My New Favorite Exterior Railing

Are you giving your exterior railings the attention they deserve? Exterior railings are often viewed as a building code requirement rather than an important design element, but the right railing can be the perfect finishing touch.

Here are a few general considerations:

• Style and Design: The style of the railings should be in keeping with the style and design of your entire home. Be careful not to go too contemporary (wire or Plexiglas panels) if this does not fit the house. If your railing has balusters, pay attention to the scale (especially the posts — nothing looks worse that posts that are too skinny!)
• Materials: What are your priorities? Low maintenance? The look? Be sure to pick a material that meets your needs.
• Cost: The cost runs the gamut!! Determine the “feel” and style you are looking for and then price out a few different alternatives.

If your railing is going on a deck or porch that offers great views, you have a whole set of additional considerations. Here in New Hampshire, building codes call for an exterior railing height of 42″, which can really interfere with sight lines! To make the most of a gorgeous view, select railing materials to keep the view open.

One of my very favorite railings is this one from a recent project in Wolfeboro.

Wentworth Style favorite exterior railing

We added a wonderful deck that runs the full length of the house and a large screened porch so the owners could enjoy their spectacular lakefront views. Whether sitting outside or looking out the (many!) windows from inside, we wanted to keep the view open.

The home has a “cottagey” look. Typical balusters would match the style of the house, but the long deck might have felt a bit like a playpen with all those balusters! Fortunately, this client has a great sense of funky style and was willing to be a bit creative.

The end result was a railing designed using cedar and galvanized metal architectural mesh. Working with the local building supplier, the builder on the job found me the perfect scale of mesh (and met my challenge of wanting squares- not rectangles – as the grid pattern!). The cedar is low maintenance and will gray to become just the right color. Staying with code, a 4” space was added below the top rail and off of the deck – reducing the visual mass of the panels. Of course, we sized the top rail so it is the perfect landing place for a glass of iced tea!

We ended up loving this design so much, I carried it through to the interior railing detail. Instead of cedar, we will be wrapping the posts in pine and painting them white to match the other trim and woodwork finishes inside of the house.

What do you think? Do you like this railing or have other great railings to share? Feel free to comment!

2 Comments ~ Join the conversation
2 replies
  1. Sabet Stroman says:

    Patty- we LOVE the porch railing you designed for us ( per your blog this week!) I trusted you enough to take the risk, and could not be happier with the final product! Our views are expansive since we can see through the mesh material so well, and it goes so well with some of the industrial touches we have in the house. Thanks for this amazing idea and all of your advice on our project!

    • Patty Cooke says:

      Thanks so much for your nice comments on this! Working with you on your wonderful home has been such a pleasure!

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