If you’re thinking about building a new deck or replacing the one you already have in your yard, it’s important to consider whether low maintenance composite or vinyl, or traditional wood railings are better for your home and lifestyle. Explore their differences so you can make the right decision for your deck.

Composite and Vinyl Railings

Composite and vinyl railings are considered low maintenance. They’re easy to clean with water and a mild, non-abrasive detergent, and require zero painting or staining. There are no nails necessary, and installation is easy with the many options offered by RDI, such as Titan Pro Rail, which allows you to hide screws so that they seamlessly blend in.

Composite and vinyl railings also have many attractive profiles that may fit with a variety of personalities and lifestyles. For example, you can choose from different infill options with RDI’s vinyl Endurance Original Rail, like glass or round aluminum balusters. If you’re interested in cable infill, consider Transform composite railing, which looks and feels like custom beveled and profiled wood—but without any upkeep or concerns that typically go along with a wood railing. All RDI railings, including Finyl Line, come with the opportunity to add ambiance with LED lighting, too.

Composite and vinyl railings are required to be code tested so they’re sure to be safe and last for years. Between the minor upkeep and safety, homeowners may end up spending less money in the long run on composite and vinyl railings.

Wood Railings

Traditional wood railings are a classic option to consider. However, unlike composite or vinyl low maintenance railings, there are limited options. You can choose from two types of wood for the top and bottom rails—cedar or pressure-treated pine—as well as select infills and square or beveled edge wood balusters. Fasteners like nails and screws may also be exposed.

It’s important to think about whether you have the time to maintain your wood railings, too. Unfortunately, wood railings are just not built to last forever. There will be natural imperfections like splinters and knots, and wood is more porous, so it’s susceptible to stains more so than composite or vinyl railings. Pressure-treated wood may also appear green or fade to a grayish color over time, requiring new paint, stain, or sealer every one to three years. You should also keep an eye out for mold, rotting, fungus, and more with wood railings. Unfortunately, this upkeep and maintenance costs money, which can add up over time.

Wood railings are not required to be code tested, so safety could become an issue over time.

Low Maintenance vs. Wood Railings 

Low Maintenance

Wood

Several composite and vinyl options Only 2 options: cedar or pressure-treated pine
No painting or staining required Painting and staining required every 1-3 years
Several infill options Select infill options
Hidden fasteners Exposed fasteners
Code tested for safety Code testing not required
Minor upkeep may keep costs to a minimum Costs can add up over time

At the end of the day, you should install the type of railing that is truly right for your home. You may already have a railing in mind, but remember to take your personality and lifestyle into consideration, too. Wood railings offer a natural look with more upkeep, while composite and vinyl railings offer several low maintenance options with style and safety. Take the time to think about all of the differences before deciding which railing is right for your deck.