Log cabins can be a bit tricky to design around. They use whole logs–or at least materials that look like whole logs–giving them an organic, timeless, of-the-land look. This is perfect for a home in the woods or mountains, but can make it hard to find a deck railing that looks natural with this style. Chunky wooden railings match well but get in the way of the view, and can have a cartoony look (not to mention that they require maintenance).
You may not have considered metal railings or balusters for your log cabin deck, but it’s not as far-fetched as it may sound. Metal railings don’t have to look like they belong on a cubic, modernist glass house. Some manufacturers are making metal balusters that can be used with wood rails and posts, which can help them blend with the wood of the cabin, and there are now a number of styles to choose from, including curved shapes. But we’ll start by talking about what you should be looking for in a railing material for your mountain home.
Considerations for Your Log Cabin Deck Railing
Every detail matters when it comes to picking the right railing for your log cabin deck, including aesthetics and durability. Mountain climates are extreme, so the material you choose is going to be a major concern, but you’ll also want something that complements, rather than clashes with, your unique, rustic home. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Flexible aesthetic: Your focus should be your view, which is why you want as little obstruction to it as possible. Metal balusters will be able to give the strength you need with less bulk, allowing you to maximize your view while minimizing the size of your balusters. And you don’t have to go all-in, either; you can use metal balusters with wood rails and posts, to help marry the two materials together and integrate the railing with your log home. Glass also makes a good choice for a railing in the mountains, particularly if perfectly preserving the view is important to you, though it does tend to have a more modern look than other materials.
- Low maintenance: Anyone who lives in a mountain climate knows that it’s nearly impossible to keep a perfectly tidy deck. Leaves, dirt, and other debris will make railings look dirty quickly. Higher elevations also mean fewer UV rays are filtered out by the atmosphere, which can cause paint and bare wood to degrade more quickly. For these reasons, powder-coated galvanized steel railings make good choices, as they are easy to clean and don’t require repainting, sanding, or sealing, like wood does.
- Durability: Mountain climates are harsh on housing materials. Depending on the location, temperatures in the mountains can jump from far below zero in winter to the 90s in summer. Mountainous areas see more snow, fog, and rainfall and have less protection from wind. This makes it especially important to choose a material that can stand up to what the mountains have to dish out, and that won’t rust, rot, fade, or crack. Glass is a very tough, durable material which stands up well to UV rays, moisture, and temperature changes, and high-quality, powder-coated aluminum or steel is also an excellent choice for these conditions, and can be used in conjunction with vinyl, wood, or composite rails and posts.
You may be wondering about wood alternatives like vinyl and composite. While it’s possible to find a good quality railing made entirely of vinyl or composite, using them results in a bulkier look, which can detract from the view, and these materials don’t tend to be as long-lasting as metal. But if you’re worried about the look of metal alongside your log cabin, you shouldn’t be. There are lots of metal railing and baluster styles that can add charm and beauty to your cabin without looking out of place.
Style and Color Choices for Metal Railings That Make Mountain Views Pop
When it comes to setting up a railing on your log cabin deck in the mountains, I think it’s best to go with a shade that looks as natural as possible. You want it to complement the view, not overpower it. Match your railing color to the earth tones around you with bronze, black, or rust colors. It doesn’t have to make the railing blend in with the surroundings, but it should look organic, rather than industrial or man-made.
Where you can afford to get a bit more creative is with the design of the railings, particularly the balusters. Three designs for metal balusters you might see are:
- Basic square/round: These are simple, straight balusters which don’t feature any intricate design. Alternating them with more intricate balusters can soften up the look.
- Basket: Basket balusters will have one or two flourish designs in their center, shaped like small twisted baskets. These work well as an understated accent. You can alternate one with every couple of simpler balusters to keep a clean design that works in a mountain setting.
- Twists: The straight line of these balusters is broken up by a corkscrew twist, either at the center, or one on each end. These work well if you want to have a design on every baluster, but don’t want your railing to look too busy. They have a classic, wrought iron-type look to them that goes well with practically any deck, even that of a log cabin.
Curved Baluster Choices for Your Log Cabin
One big concern people looking for a railing for their cabin often have is that the railing will look too stiff–too man-made and industrial to complement the traditional log cabin. But a railing’s balusters don’t have to be perfectly straight. Some manufacturers are now selling curved balusters in different shapes, like:
- Bow: In this style, the balusters have a curve that offers a softer, more organic look than a standard straight baluster. This subtle option can be a great complement to a mountain view in a log cabin.
- Belly: This style is a bit more decorative than the bow style, with two curves, and would work best on larger, more intricate log cabins.
- S-Shaped: This is the most decorative of the three and features a dramatic S-curve. This type is likely a bit too ornate for most log cabins, but might work well in a stair railing, either indoor or out.
All these design options mean that you can mix and match your deck railing to make it perfectly suit your log cabin. Personally, I think galvanized steel is the best choice, for its durability, appearance, and low maintenance in a mountain climate, but options like glass can be equally appealing. The key is not going too ornate or too industrial and distracting from the natural scenery around your home.
By using a classic design in unobtrusive colors, you can create a railing for your log cabin deck that will enhance the view, not obstruct it, and will add to your deck. And with the right materials, you can make sure your railing is low maintenance and long-lasting, even in a harsh climate. A unique railing is a great way to put that final touch on your home in the mountains.
One place you can find that unique combination of tough and beautiful is Fortress Railing. They only use the highest quality coatings, and use a special process that involves coating galvanized steel with zinc phosphate, an e-coat (for moisture resistance), and a powder coat (for UV resistance) to create a railing that will stand up to the worst mountain weather. And they sell pre-welded railing systems as well as individual balusters in various styles, which can be attached to your deck or rail using a simple system like a fascia mount or a peg that the baluster slides over. If you’re redoing your mountain deck or fence, Fortress Building Products has unique and super tough products to make your mountain home projects beautiful and long-lasting.