Detail

Photo by: Sawhorse Design & Build

Sawhorse Design & Build


Wood railings run the gamut from inexpensive to downright pricey, depending on the wood you choose. Pressure-treated wood is the most budget-friendly, at about $10 per linear foot for a railing system. Tropical hardwoods such as ipe run up to five times as much.

Traditional Craftsman Home With Spacious Deck

Traditional Craftsman Home With Spacious Deck

This classic home boasts a beautiful backyard with a large deck area, featuring curved railings and a matching pergola. Black shutters frame the top level windows.

Photo by: Sawhorse Design & Build

Sawhorse Design & Build

If you’re looking to liven up your wood railing, try these deck railing design ideas:

• Style up a wood DIY railing with classic designs, such as Chippendale and Craftsman. Look online for motifs you can copy.

• Build your own railing sections, using galvanized wire mesh in place of balusters.

• In places where your deck is less than 30 inches above grade, trade out a railing for built-in benches to define the edges of your deck.

Custom Railing 01:00

Matt shows how to spice up deck rails in just a few easy steps.

Next Up

Deck Design Ideas and Options

Here’s how to fuel your deck design fantasies — and stay on budget.

Floating Deck Design Ideas

A floating deck can be a money-saving design because certain building codes don’t apply.

Ideas for Covering a Deck

A little shelter and shade go a long way toward making your outdoor space even more livable.

Ground Level Deck Designs

Ground level decks feature low levels of complexity and high levels of satisfaction.

Design Ideas for Deck Planter Boxes

Make your deck come alive with planter boxes for decorative shrubs, flowers and ornamentals.

Small Deck Design Ideas

Just because you have a small yard doesn’t mean you can’t have a stylish deck. Learn the building requirements and get design ideas for small but functional decks.

Accessories for a Backyard Deck

From canopies that simply just snap into place to gadgets that'll keep you cool in summer and warm in the fall, there are many accessories available to liven up a back deck.

Building a Deck: What You Need to Know

If you want to know how to build a deck that’ll give you years of satisfaction, start with prep and planning.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Deck?

With careful planning you can dial in the cost of building a deck to match your comfort level.

The Different Kinds of Decking Materials

From simple to sumptuous, the decking materials you choose defines your deck — and shapes your budget.

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Discover Made + Remade

See the latest DIY projects, catch up on trends and meet more cool people who love to create.

Make It. Fix It. Learn It. Find It.