Mention gazebos to the average person and there’s a chance they’ll picture an African grazing ungulate dashing across the savanna. Those who know that gazebos are actually structures will invariably each picture the same type of octagonal structure with a tiered roof. This may be because the majority of gazebos are built from either purchased plans or precut kits, so they tend to all look the same. This takes them from elegant outdoor structures that add to the beauty of the yard to just one member of a herd.
The truth is that gazebos come in a wide variety of shapes and forms, from relatively simple square pavilions to ornate dodecagons. But not everyone has the skills, the time, or the budget to build one of the really ornate ones. Customizing wooden components of a gazebo, such as the cross braces, would require skill with a scroll saw or the money to pay a skilled contractor for their time. However, almost anyone can make their gazebo stand out from the rest through unique railings for gazebos, whether they choose ornamented balusters or wrought iron-look railings.
Standard Types of Railings for Gazebos
The most common type of gazebo is a kit gazebo, which comes with all of the material precut and shaped. You simply decide on a style you like, and it arrives at your home with “some assembly required.” These types of gazebos come in wood and vinyl versions, though “vinyl” is something of a misnomer since these gazebos depend on vinyl-covered wood for most of their structural strength (only the ornamental pieces like balusters and brackets are fully vinyl). The railings on both wood and vinyl kits tend to be very simple, and while companies generally provide the option to upgrade the balusters when ordering, these upgraded railings aren’t usually much more interesting than the ones that come standard.
Gazebos built from plans are common as well. These tend to be a simpler, lacking the stacked-wedding-cake look most people think of when they think of gazebos (they also lack the horns or the wide eyes others may think of). Their railings tend to be even simpler. The top and bottom rails are mounted to the posts, and balusters are nailed to the wide face of the rail—which is facing out. This method spares the DIYer from having to measure out and drill holes in the rail, and from needing any tools beyond a saw and a hammer. However, eager DIYers looking for something sturdier and more unique will be glad to learn that it’s easy to replace these with side mount iron balusters or with steel railings that mount inside the rail.
Alternatives to Typical Gazebo Railings
There are some great alternatives to gazebo railings that aren’t standard, and don’t look out of place on any type of gazebo. Steel balusters with the wrought iron look go well with nearly any style gazebo, from the white wedding cake type to the rustic type to rugged, square-sided pavilions built with heavy timber. There are several advantages to choosing steel balusters:
- Installation is straightforward for both wooden and vinyl gazebos. Steel balusters that screw directly to the exterior face of the rails are available. Balusters that are inserted directly into holes drilled into the center of the rail are common, too. Installation on a vinyl gazebo isn’t hard, either, since most vinyl gazebos are vinyl over wood, and it should be possible to drill cautiously through the vinyl into the wood beneath.
- Style choices are numerous. Steel balusters come in many varieties, such as square, round, and with ornamental baskets and twists. Belly and bow rails are also available. These have a curve (or two) in them which adds elegance and also provides extra knee room if you have people sitting at the railing.
- Durability is greater than wood or vinyl balusters as well, with no chance of steel balusters being broken by an errant foot or another impact. When treated with corrosion-resistant zinc and a powder-coating, these balusters become the only part of a gazebo railing that won’t ever need painting, sanding, staining, or sealing.
Another intriguing railing option available for gazebos is glass. The majority of gazebos are built in suburban backyards and meant as outdoor gathering places. This means the view outside the gazebo isn’t usually as important as the people inside of it. However, some gazebos belong to property owners blessed with epic views, and the gazebo functions as a sheltered place from which to enjoy the spectacular scenery. A good example is the Pacific coast, which offers astounding views but has soil erosion problems that make it a bad idea to build a home too close to the coastline. A gazebo is an ideal way to enjoy this location, and glass railings are some of the best railings for maintaining a view.
Gazebos are also a great way to get the family outside, and they’re also great for stealing a few moments away to read or just relax. They’re even better if they’re truly yours. Gazebo plans and kits are very open to modification because everything that isn’t a post, truss, or beam can be altered without damaging the gazebo’s structural integrity. Fascia boards can be cut into curves that complement a Victorian house, or into repeating geometric patterns to echo the Art Deco style. Railings are just the first and best place to start in planning a gazebo that stands out from the herd.
You have lots of choices when it comes to finding balusters to customize your gazebo railings. The company that makes this easiest, in my opinion, is Fortress Railing by Fortress Building Products. They offer railing systems as well as individual railing balusters that can be ordered as a set or mixed and matched to create the look you want. These mount up easily either to the faces of the rails, into holes on the faces of the rails, or onto rubbery EZ Mounts. Their balusters also come in different finishes, from shining gloss black to textured black sand to oil-rubbed bronze. Best of all, you’ll be making your gazebo more interesting and less work to maintain, since Fortress’ balusters have multiple protective coatings that keep the metal in pristine shape year after year. If you’re looking to upgrade your gazebo, Fortress Railing balusters are the easiest way to do it no matter how much DIY experience you have—or don’t have.