There are 5 common materials used for deck railing varying in look and cost. The cost of deck railing is a combination of the price of the material combining with the cost of installation.
A basic wood railing designed has the lowest initial per foot cost, with composite and vinyl railing being the most expensive. Aluminum and glass deck railings are the middle range for railing costs.
That being said, the complexity of design plays an important factor in railing costs, which cannot be overstated. For here, costs will be compared between basic railing designs and material. Vertical non-ornamental railing pickets, square profile top and bottom rails with non-decorative posts. Keeping the design to meeting code for a deck guard rail, not a design element for the deck.
Yes, deck rails enhance the look of a deck, and design should be considered when selecting the deck railing, but I am trying to compare apples to apples. Keeping comparisons between entry-level railing designs. Primarily to help compare costs between railing material. Of course, when designing your deck railing, additional features will be included impacting costs, but for now, we will compare basic designs of wood, aluminum, glass, vinyl and composite deck railing.
Deck Railing Cost Per Foot
For the total package of deck railing, the largest variable in cost is not material but design. The interstices of design and installation. The less skill and work it takes, the less it will cost. A simply wood railing with 2×2 vertical pickets and 2×4 horizontal top and bottom rail takes less time and skill than a Chippendale railing design. The difference between the two configurations can change a wood rail from economical to a pricier railing option.
Wood and composite railing with the highest customizability have the greatest potential for variance in price. A standard rule of thumb is anything “custom” will cost three times the price of a standard or out of the box designs, which means that a custom wood railing can easily cost a $100 a foot, even though the material is not that expensive.
So as we discuss the cost of deck railing, always keep in mind that design plays a large role in the price. Not only how much the material cost but what it takes to put it together.
Per Foot Material Cost of Deck Railing
As with all things deck, wood is the most economical choice. One of the easiest railing materials to work with and buy. Maintenance costs will come into play later, but with the initial cost, wood is your entry-level price for a basic railing design.
Composite and vinyl are a great selection for low maintenance railing but initially cost the most. With Aluminum and Glass railing being closer in cost to wood but without the maintenance costs.
This cost comparison is using treated pine for wood railing, which has the lowest material cost. Treated pine railing can cost as little as $15 a lineal foot. Of course, there are many wood options other than pine, but often it will be more expensive.
Aluminum railing material is, on average, between $35 and $40 a linear foot depending on gauge, style and supplier. Kits from Big Box building store may cost less but will cost more in installation labour.
Glass railing is roughly 30% more than aluminum railing, which is similar in appearance and installation requirements. But three times the cost of treated wood railing but still more than half the cost of composite railing.
Nailing down an average price for composite and vinyl railing is a challenge with many variations within the material line. As most synthetic railing is sold in kits, but varying in the complexity of the kits. Both in design elements and labour required to install.
But this is one of the reasons for vinyl and composite railing, is the features along with low maintenance that it provides. If you are in the market for composite railing, you are not building an economical deck, and do not want cheap railing. Therefore maybe the best way to summarize it up is, composite and vinyl railing will cost at least twice as much as other low maintenance options.
How much more? Composite railing starts around $87 lineal foot. This varies a lot by manufacture and design but expect to pay at least that much. For example, adding colour to the composite railing, going from white to Vintage Lantern, increases the cost roughly 30% for the railing.
Vinyl railing price here is based on preassembled railing units as they are more readily available. Which will have its advantages come installation time, but initially, the railing will cost more.
In summary, the more kit and standard the railing is, the less it will cost, both in labour and material. A custom-designed wood railing can cost more than a kit composite railing package. A deck is about more than how much you paid for it, but the more you incorporate standard kits, the less you will pay.
Per Foot Labour Cost of Deck Railing
Installation labour plays a large role in railing cost and impacts the total price of the railing. The more that is finished off-site, simplifying the installation will save time and money when installing. Often the case paying a little more for finished material or packages will save on labour.
This is why I prefer sourcing aluminum railing from an aluminum railing company as opposed to a big box store. They have done all the work in their organized shop. Cutting to size and assembling full length of railing. Saving time and money compared to modifying kits onsite or setting up a workshop to fabricate custom wood railing.
The average cost to install aluminum decking is 25% of the material cost. So, if the railing costs $1200, it will be an additional $300 to install. Bringing the cost of the deck railing up to $1500 on the low end. Corners or stairs in the railing will increase the price.
Wood railing, which requires more onsite work, comes with a higher installation cost. Even a basic wood railing design, labour cost will be equal to material cost or more. But the more detail the design, the more boards to cut and screw, the more the labour will increase.
But because wood is relatively inexpensive compare to other railing material, it leans itself to DIY installation. If you enjoy woodworking and your labour is “free,” doing it yourself will save money. If you make a mistake and miscut a 2×4, you are only out five bucks, not like composite, which can be hundreds for a section of railing. Wood railing, despite the time it takes to install is still the cheapest railing.
Composite railing has an even higher installation cost but not recommended for DIY installation. Composite is similar to wood but requires a keen understanding of the material as installation needs to allow the material to expand and contract with the seasons.
Where with wood, you are free to customize as desired. With composite railing understanding the strengths and limits of the material is essential. Along with knowing what factory-made pieces are available. Assemble composite railing is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together with scissors. A thousand pieces, which will fit together perfectly, but some will need to be cut. Experience is required to know which ones.
There are many more preassembled options available with vinyl railing. With assembled components ready to install, only requiring minimal cuts to fit between post. Limiting railing style options but allowing lower skills and experience to install.
In short, the cost to install deck railing is the time it takes and skills. If its easy and anyone can do it, the labour cost will be low. If it requires specialized skills and lots of time, it will be costly.
Cost of Individual Railing Parts
The cost of deck railing is a sum of its parts. No surprise, composite and vinyl railing components are more costly than wood. Glass and aluminum are the middle of the road for costs. The interesting thing is the cost of wood, and aluminum pickets are almost the same. Which is probably why there are many railing kits now combining aluminum pickets and wood railing. For only a small increase in price, you have the advantages of aluminum pickets but still the savings of material cost for the rails.
Another thing to keep in mind is even though you are comparing the cost of deck railing by the Foot, it’s the individual parts you are buying. This often means you will need to pay for material that will not be used, increasing the cost of the deck railing per foot cost.
You may only need a 30″ (762mm) piece of railing between posts. But if building a composite rail, you will have to buy a 6′ (1.8m) rail section with over half of the material being wasted. The per-foot railing cost has now doubled. Something to keep in mind when calculating the cost of railing, components needed will often be more expensive than per foot costs.
Cost for a 12′ Section of Deck Railing
|Complete Rail Cost||$364||$555||$700||$1310||$1590|
|Labour||4 hours||2.5 hours||3 hours||3 hours||11 hours|
This is an ideal section of railing for the lowest per-foot cost, includes two end posts and one line post spaced 6′ (1.8m) apart. Most railing kits smallest sections are 6′ (1.8m) means that even if the deck railing is only 10′ (3m), it will still cost the same, requiring the identical 3 posts and two 6′ (1.8m) sections.
Posts are one of the more expensive components of railing; therefore, the closer they are spaced, the more the railing will cost. Compounded with additional material waste if building from kits. Along with the fact that a big labour component is installing the railing. It takes the same amount of time to install a 2′ (0.6m) section of railing as 6′ (1.2m). The shorter the span the, more it will cost to install per Foot.
How long it takes to install deck railing will vary greatly by the complexity of the design, the skill of the installer and height of the structure. But all things being equal if the deck can be easily reached from the ground and the installers have experience with the railing system prebuilt aluminum railing will require the least amount of work to install. Custom composite railing will cost the most.
Of course, the more work completed off-site, the less work required on the deck. Even with composite railing, there are many more railing kits, which simplify the installation process allowing you to install composite railing at the same time as vinyl railing kits but with less customizable features.
Which ultimately is the balancing act with deck railing. The more you pay for kits and preassembled parts, the less you will pay for labour. The balance is having railing that you will love on your deck, at the price you can afford.
Conclusion of Deck Railing Costs
Three main factors impact railing cost per foot are the complexity of railing design, the material used and required labour to install. Per foot railing cost helps determine budgets, but ultimately the most accurate price is a complete schematic with all the required components for the railing.