Safety and durability of aluminum vs. wrought iron railing?

infohound2006February 10, 2010

Are there any safety issues with Aluminum railing vs. wrought iron / stainless steel (are those different)?

Our landscape architect's deck guy had said that the one Aluminum railing he'd built had flex in it that a steel one wouldn't. So, "to keep us safe", the architect is recommending the wrought iron one for the stairs and landing going up to our front door.

What's the real story?

I do like the more modern look of powder-coated metal.

And I'm also drawn to aluminum rather than a metal that'll eventually rust, flake, and have to be stripped and repainted. (besides which, the estimate was $1,000 more for wrought iron).


PS. Will powder-coating be enough, or should we be spec'ing something like anodized aluminum underneath, or another coating? I have been assuming the powder-coating is more durable, but we do have a rainy season here in N. California. (At least that's the rumor; not much evidence of a rainy season in the last 4 years).

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My experience says wrought iron will eventually rust unless repainted. I have powder-coated aluminum patio furniture which looks the same as day one after 4 years. If built correctly there's no reason alum can't be rigid.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 6:34AM
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It all depends on the install/product far as flex goes.

The quality of finish is key when using steel handrail systems with outside projects.

These guys have alum and steel products that,when installed corectley, will both last a very long time and have little flex.

The price installing a rail system like this is way over your basic box store. J.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 9:12AM
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It is not wrought iron. It is steel railing. Wrought iron is fibrous and last for hundreds of years with low rust. In the Carolinas steel custom railing is less expensive than aluminum railing. I don't like the powder coated railing. Inevitably the paint will chip and it somewhat ugly to repair.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 7:36PM
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We found a company called RailingWorks that pre-fabricates the powder-coated aluminum railing for a quite reasonable price. Ships it as a "kit" with pieces, connectors, etc. And, because it's aluminum rather than steel, the freight charge is not ridiculous. It's not custom-welded, but if well-measured looks like it'll be easy to attach and look good.

Does anyone have experiences with them? If they're OK, we're planning to order from them next week.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 4:43AM
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Around 5 years ago, I installed some shade sails in my back yard. I already had some carbon steel pipe so I decided to use that for the supports. I wire brushed away the loose rust and primed them with Rust-stop primer. then painted them with flat black paint. They still look wonderful today! I am getting ready to do some steel handrails around my new deck and plan to paint them with the same stuff. If that Rust-stop primer worked that well on rusty pipe, I can't imagine how nicely it will work on new steel. I am not a fan of powder-coating. It is impossible to touch-up if rust does pop through.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 8:31AM
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I recently wrote an article called "Maintenance Free - Aluminum Fence compared with Steel and Iron", comparing Aluminum with Steel and Iron fence. Iron and Steel are definitely stronger when it comes to resistance to denting and bending, but Aluminum - especially when coated - will hold up better to the weather without regular maintenance.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 6:02PM
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Info hound, did you buy from railing works? Was is a good choice?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 9:55PM
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