More than just a safety feature, the railing on your Virginia deck should be designed as a seamless addition. There are several things to keep in mind when deciding on a railing, including the height off of the ground, maintenance, privacy and the view. All of these factors play a role in the final railing design.
Height Off of the Ground
According to the USBC, ground level decks do not require a railing. But that doesn’t mean you need to leave this feature off. Railings can work to direct traffic and help contain kids and pets on the deck surface, making the area more useable.
Any rail that you do install on your deck needs to follow the state building codes. This is especially true for decks built more than 24” off of the ground. All of the necessary paperwork will need to be presented with the permit application, including specs of the design and possibly an ICC-ES (International Code Council-Evaluation Service).
Just like the balance of your decking materials, you will want to choose a railing with low maintenance needs. Pressure treated wood is durable and rot resistant, but does need a coat of stain every few years to keep it looking good. If you don’t stain treated lumber it will end up grey and dingy. Cedar railings also need to be stained or painted for maximum beauty.
Other products like composite or vinyl (PVC) deck railing will retain their color effortlessly. These materials are billed as maintenance free, although they will need an annual wash down to keep the mold and mildew away.
Do You Need Privacy?
Once you’ve considered the structural and maintenance components of your Virginia deck railing, it’s time to think about the appearance and function. Railings go well beyond a simple picket style. They can include tall sections that provide privacy from nosy neighbors and busy traffic, as well as gates and other elements for convenience.
Privacy screens can help create a more relaxing space on the deck, keeping you out of sight and blocking the wind. Posts for taller privacy sections can be used to hang a hammock, as a lamp post or for a shade structure. Play with the design a little and create a screen with decorative panels or a beautiful topper. Remember that this space is ideal for hanging outdoor art as well.
Don’t Block the View
The most important element to remember when designing your deck railing is to maintain the view. Unless otherwise specified in the building code, keep the height of your railing low (30 to 36” high). This allows you to sit down on the patio furniture and still gaze out at the yard, gardens, etc. Check to make sure that your railing design doesn’t block the view from inside the house either. And watch out for the shadows that privacy screens cast.
Tempered glass railings are an excellent solution that will deliver the view you want and the safety you need. Installed in a frame of wood, composite, vinyl or aluminum, tempered glass railings can be smoked for more privacy, etched for decor purposes or kept clear for maximum viewing pleasure.
The railing design on your Virginia deck creates more than just a safe structure. It will work together with the entire deck design to create a comfortable outdoor living space for your whole family.