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According to The American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2021 Home Design Trends Survey the popularity of outdoor living spaces – such as decks and patios – has continued to dominate as a preference for homeowners by nearly 75 percent.  This is an increase by more than 20 percent from the prior year.  Likewise, blending indoor and outdoor spaces is important to more than half of homeowners surveyed. Identifying ways to make these sought-after spaces both beautiful and safe – ideal for socializing – is a top priority.

Check out these three tips for creating a picturesque outdoor living area that shows your guests you’ve thought of everything, including their safety. Get curb appeal without compromise. 

Tip #1 Ambient Lighting

Today’s outdoor living areas are multifunctional, complete with zones for cooking, dining and lounging. The right lighting can create an atmosphere, draw attention to your landscape and elevate the aesthetic of your space. What’s more, well-positioned outdoor lights can also ensure your safety and security. Stair and pathway lighting can help to prevent tripping and falling, while recessed or deck post lights create warm ambient lighting that will allow your guests to easily see the whole deck space. For added security, don’t forget to include lighting that is triggered by a timer or motion sensor for extra protection from trespassers. Check out these ideas from Bob Vila.

Tip #2 Boost your view

Whether the view from your deck is a coastline or skyline, or simply your own backyard, cable railing will allow you to put it on display. Get inspired by the design flexibility you can enjoy by choosing RailFX cable railing for your deck. Whether you prefer a classic architectural style or lean more towards the modern look, cable railing complements a broad range of design preferences and will allow you to successfully mix materials, textures and colors to create the custom-built outdoor living oasis you have always dreamed of. We offer beauty and so much more. Rest assured, you can have confidence in the strength and durability of the RailFX aluminum cable railing system. Check out this article on why cable railing is a safe railing option for homeowners.

Tip #3 Guard against the elements

Deck and outdoor living season can be synonymous with sun and summer.  While come can’t get enough Vitamin D, others search for a shady spot to bring relief from the heat. When designing a deck, it is important to plan ahead and create zones that deliver both fun-in-the-sun and opportunities to shield against the sun’s harsh effects and intense heat. From awnings and umbrellas to a trellis or roof, Fine Homebuilding shares great ideas for controlling the sun without sacrificing style. Check it out.

Bonus Tip!

Chances are, when choosing materials for your outdoor living space, you can be counted among the 60 percent of homeowners in the AIA survey who cast their vote in favor of low maintenance materials for their home exterior. After all, who wouldn’t prefer spending time enjoying their deck or patio, rather than maintaining it? Get curb appeal without compromise.  At RailFX, our aluminum cable railing system not only elevates the look of your home exterior, checks the safety boxes, it is also low maintenance. Simply complete a routine  cable tensioning inspection and general cleaning once every 12 months; then, spend the rest of the season reaping the benefits of your smart choice in deck cable railing.

We’re here to help answer your questions about choosing the right RailFX cable railing option for your deck or porch.  Contact us to get more information.

Back and front yards can be an escape for homeowners. For example, if the backyard expands the great or family room, then the front yard is surely an extension of the living room. And the front of the house is all about curb appeal — making it inviting for socializing with neighbors, relaxing, and resale value.

Personalizing outdoor spaces is on-trend. Decking for the backyard and the front porch can be the focal point of the overall design. Whether upgrading or building a new deck or porch project, consider adding the proper railings. Often an afterthought, railings not only serve as a safety feature but can also add an aesthetic appeal.  

There are various railings choices, and they are as solid of an investment as the decking or porch material. You want to choose — or recommend — the most suitable material because trends come and go, the railings can last as long as the deck. Seek materials that offer aesthetic flexibility no matter the changes made to the outdoor area year after year.

Consider cable railing for a modern, sleek, upscale look that will last. Cable railings’ minimal design means small decks and porches appear more spacious and, for both large and small spaces. The railings blend in rather than stand out, offering unobstructed views for maximum coverage.  

With proper installation, rest assured, cable railings are a safe option for any deck or porch. We’ve outlined common safety points, to make you feel comfortable choosing cable railing for your next project.

1. Safety

Post spacing and railing height should follow local code and guidelines. For level runs, height standards are 36- or 42-inch railings and posts no more than four to five feet apart for cable railings. If you’re unsure, check the latest 2021 International Residential Code (IRC) or local jurisdiction for the proper guard and handrail requirements.

2. Ladder Effect

Most deck pros and homeowners are concerned with the climbing risks or the “ladder effect.” A three-year study by the International Code Council (ICC) code Technology Committee (CTC) concluded that “the most current and thorough documentation available shows no indication that a problem exists and there had not been sufficient justification established to mandate a high level of climbability restriction on guards.”

Falls from railings — as well as porches, balconies, floor openings, handrails, and banisters — among children aged 18 months to four years are estimated to be less than an eighth of a percent (0.032) according to a joint report by National Ornament and Miscellaneous Metals Association (NOMMA) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

3. Installation

Correct installation ensures that the cables are properly tensioned, limiting deflection, and never be spaced more than three inches apart, along with the post spacing recommendations mentioned above. With proper installation, cable railings should not allow a 4-inch sphere to pass between the cables.

4. Durability

Cable railings have high tensile strength and withstand at least 200 pounds of force — and with proper installation and tensioning, they will last for years with minimal maintenance. The 316-grade stainless steel makes cable railing corrosion-resistant and can withstand the most challenging climates, including coastal environments.

5. Options

Cable railing is available in 1/8- and 3/16-inch diameter 1×19 type 316 stainless steel. It is most common for residential applications to use 1/8-inch thick stainless steel cable. Lightweight and easy to maintain, the cable railing is code compliant with the proper tensioning.

At RailFX, we offer an aluminum cable railing system that makes ordering and installation easy. We also provide cable kits and FlexFX that incorporate our fittings into any residential application with the same ease.

With any product you choose, follow the manufacturers installation instructions, and call customer service for any help. This ensures a proper installation (to code), less call-backs, and a safe and beautiful result.

May is Deck Safety Month, and each year building professionals — deck builders, contractors, manufacturers, and home inspectors — emphasize the importance of inspecting the residential deck to ensure it is safe and secure for the warm weather season. Most homeowners can perform their own precursory inspections with the steps outlined below.

Deck Safety Month 2022

1. Check deck boards

Whether it’s a composite, PVC, or wood deck boards, check for any damage from the winter. Look for loose, rotting, or warped boards, and replace or add a finishing coat of paint or stain. While checking the boards, look for any rusted or corroded nails or fasteners and replace them with Grip-Rite fasteners.

2. Examine railings and banisters

Check that banisters (posts) are properly fastened and secured (with brackets or per the manufacturers’ recommendation). Ensure railings are accurately spaced and follow the 4-inch sphere rule, and if you notice loose or wobbly connections, repair or replace them as necessary.

3. Inspect stairs

Ensure stair stringers are sturdy and secure to the deck frame from the surface to the landing area. Like deck boards, check stairs for loose, rotting, or warped boards and replace them as necessary. Check the handrail for grasp-abilty, and that it is continuous and smooth.

4. Check underbelly connections

Check for any deck ledger connections that have pulled away from the home (if applicable) and are connected appropriately to the deck joist. Check the posts, beams, and footings are stable and secure.

5. Check for pest damage, mold, and mildew

Pest damage can occur on exterior structures no matter your location. Check for nesting areas and any insect damage; treat appropriately. Mold and mildew grow on everything, from humid to wet and cold regions. Clean off any residual mold and mildew with a deck cleaner.

6. Clean your railings

Most deck surfaces only require washing off the debris collected over the fall and winter months. For railings, especially if you have cable railings, use a mild detergent and soft cloth to clean and protect your cable railings. We offer RailFX EZ-Clean that cleans and protects all season long.

These quick tips are easy for most homeowners to inspect the deck and detect any quick fixes. Keeping up with regular maintenance is essential to ensure your deck lasts for years to come.

If your deck is older than 10-years or you detect some problem areas, it is recommended that you seek a building professional to conduct a thorough inspection for peace of mind.

Summer is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer. For most homeowners, that means taking advantage of the deck, patio, lanai, or other personal retreat areas of the backyard. For the deck, the furniture, grill, and other accessories are likely covered up and promptly in the rear-view mirror by the fall and winter. That’s ok! We all do it. But, before planning to use the deck, buying a new grill or a new fire pit, or just pulling out a chair and enjoying that first warm late spring day, take steps to ensure the deck is safe and ready to go. Here are four tips to make the deck and backyard oasis, your ultimate outdoor living space, a special place to enjoy summer safely.

1. Safety check first

The first step is a simple safety walkaround if the deck hasn’t been checked since the fall. Check for splinters (no one likes to step on those or get them in their fingers), check to ensure there are no loose fasteners, and check to ensure the railings are secure. Go below the deck and check the undercarriage for any storm, termite, or pest damage that might’ve occurred during the winter.

But most importantly, check to see if the deck is secured to the home.

2. Making your deck safe from natural disasters

A secure deck is critical. These kinds of structural details can get lost, and it’s essential to have the deck checked to ensure it is secured to your home.

What do you look for, and how can you tell if the deck is secured? Most residential decks are supported on one side by a ledger that is bolted or “lagged” to your home’s band joist. This connection is critical since a failure here can cause a deck to collapse. Again, it’s a simple visual for you to see. If it looks rotten or separated, have a professional come out and check.

For those on the west coast, this is important because of earthquakes. It is essential to have the deck checked to ensure it is secured to the seismic code. For those in the Midwest and east coast, summer means hurricane season. A secure deck means the difference between a collapsed deck and one that withstands hurricane winds. One tip if you live in a hurricane-prone area: Trim back any trees in or around the yard. Falling branches and tree limbs can cause considerable damage to the deck.

3. New railings can make any deck feel and look like new

Now that the deck is checked, safe, and secure, it’s time to focus on the look and its use —in other words, the fun part!

Consider an aluminum cable railing system by ​​RailFX. This solution offers security, safety, and beauty on balconies and can open the deck to clear views of the backyard or, if you’re lucky, views of the mountains or the ocean. RailFX cable railing solutions not only add outdoor appeal, they add a durable, long-lasting, and elegant railing solution.

4. Don't forget accessories

For the pizza fan, add a pizza grill, an affordable option that adds a touch of fun, is easy to use, and provides a great entertainment focal point. If the deck grill isn’t cutting it or was ruined by the harsh winter elements, there are many options on the market, including the Char‑Broil® TRU‑Infrared™ Grill. Fire rings are a popular choice, too, including the Solo Stove, a smokeless fire pit built for the backyard and beyond.

And let’s not forget outdoor furniture that is comfortable and practical like Sunbrella’s outdoor line. Always a stylish choice that is also designed to endure all the elements of nature. Mix and match fabric colors, styles, and textures to bring your vision to life.

Whatever the accessories, the deck area should be a fun and safe way to enjoy all that summer offers.

Interested in learning how to make the deck safe and enjoyable while opening up your view? Get inspired and see how RailFX has been used in homes to create the wow factor.

 

Want to learn more? Contact RailFX or find out where to buy.

Codes Cheat Sheet: Residential Railing and Decking

QUICK REFERENCE: The following is a quick reference guide for code specific deck guardrail and handrail minimum standards to meet for installation of a railing for both level and stair runs.

STAIRS – HANDRAIL HEIGHT, WALLPROJECTION, AND CLEARANCES

Stairs rails on decks should be between 34-inches and 38-inches high and are measured vertically from the nose of the tread to the top of the rail. The treads, measuring front to back, must be at least10-inches deep. Handrails should not project more than 4-1/2-inches from the wall. Anything further will crowd the throughway. Minimum hand clearance from the wall should be at least 1-1/2-inches for ease of grasping. The IRC code also states that there must be an 80-inchclearance (6-ft. and 9-in.) measured from the nose of the thread to the obstruction above floor, beam, coffered ceiling, etc.)

RESIDENTIAL STAIRS – HANDRAILS AND GUARDS

Handrails need to be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flights with four or more risers at a height of 34-inches to 38-inches. Minimum hand clearance from the wall should be at least 1-1/2-inches for ease of grasping.

  • Circular handrails: For ease of grasping, circular handrails shall have no less than a 1-1/4-inch to 2-inchperimeter.
  • Noncircular handrails: For noncircular handrails, they shall have no less than a 4-inch perimeter; anything greater and up to 6-1/4-inches shall have a 2-1/4-inch cross section. Any perimeter greater than 6-1/4-inches shall have a graspable finger recess area on both sides.

DECK GUARDRAIL HEIGHT

The minimum height for a residential structure should be at least36-inches above a residential deck. Commercial height requirement is 42-inches for multifamily, restaurant, and bar applications. Low-rise decks, not more than 30-inches above grade, are not required to have guardrails, although it is recommended.

Guards are required along any open-sided walking surface, including stairs, ramps and landing, that are located more than 30-inchesvertically above grade at any point within 36-inches horizontally to the edge of the open side. A stair that is more than 30-inches above grade, at any point, requires a guard along the full length of the openside. The minimum height of guards is 36-inches above the walking surface or the line connecting the leading-edge treads. The opening limitations should not allow a 4-inch diameter sphere to pass through except:

  • Triangular openings: On the stair, between the tread, riser, and bottom rail of the guard, shall not allow a 6-inch sphere to pass.
  • Other openings: On guards located on stairs shall not allow a4-3/8-inch sphere to pass.

BALUSTERS

Deck balusters are required to be 4-inches apart or less.

FOUR-INCH SPHERE RULE

Using the 4-inch sphere rule, states that no opening be large enough to pass a 4-inch sphere (the head size of a small child) is permitted except:

  • 4-3/8-inch opening for stairs
  • 6-inch opening between the bottom rail and the tread (triangular-area)

LOAD REQUIREMENTS

Guardrails must be able to sustain 200-pounds of force applied at the top and mid-span between posts without excessive deflection.
Balusters and infill railing must be able to withstand a minimum load of 50-pounds in an area equal to one-square-foot.

THE LADDER EFFECT

There is no wording in the current code, nor has there ever been any wording containing the terminology “The Ladder Effect” in the IBC. It was referenced more than 20 years ago in an IRC edition and since been removed. The ICC Code Technology Committee(CTC) was tasked to determine how to make guards less climbable. After a three-year study period, the ICC’s CTC reviewed and weighed testimony and documentation regarding the issues surrounding climbable guards for railings focused on determining if any additional measures are needed to the existing code. The CTC determined the most current and thorough documentation available shows no indication that a problem exists and there is no need to mandate a higher level of climb-ability restrictions on guards that what is currently required in the 2006 ICC codes.

GOVERNING CODE BODIES AND STANDARDS

There are several code bodies and standards to follow for both residential and commercial building design. Below are the most common governing code bodies and standards required when installing decking, balconies, railings, and guardrails.

IRC, IBC AND ICC

Safety first when it comes secure deck railings on any level. Considered prescriptive the International Residential Code (IRC) R312.1.1 throughR312.1.4 and R311.7.8.2 through R311.7.11.2 monitors deck railings for decks attached to single-family homes as well as handrails. The majority of code officials will refer to the International Building Code(IBC). Sections 1014 Handrails and Section 1015 Guards are the relevant IBC to follow. Commercial deck railings attached to multi-family and commercial buildings are regulated by IBC. Both the IRC and the IBCare governed by the International Code Council (ICC).

Regulations vary by location throughout the U.S., and Canada has its own set of regulations, and it is vital that you check the authorities in each state or city that works with building standards and codes.

OSHA

Part of the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, ensures the safe and healthful working conditions for workers, setting and enforcing standards as well as provides training, outreach, education, and assistance.

The OSHA section 1910.29(b)(1) is most relevant to guard railing and section 1910.29(f) is most relevant to handrails and stair rail systems.

ADAAG

The United States Access Board or ADAAG issues, jointly with the ABA Accessibility Guidelines for federally funded facilities, the current ADA standards based upon the updated ADA Accessibility Guidelines (2004).

  • ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures access to the built environment for people with disabilities. Chapter 5 or 505 describes the standards for handrails.
  • ANSI: American National Standards Institute overseas standards and conformity assessment activities in the U.S. and safeguarding their integrity. ANSI A117.1 is the Accessible and Usable Building standard for making buildings and elements accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

Keep cable railings looking new: 4 simple steps

A great addition to a deck or stairway, stainless steel cable railings and hardware offer long-term value to a homeowner’s outdoor living area. From unobstructed views, distinguished design aesthetics — modern and classic — cable railings are code compliant and extremely low maintenance.

Inspection

Regular inspection of the fastener (attachment) and general cleaning is recommended, at a minimum of once a year. Over time, fasteners may loosen, and the homeowner can easily adjust and tighten the fasteners. Fasteners tend to discolor over time, which is normal, and it does not affect the integrity or strength of the fastener.

Cleaning

Over time, natural weathering events will accumulate on the surface—materials like pollen, algae, oxidation, and other pollutants. There’s no need for harsh chemicals, household cleaners, and harsh abrasives to keep cable railings clean. Use a mild, non-abrasive soap and water solution once a year, and rinse with fresh water to remove residual soap.

For coastal installations near saltwater, cable railings will stand up to the elements, yet we advise inspecting more frequently or consider a salt-resistant stainless steel cable option.

Here is a step-by-step cleaning guideline for:

  1. Coated surfaces: use clean water and a soft cloth
  2. Aggressive cleaning needs: use mild dishwashing soap and water with a soft cloth
  3. Minor scuffs marks or scratches: use a mild abrasive like Soft Scrub™ or equivalent and a soft cloth
  4. Sticky elements: remove sap, tree seeds, bugs, and such as soon as possible. The heat exposure from the sun accelerates adhesion to coated surfaces making it more difficult to remove

As with most cleaning products, always test cleaning products on a small surface before applying them to cable railings.

RailFX Cable Railing

RailFX products and systems are fabricated with the highest-grade materials available on the market and finished with a wet coat applied with technology that meets AAMA 2605 standards. For all RailFX cable railing and fastener installations, we recommend applying our RailFX Boeshield® T-9 just after installation for optimal results. 

For regular maintenance, use our E-Z Clean, two-part cleaner, and protectant as a complete package for all cable railing installations. While we use Type 316 stainless steel, the most corrosion and rust-resistant stainless steel available used almost exclusively in our hardware; it is stain-less steel, not stain-proof. 

Outdoor living areas were a growing market long before we were all forced into lock-down. An unexpected and immediate need has brought to the forefront how important it is to have more private outdoor spaces at home. As a result, with homeowners putting vacations on hold, they opt to freshen up their backyard.

Here are some top trends to help your customers and homeowners make their deck, patio, or backyard a personal retreat:

  1. Lighting: Homeowners seeking more time outside can add lighting to their decking projects. It offers homeowners a way to extend their time outdoors, and after the workday is over, they can relax in a resort-like setting long after the sun has set. Many builders add lighting to stair risers, handrails, and the perimeter, and the installation is seamless. It is much easier for a new deck project to include lighting in the design process and install it in the framing stage to ensure correctly installed wiring.
  1. Outdoor kitchens: The grill is generally a given in any outdoor living space, and today outdoor kitchens are in high demand. Many homeowners add built-in propane, gas, charcoal, or wood-fired grill. Exterior-grade appliances like refrigerators, bar areas, and countertops are trendy. In many cases, the kitchen and grilling areas are separate spaces because they also require special accommodations like added plumbing and electrical.
  1. Covered areas: Whether it’s a pergola, gazebo, or an arbor, homeowners are seeking their outdoor space to include more entertainment areas like an enclosed media space to watch their favorite sporting event or evening movie nights. 
  1. Furniture: All the additional space requires a need to fill it with comfortable and durable furniture like wood, metal, and even concrete to extend the life of the furniture to last more than a couple of seasons. 

Industry associations and studies completed recently cite that 82 percent of homeowners are interested in expanding their outdoor living areas. It’s a great time to support your customers with design services and products to help homeowners extend the outdoor space they can use for years to come.

Don’t forget railings:

As homeowners add to and extend their outdoor living areas, upgrading or expanding their railings are an essential part of the overall aesthetics and completes the design. Offer cable railings to your customers’ next project for their deck, patio, and enclosed areas. There is no inventory required for our RailFX products as we will drop ship for our lumber dealers, making it a simple solution for our customers and their customers alike.

Inspect the deck

May is deck safety month, and what better time to remind homeowners of the basics of inspecting and maintaining their decks so their investment will last for years to come. Maintaining outdoor living areas isn’t complicated. Here are some simple tips to keep decks and more looking new all year long.

Inspect deck boards and hardware

For both wood and composite decks, inspecting the deck surface, individual boards, and hardware — connectors and fasteners — carefully once a year is key to its longevity. Here are the top safety tips for all decking materials to ensure basic safety and security:

  1. Make sure the support posts haven’t shifted and the foundation is still strong
  2. Inspect the deck surface to discover any loose boards and replace any that are damaged.
  3. Check the hardware to see if any are missing or rusting and replace.
  4. Check to make sure nails, if used, haven’t loosened, or raised, and consider replacing them with deck screws for a solid grip long-term.

General maintenance

Develop a simple maintenance plan and share it with homeowners to ensure decks, railing, and accessories are part of their regular outdoor maintenance routine. Here are a couple of easy tips to share:

  • A good sweep: Use a broom to sweep off debris like dirt, pollen, pine needles, and leaves. That may be all that is needed depending on the material. Keep in mind, the longer it stays on the deck, the harder it is to clean. Regular sweeping will keep debris at bay.
  • Hose it off: Use a standard garden hose to rinse off residual dirt and hard to sweep debris.

Today, composite decks are gaining popularity as an alternative decking material. While composite materials don’t need as much upkeep as wood decking, the homeowner must keep a minimum level of care to keep it looking like new longer. Many of the tips we offer will work for composite decking. However, follow the manufacturer’s care and maintenance recommendations.

While wood is still the most common decking material and has a beautiful aesthetic, it does require a bit more maintenance steps to keep it looking fresh. Upon installation, homeowners have the option of sealing or letting the wood naturally patina. Depending on the type of wood used — cedar, pressure-treated, or modified — it may need protection from the elements, including weather, molds, and mildew, and more regular maintenance.

Decks, railings, and accessories are an extension of the home. Help your customers and homeowners keep their investment looking new all year long and for years to come by adding a regular maintenance routine.

Inspect and clean railings too

Railings are an extension of the homeowner’s deck and, as such, should be inspected and cleaned every year to extend the life. Over time, fasteners may loosen, and the homeowner can easily adjust and tighten the fasteners. Fasteners tend to discolor over time, which is normal, and it does not affect the integrity or strength of the fastener. For regular maintenance, use our E-Z Clean, two-part cleaner, and protectant as a complete package for all cable railing installations and a soap and water solution with a soft cloth for glass and picket infill.

Railings are an extension of the homeowner’s deck and should be inspected and cleaned every year. Over time, fasteners may loosen and can be easily adjusted and tightened, or dicolor, which is normal, and does not affect its integrity or strength. For regular maintenance, use our E-Z Clean, two-part cleaner, and protectant as a complete package for all cable railing installations.

E-ZClean for railing