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Choosing the Best Porch Railing for Your Home

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for The House Designers®

Whether it’s in front or back, the style of your porch makes an impact on your home. What do you want yours to say, and how do you actually make that happen? With your choice of porch railing, of course! The stylistic range of balustrades is more diverse than you might think, and each example communicates a different vibe. Here’s how different types of porch railing stack up!

Fypon Balustrade System

Perfect when you need to keep it simple, square balusters suit a variety of home styles. Don't forget to consider different types of top and bottom rails to keep it interesting!

Square Balusters

The simplest style, railing with square balusters—the posts between the top and bottom rails—suits a variety of applications. Straight up and down and plain to behold, this look complements everything from basic farmhouses to intricate Craftsman designs. The versatility of square balusters lies in their ability to match and balance different façades.

Not only does square simplicity add rustic charm—rounded spindles would have been much more difficult to produce back in the day—but it doesn’t overpower or compete with other exterior details. A classic farmhouse is plain as far as decorative accents go, and complicated porch railing would only awkwardly contrast against that traditional background. In the case of rustic-yet-elaborate styles, the square shape provides complementary purity of form without distracting from the overall picture. Craftsman homes are all about their columns and decorated gables, after all, and opting for fancy balustrades would be going overboard. So, if you don’t know where to start, consider humble square post railing and go from there.

Fypon Balustrade System

With plenty of definition and character, spindle-style balusters like these add a nice decorative touch. They're perfect for elegant traditional styles.

Spindle Balusters

Spindle balusters stand in contrast to square ones, but they can incorporate square elements and come in a huge range of styles themselves. You’ll find thick examples, very thin ones, understated shapes, and extremely complex silhouettes. With spindles, you have more to think about, so take a step back to look at the whole picture before committing to any particular style.

In general, the thinner the spindle, the more limited its use. Thick to medium widths match different types of architecture fairly easily—consider Southern revival-style colonial homes and various traditional designs with formal and historical appeal—while very thin and dainty posts are favored for Victorian homes, where they add to the elaborate decorative aspect. Wider balusters tend to the simpler side as well, and they can get increasingly complicated as they get reduced in thickness. You’ll find some pretty elaborate options out there with all sorts of angles, curves, and cut-outs. Just remember to err on the conservative side unless you’re going for an overtly decorative façade.

Fypon Balustrade System

The classic stone shapes in this railing system stand out beautifully against the plain stucco exterior and large newel posts. Notice the matching caps, too!

Stone Systems

While typical wood or wood-look porch railings can be described in terms of their balusters, stone makes a statement in and of itself. Originally carved from large blocks, these pieces are always thicker than their square or spindle counterparts. Stone rail systems may appear to come in fewer varieties overall, but you’ll still find a good breadth of complexity these days if you know where to look.

Stone elements like these are particularly suited to architecture that uses stucco—think Mediterranean and Southwestern designs that would have originally been outfitted with natural, earthy materials. Many such homes actually have open covered patios with large columns instead of defined poches on the ground level, so railing is often limited to balconies. Consider whether you want balusters that look taller and more elegant, or if you prefer rounded, squatty ones. You might find some vaguely shaped like chess pieces or goblets, and some that are mirror images from top to bottom. Given the comparative simplicity of the background architecture—which relies on uniquely shaped structures with arches rather than outright embellishment—almost anything works.

For durable balustrade systems in a variety of styles, check out Fypon® and their possibilities for your own home, whatever its architecture! They offer all kinds of lightweight, easy-to-install products and you won’t be disappointed by the selection. Find a local dealer today!