I’ve always loved iron balusters for adding a touch of glamour to a project. They have a sophisticated, old-world look that’s highly customizable. You can err on the simpler side with straight up-and-down designs or you can add some complexity with balusters that are curved or have twists in them. Iron balusters also have the added benefit of durability and longevity, and can help your railings last longer than if they were entirely wood.
If you’re looking for an easy way to use iron balusters, or if you have a very narrow bottom rail to work with, side mount iron balusters are the way to go. Side mounting, also called fascia mounting, allows you to install iron balusters without the additional trouble of adding mounts for each baluster. Instead, they’re screwed right into the side of your top and bottom rails. This saves you a bit of time on installation without having to sacrifice stability. In a way, side mount iron balusters are the original Pinterest DIY trick–they’re easy to install and can totally change the look of your porch or deck.
The Benefits of Side Mount Iron Balusters
Side mount balusters, unlike surface mount, do not require a foot at the top and bottom of the baluster to attach them to the rail, which means you’re working with fewer small parts and pieces of hardware. Here are some other reasons why side mounting may be the way to go when it comes to choosing balusters.
- You can create the illusion of space with belly balusters: Curved balusters, like belly or bow-style balusters, curve outward from the porch and are a unique deck railing design. These types of balusters are almost always fascia mounted due to their shape. The outward curve gives the illusion of more space, which can be used to make a cramped deck more inviting/
- They’re easy to install: Fascia mount balusters are easier to install than balusters that attach to the inner surface of the rails as there is no special mount required, like baluster ‘shoes’ (although these types of mounts can also make for easy iron baluster installation as well if you choose the right manufacturer). Instead, you simply screw the balusters straight onto the top and bottom rail, and the work is done. With surface mount balusters, you’ll likely have to attach the baluster mounts before you can attach the balusters, which adds an extra step.
- They work well for replacing worn wooden balusters: Fascia mount balusters can be used with regular wooden surface mount posts and railings, meaning they work as a good replacement system when your balusters are old and worn, or you simply want to spruce up your railing system. Instead of installing a whole new railing, you can simply replace those old wood balusters with fascia mounted ones that will last for decades and look great.
Fascia mounted balusters are also more forgiving when it comes to measurements, as they don’t need to be fitted into perfectly aligned mounts on the top and bottom rails. Of course, not all of these types of balusters are created equally. When choosing yours, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you don’t sacrifice stability for ease of installation.
What to Look for in Side Mount Iron Balusters
If you’ve decided to upgrade to iron balusters and are choosing a side mount style of installation, the good news is that you’ll probably spend more time removing the old balusters than putting in the new ones. If you’re putting in a brand new railing, they are also an efficient way to complete the project. When looking for a good side mount iron baluster, look for:
- High-quality steel with a good coating: You want to choose balusters made from powder coated galvanized steel for maximum durability. If you can find a manufacturer that makes their balusters with multiple layers of protective coating, even better. Balusters can come under a lot of pressure when they’re in use, and if you use a low-quality material, they could lose their stability over time.
- Textured finishes/color options: Some choose to buy balusters in any color and then paint them to match their rails. That’s a mistake, as metal doesn’t hold paint well and it will chip and crack over time. Instead, choose a system that offers a few finish options so you won’t have to paint or maintain your balusters. Some companies offer options for the finish as well as the color, so you can choose matte, gloss, or an irregular bronze-like surface.
- Proper side mounting systems: Since a couple of screws are all that is going to keep your balusters in place, make sure they’re good quality and won’t corrode. Always use hardware specifically designed for fascia mounting so it’s strong enough to stay stable over time.
- Code tested: Make sure you use balusters that have undergone rigorous code testing and are compliant with the International Residential Code, at a bare minimum. Even if your municipality doesn’t require your deck railings to follow code requirements, it’s a good idea to stick with products that have been well tested.
Side mount iron balusters can look complex, but are incredibly easy to install. The side mount allows you to hide the baluster connections on the outside of your rail, giving an overall seamless look. Using this strategy is a good way to update your deck and strengthen an existing wooden railing without a lot of time or fuss.
When I wanted to create a roomier-looking deck using iron balusters, I chose Fortress’ Vienna belly design, which offers a unique look with a sturdy fascia mount. Fortress has a lot of different baluster options, from simple to intricate designs. Most importantly, their iron balusters are made of high-quality materials and use powder coated finishes on top of an e-coat and a precoat of zinc. All of those coatings are used because they keep the metal completely protected from sun and moisture so you don’t have to worry about maintenance. After years of watching my railing wobble because of loose and warped balusters, this was exactly what I wanted. If you’re seeking out more ways to update your deck, it might be worth to look at Fortress Building Products’ other options. They’ve got tough composite decking and stylish ornamental hardware as well as their unique railing systems.