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What Are the Different Types of Balcony Railings?

A house with a balcony.
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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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Balconies are an important luxury and aesthetic feature for many homes and buildings. The structures’ locations at high elevations makes the addition of a railing a crucial safety feature, however. Different types of balcony railings — or deck railings — can address these concerns while providing attractive design options. Three main balcony railing types exist: a true balcony railing, a false balcony railing, and a faux balcony railing. Several subdivisions exist within these categories based on building materials, such as the wooden balcony railing and the iron balcony railing.

Two of the primary balcony railing types are used mostly for decoration. Both false and faux balconies extend only a few inches or centimeters from a window. The false balcony railing is larger and thus creates the illusion of an actual balcony, whereas a faux railing typically consists of just a small railing outside a window.

The only balcony railing type that is intended for a deck for walking and movement is the true balcony railing. As such, these terrace railings have an added need for safety design. True balconies can include features like a decorative floor and patio furniture. The railings can also be enhanced visually with the addition of a railing planter that can hold different varieties of plants.

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Both safety and harmonization with the overall building design are considered when choosing a building material for outdoor balcony railings. Wooden balcony railings are one of the most popular types due to their sturdiness, low cost, and design flexibility. Railings made of wood are usually able to support the weight of various individuals leaning over the structure, for example. Despite these positives, some builders dislike this railing type because it requires regular maintenance and touch-ups to remain visually pleasing.

Iron balcony railings provide many of the same benefits as their wooden counterparts. Like wooden railings, devices made of iron also have drawbacks like degraded physical appearance over time. Iron also tends to be a more expensive base substance.

Another popular material used in balcony railings is aluminum. While this type requires less maintenance, it is usually more expensive. On occasion, designers use both aluminum and wood for a greater artistic effect.

Other less-pervasive types of balcony railings are optional as well. Some individuals use synthesized plastic or vinyl as the primary building material. For a more modern and attractive design, other building owners even prefer a railing made of glass. In order to strengthen safety for the latter type, construction usually involves shatterproof glass and a metal encasing for the glass.

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