Pros and Cons of Building Horizontal Deck Railing

A deck with railing.

Deck railing completes the look of your deck. Your choice of design can help to give more character to your deck and enhance outdoor space. The railing is available in wooden, metal, PVC, fiberglass, composite, and cable materials. The arrangement of rails may be vertical or horizontal.

Vertical railings are common in many homes. Balusters are placed between the rails the same way a banister appears on a set of stairs. However, other homeowners prefer horizontal railing. This does not incorporate the traditional balusters. However, they have two to three rails that run alongside the deck and are attached at equal intervals to the posts. Below are the pros and cons of horizontal deck railing.

Pro: Cost

Horizontal railings cost less than the vertical design. This is because less material is required for installation. Horizontal designs also involve fewer connections which reduces the fasteners and hardware utilized. This helps to lower the overall costs.

Pro: Ease of Installation

Balusters aren’t required for horizontal railings. You have to put fewer pieces together to construct the rails. This makes installation of the rails less labor intensive than the vertical design. The ease of installation contributes towards the lower cost of horizontal deck rails.

Pro: Versatile

Horizontal designs allow you to utilize whatever material you want for the railing. You can use composite, glass, or cable, or settle for the more conventional materials such as wood or metal. This gives you a higher degree of flexibility in design. Vertical railings aren’t quite compatible with certain materials such as cable or fiberglass.

Pro: Higher Privacy

Horizontal railings interrupt the vision. You’re not able to get as much of a complete vision as the vertical railings allow. This is convenient if you wish to hide an undesirable view or require more privacy.

Horizontal railings aren’t without their disadvantages.

Con: Lower Safety

The railings may constitute a climbing hazard. If you have young children, they may be tempted to climb onto the horizontal rails. The ladder-like structure presents a good climbing opportunity which can be dangerous.

Con: High Maintenance

You require longer lengths of material for horizontal rails. Should part of a rail get damaged or worn out, you’ll be compelled to replace the entire length. Vertical rails, however, consist of shorter lengths of rail which makes them cheaper to replace. It also takes more effort and time to repair horizontal railings. This is because you have to remove the connectors along the entire length of deck railing in order to replace a damaged portion.

Con: Shorter Durability

Horizontal rails are more prone to damage by water and sun. This is especially so when wood or metal are used for the railings. Water doesn’t run off as quickly from horizontal rails as it does on vertical rails. Additionally, the sun falls upon a wider surface area of the rails unlike vertical rails where sunlight strikes at an angle. Due to the effects of the elements, the rails are likely to deteriorate faster. The rails may warp, crack, rot, corrode, rust, and develop mildew at a faster rate than vertical rails.