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What Are the Different Types of Porch Rails?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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Porch rails are available in a variety of styles, shapes and materials to fit nearly any decor or architectural theme. The rails should complement the architectural details of the house or building they are attached to, so the style of railing should be thoughtfully selected. Depending on the amount of required upkeep desired and the budget for the project, composite and vinyl rails are a durable option compared to some wood railings.

Wood choices for railings include treated lumber, softwoods and hardwoods. Pressure-treated lumber offers more water resistance than untreated lumber, but it also costs more. Wood porch rails are easily adapted to just about any desired railing configuration, and can be stained or painted in a variety of colors. For a more natural appearance, porch rails can be left natural or coated with a clear or tinted weather-resistant varnish that allows the grain and pattern of the wood to show through. While wood porch railings are a versatile option, they often require more upkeep than rails made from vinyl or composites.

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Composite, vinyl and cellular polyvinyl chloride (PVC) rails are durable options for porch rails. Composite rails have the look of wood railings without the warping, rotting or upkeep. The rails are made using a wood composite surrounded by a polymer capstock and are nearly maintenance-free. Vinyl rails are able to withstand weathering effects, such as warping and cracking, as well as fend off damage often caused by fungus and insects. Cellular PVC rails also are weather-resistant and are reinforced with aluminum or wood.

Wrought iron, aluminum and steel porch rails are available in plain and ornate styles and can add aesthetic appeal and safety to a porch setting. Metal railings often feature a baked-on finish, but can require limited upkeep, such as periodic cleaning and painting. Black steel porch railings are available in panels that are often pre-drilled for easy assembly. Decorative metal porch rails include assorted patterns, such as scrolls, geometrical designs and square rails. Some metal porch rail patterns also depict nature scenes, such as a sunset over a mountain range, a herd of deer grazing on a hill or a school of fish underwater.

For a more rustic appearance, large tree branches and planks can be left in a natural or rough state in order to create porch rails. Large branches from native trees can be intertwined to create porch rails with artistic flair. To accommodate the railings, large portions of hollowed tree trunks are often used as porch pillars.

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