Ideas for reasonably priced railing that won't block view?

jomarnSeptember 17, 2005

We are going out of our minds trying to figure out what to use for a deck railing that won't block our view too much. We're going to be building a house with a rather large deck facing a river and would like to be able to see the river (rather than just looking at the deck railings) from inside the house. We're also looking for something that's low maintenance.

The obvious answer is cable rail, which our builder says is extremely expensive. Is it only expensive if you use the kits? Can one save money by buying the cable and fittings separately rather than using the kits?

If that's not an option, does anyone have any other ideas? I'm assuming tempered glass isn't going to be any bargain either, and wouldn't be much fun to keep clean.

I've seen deck railings locally on the ocean with thin aluminium pipes (tubes?) used horizontally, but I'm worried about future grandchildren climbing right on up and over the side!

Does anyone have any good alternatives to expensive cable rail kits?

Thank you!

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have you considered plexiglass-- cheaper than tempered.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 2:41PM
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Disregarding having to clean them a person could use patio door panels, over here I have a supplier that sells 3'x6' panels for around 95$ build your rail system around them and plan on a little post under the bottom rail,and check with your local permit store.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 6:27PM
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John--Have you actually installed any deck railings with the glass? I'm wondering whether you've had any feedback on how often people feel as though they need cleaning.

I don't know why this didn't dawn on me til you posted, but my BIL manages a glass company. He may be able to get us a deal on glass, as well.

Also, do you know if it's possible to do the cable rails less expensively without a kit?

Digger--I did think about plexiglas, but am afraid it will get really scratched in addition to dirty. Doesn't plexiglas scratch easily?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 6:35PM
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You know JoMar, those cable rails aren't legal anymore in alot of areas, you should check on that. Reason is for the climbing hazard.

I used to install quite a few of them (before the rules changed) and I just went to one of our local Yacht Rigging Shops (San Diego) and had all the runs made up.

Glass needs constant cleaning, and plexi, forget about that because as you said it yellows and scratches.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 9:54PM
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How about wire mesh. It can be fabricated w/ metal frames or installed like glass or in routed channels.
Mesh can be painted, galv., SS, woven or welded in many different sizes.

Here is a link that might be useful: one example

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 3:01PM
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I have not actuall tried the rail detail with the glass pannels but I always thought it would work and It woudent be all that hard to frame for them. One of my suppliers has some glass pannels in a rail display, they are 3/8'' thick or so and about 6'' wide they had them installed with a 4'' gap in between each one, the glass was smoked and looked kinda cool.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 3:04PM
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I've use tempered glass for rails before, it looked great. It was quite some time ago tho & I never did get any feedback from the customer on how often they had to clean the glass.

What I've used the most in situations like yours is bullwire. It has been nixed by the city of Austin building department inspectors tho because of the climbing hazard. However I still install this type of railing when outside the city with a warning to the customer. My feeling is if a child is too small to be trusted not to climb over the rail then he/she should not be on the deck by theirself anyway. This type of material comes galvinized so it has a silver look to it, but it can be painted black which makes it blend into the background more imo.

Other than that I'd suggest using the aluminum balusters.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 7:01PM
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I know the cable rails aren't legal in lots of places. As far as I know, they're still okay in Mass. At least, I couldn't find anything about them in the state codes. Does anyone know otherwise? I've seen quite a few railings around here with horizontal rails, including aluminum tubing (piping?) that would probably be even more dangerous than cable since it's easier to climb. Of course, I'll double-check with the builder that they're still okay.

I agree with you, Deckman, that if a child is too young to be trusted not to climb the cables, he/she is too young to be out there alone. And, our youngest just went off to college, so it's just dh and myself until grandkids come along (and then come to visit). So, for now, I'm not going to worry about the possible dangers.

And, Deckman, what is bullwire? Dh didn't know either and he's pretty knowledgeable about construction stuff.

I'll check out the wire mesh. Thanks, Joe, for the hint about yacht rigging shops. We live near the coast, so that's definitely something to look into.

I actually found a cable rail company on-line that sells diy kits. They claim to be about half the price of the other companies. Their system is about $40 per linear foot, including the cable, the posts, and hardware. Does that sound like a good price?


    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 9:08PM
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Jo, here are the cable suppliers I've found on-line. I'd be interested in hearing about the company you found.

Someone at one of these companies told me the "ladder effect" language has been taken out of the IRC, and that some inspectors now allow the use the horizontal cables.

Here is a photo album of cable railings I found from a deckbuilder on another forum:

    Bookmark   September 20, 2005 at 11:25AM
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Wow! Thanks again!

Scott--Thanks for all the possibilities you posted. I'm crazed right now trying to gather and prepare documentation we need for the Zoning Board and Conservation Commission, so don't have time to check them all out now, but I will soon!

The one I found that claimed to be less expensive and diy is linked below. I'd love to know what you think of it compared to others.

Here is a link that might be useful: DIY and less expensive???

    Bookmark   September 20, 2005 at 5:29PM
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You can use 3/4" to 1" plexiglass rods that you install vertically between the bottom and the top rail, then you space them up adequately according to "Code". This will give you a similar effect to that of glass without the inconvenience of having to clean them all the time. Also it comes in any color you can think of. Now if you want to get fancy you can even have light going thru the rods (using LEDs)...


    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 1:38AM
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Jo, Bullwire is a type of cattle fencing. It comes in 3', 4' & 5' widths X 20' in length. The panels are welded wire in a 4"X4" pattern. You have to use bolt cutters to cut the stuff as it's pretty thick wire, not sure of the gauge. There are several ways to install it, but basically you have a top/bottom rail between post & trim pieces to cover the staples on the back side. There are pics on my site of this type of railing.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 10:54AM
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I used vertical 3/4" copper pipe - the heavier schedule with thicker walls. Cheap and very unobtrusive, especially after it weathered. Not sure how it squares with code......

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 1:37PM
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The best way not to block your view, is to design your deck in levels so that it has landings. That way the railing will be below where you are looking out. This only works if the property slops down away from the house.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 2:18PM
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if your finished deck flooring is less than 33" from the ground you do not need railings at all (at least thats the code here in NJ)

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 2:48PM
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There is no way to do the deck in levels because any lower levels would block the windows below. These are second and third floor decks, so we have to have railings.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 4:26PM
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what about glass ballusters? these look pretty cool and arent too expensive.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2005 at 8:48PM
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Wants, those little girls are looking good, instalation is a little tricky but they have the code stuff.I myself question what would happen if a person kicked them a little too hard but I am thinking it is a good way to go for the look. J

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 6:27PM
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We stepped our main deck level down one step (a small landing outside the door and then a step down to rest of deck) and then used a combination of black wrought iron vertical railing joined with wood decorative posts. I don't know the style of your home, and the overall "color" of your view (ie, if it's light, you may want white railing), but this worked very nicely for us. The white painted corner posts tied in with the traditional style of our home, and the iron blended with the trees/forest so that it is practically invisible from inside, yet the overall look makes the outside area a focal point rather than a railing distraction. Just an idea. I'm not sure if it was all that affordable. My husband did the woodwork, and brought in the iron guy to measure and fill in the railing lengths.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 1:47PM
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Has anyone ever used any form of rope for deck railing instead of wire/cable? We are building a lake house, thought a rope railing instead of ballusters would look nautical, and leave more view.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 4:17PM
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I was at a friends 11th floor townhouse a couple of weeks ago & asked how often he had to clean them. His response was the property mangement co. cleans them once a year & his cleaning lady does it about once a year too, not too much trouble imo. He also stated he never noticed them being dirty. His were steel framed & quite strong.

Ron, I've seen the rope rails down on our coast a lot, I doubt they would meet any building codes tho, so it depends on where you live as to whether you could get away with it. They also used ropes on top of metal railing at the old Oasis decks on Lake Travis til it burned down this spring.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2005 at 12:35PM
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This is an old post but I find myself exactly here..beach house with about 70 linear feet of railings needed Really wanted the nautical SS look but have been quoted $100-300 per linear foot..has anyone actually used Advanced Flooring Systems and what was the quality??? Please hlp as this decision is the straw that broke the camels back and budget

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 11:43AM
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There are 3 options for a deck railing that won't block your view:
1. Cable Railings: They are low maintenance and come in many styles and price ranges. Easy for homeowners to install.
2.Glass railings are also good at preserving your view. They are a bit more challenging to install but make a great wind break, if you need that function. The frame less rails are a clean look(as long as you clean them regularly).
3. Wire mesh: Many patterns are available, easy to install, the look is subjective however.

Here is a link that might be useful: keuka studios railings

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 6:28PM
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The reason I was reading this post is because I have the same problem. I saw a fishnet handrail at Carolina Beach that was installed at a marina. I sat down behind it and looked out. You hardly notice it. I was trying to find a company that made these rails. Does anyone know of a company that makes them?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 2:58PM
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