As a result of building codes, decks or raised patios without railings have become quite rare. Railings, designed to match beauty and function, are designed to prevent children and adults alike from falling off. The vast majority of wood decks will have wood railings, usually built right into the framework: two rails are attached to each deck post (which jut up through the deck boards), and spindles or latticework is run along the length of the rails for added safety and a touch of flare.
Building codes almost universally require railings to be at least three feet high with gaps between spindles no larger than four inches. However, it is important to make sure that your deck is in compliance with specific building codes for your city or county.
For concrete decks and patios, wrought iron or ornamental aluminum railings are usually used, although in no way do they preclude wood as an option. These come prefabricated and should almost always be installed by a professional.
Vinyl railings are also available and are compatible with wood-framed decks as well. The "post" for each section of vinyl railing can slide over the existing wood post. For this to work well, it helps to know which type of vinyl railing you prefer before building the deck so that the posts will be aligned correctly and the railing installed as easily as possible.
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