What is Vinyl Railing?
What if I told you there was a deck railing option that was affordable, easy to install, and requires minimal maintenance? Would you believe it?
You should! Vinyl deck railings fulfill all those attributes while looking great and offering myriad design options for almost any setting.
Vinyl deck railing can be installed as an all-vinyl railing or you can mix vinyl with other materials for an attractive, affordable finish.
Common Misconceptions about Vinyl Deck Railing
Vinyl building products may be the most misunderstood at the moment. Like vinyl flooring, they are often considered cheap or low quality. Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about vinyl deck railing.
My deck will look like a plastic mess if I use vinyl railings.
This is probably the most popular (and erroneous) thought about vinyl deck railings. Once upon a time vinyl products looked a lot like plastic. Manufacturing when vinyl came about was far more simplistic than it is now.
Today, vinyl decking products look and feel a lot like wood while limiting the negative attributes of natural wood decking materials. Vinyl comes in many textures, colors, and finishes that can help you achieve the look you want without painting or staining.
If it rains or my vinyl deck is damp, it will be a slip hazard.
Most common misconceptions about vinyl decking seem to originate from the way things used to be when vinyl building products were invented.
Original vinyl decks did present dangerous slip hazards. Modern vinyl decking materials feature textures that allow water to drain efficiently while offering traction on decking.
Vinyl decking and the accompanying railings look and feel like wood or other natural textures. This provides a surface that is relatively skid-free. You can be confident installing vinyl decking and railing near pools or in areas that receive precipitation.
A vinyl deck is sure to fade and change colors as time passes.
Once again, an old problem has made its way into a common belief about vinyl deck railings. Sun fade and/or yellowing were major downsides to vinyl products shortly after their inception.
Modern vinyl features color stabilization technologies, making them essentially fade proof. All the concerns over vinyl yellowing, a chalky look, or fading are unwarranted. You can expect the color you choose to remain the color over time.
Extreme temperature drops can result in brittle vinyl that breaks easily.
We will talk about the impact of heat on vinyl in a moment but first, let’s discuss what cold temperatures can do to your vinyl. The answer: not much.
Vinyl deck railing is far less susceptible to temperature swings than natural materials like wood. It expands and contracts minimally, protecting it from changes that would impact its durability.
You can be confident in your vinyl deck railing’s ability to stand up to the cold in most winter climates. The flexibility of vinyl keeps it from cracking or twisting.
I won’t be able to grill on my deck if vinyl decking or deck railing is nearby.
The misconception that vinyl is susceptible to melting is quite popular. While vinyl deck railings exposed to flame or extremely high heat will melt (most vinyl products are made to self-extinguish, making them safer than natural materials), the heat of a grill or even a raised fire pit is tolerated by modern vinyl products.
If you are overly concerned about the impact of your grill on vinyl decking, you could simply install heat shield tiles or standard pavers underneath the grill or fire pit.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Railing
Vinyl deck railing, like all materials, has its advantages and disadvantages. Some are inherent while others are highly dependent on your installation situation (location, other materials used, etc.)
Vinyl Railing Pros
Some materials can fade, crack, or yellow under the intensity of the sun’s UV rays. Vinyl is protected with stabilizers that allow it to resist those tendencies. The vinyl you choose should maintain its look for many years.
Feet and hand safe:
Have you ever walked across a wood deck or run your hand along a railing and felt the intense pain of a splinter entering your skin? Those fears are mitigated by the smooth, safe surface of vinyl decking.
Children, pets, and your feet will appreciate the added safety of a vinyl deck or deck railing.
Extremely low maintenance:
There is “low maintenance” and then there is “vinyl deck railing low maintenance.” Rust? Never. Stain? No need. Paint? Only if you want to. Bugs? They pass on by.
If maintenance is something you look forward to, you might want to choose another deck railing material. If you prefer to spend your free time on something other than your deck, vinyl is a fantastic option.
Mold, algae, and dirt disappear with a simple power wash. While this is the case with many materials, power washing wood typically results in the need for a new coat of stain or paint.
A hose down is enough to take care of most spills, mud, and other messes on your vinyl deck railing.
A common misconception about vinyl, as mentioned earlier, is that it is susceptible to breakage in the elements. In reality, vinyl railings can stand up to most weather and are often stronger than wood.
Wood deck railings near a fire pit or unruly grill can spell disaster. Vinyl deck railing offers fire resistance that is less likely to combust. This is an invaluable benefit of vinyl deck railing.
Vinyl Railing Cons
While this might sound like a pro to most, it is a con for those who appreciate the natural weathering of wood or cast iron (patina). Vinyl deck railing will not show age the way other materials do and this can be a flaw to some.
Vinyl deck railing looks great and has many pros. However, if your home is older, you may need to consider other materials in your design.
You can certainly be creative and fit vinyl deck railing into almost any design, but some vintage styles just do not fit the modernity of vinyl.
Smaller color palette:
Vinyl comes in a variety of colors and there are plenty of choices available. However, most vinyl deck railing does not accept paint or stain well, limiting the overall color choices to those available in production. Wood or metal rails are fully customizable by color due to their ability to be painted.
Vinyl deck railings offer many pros and a few cons. The drawbacks are really only valid in specific scenarios, like an older home or the need for color matching.
How to Install Vinyl Railing
Installing vinyl deck railings can be a do it yourself (DIY) project if you feel confident in following directions and using a few hand or power tools.
This installation guide is not comprehensive but represents a typical basic vinyl deck railing installation. Use this information to judge whether you feel capable of installing your vinyl deck railing.
If not, see our Using a Professional Installer for Vinyl Deck Railing section below for help finding an expert who can install vinyl deck railings for you.
Step 1: Get your plan sorted out first
Preparation is key to a successful vinyl deck railing installation. Measure the perimeter of your deck with the utmost care and precision. A mistake at this step can lead to mistakes along the way and a Renovation Realities style outcome.
As always, you must check local codes, laws, and regulations regarding your deck railing. There are usually guidelines that dictate rail height and often rule about infill placement.
If you have any questions about the installation of your vinyl deck railing, now would be the time to ask for help or clarification.
Step 2: Get your materials together
Most vinyl deck railing installations start as a kit. This is beneficial as the majority of materials come in the box.
We always recommend reading the instructions, both for installation and so you can be sure all of your necessary tools are available.
Step 3: Prepare your posts
It is beneficial to place your posts and balusters where you anticipate they will go. This helps ensure the spacing is correct and you have enough material to finish the job.
Step 4: Snip the rails
In many cases, you will need to cut the railing to fit perfectly. Be prepared for this before starting the project!
The bottom rail gets installed first. Most kits come with the appropriate mounting hardware to get the bottom rail attached to your posts securely.
This is an important area to recheck local regulations, as many codes require a maximum opening from the surface of the deck to the bottom rail.
Step 5: On to the balusters and top rail
Most vinyl railings feature some form of slots or track to place the balusters in. Place the balusters in the appropriate slots and then fit the top rail on.
Typically, you will need to wiggle the balusters into the appropriate slots on the top rail and then use a rubber mallet or block and mallet to tap the top rail down firmly.
Step 6: The grand finale
Vinyl deck railing usually comes with some caps or covers to hide all the hardware used to secure the railing. Install these and any post caps you decide on. Pro tip: If you selected post caps, make sure they are securely fitted by using an appropriate adhesive like PVC cement.
Using a Professional Installer for Vinyl Railing
Let’s face it - not everyone is cut out for or enjoys DIY projects like installing a vinyl deck railing. Whether it is a lack of time, expertise, or the equipment required to complete the task, it is reasonable to prefer someone else do the work of installing your railing.
If you find yourself seeking out the help of a pro, use our simple, convenient tool to find someone in your area who can help you plan, purchase, and install your vinyl deck railings.
Sample Costs and Comparison Guide
While weighing the pros and cons holds value when comparing deck railing materials, for many homeowners, the price of the railing project can be a major factor. You can consult this comparison chart below for an idea of what costs you might expect.
Deck Railing Materials Pricing Comparison Chart*
Price Per Linear Foot
Stainless Steel Cable
The cost of a professional installation can be between $50 and $100 per hour of work performed. Adding the costs of materials and installation will give you an idea of how much your new vinyl deck railing might cost.