Blog Archives : 2019

5 factors to consider when selecting a top rail for your deck railing

Keuka style corner post with IPE wood top rail.

When choosing the right top rail for your railing project, there are many factors you should consider, including:

  • Style
  • Shape
  • Material,
  • Color/Finish
  • Lighting

What is a railing top rail?

A top rail is a horizontal member across the top of the railing system that is typically affixed to the vertical posts and acts as a cap to the railing. The top rail is different than the handrail (which is meant to be graspable)

What style top rail do you want for your deck railing?

When you’re thinking about the style of your top railing consider the style of your home and your personal taste. Do you prefer the simplicity of a square or rectangular top rail for a modern touch?  Or a rounded profile that is smooth to the touch and rounds out the hard edges of the deck design? 

Take a look at these projects for ideas on how this can work with various home styles.
Log Style, Modern Craftsman, Contemporary, Modern, Tropical, Colonial

What to consider when deciding on the shape?

The variety of the shapes of the top rail are reliant on the type of material to be used. Wood has the most flexibility of shape as we can custom mill it to nearly any shape and size. There are however limitations on how small the cross-section can be in order to maintain the structural integrity.

Metal rails are available in a somewhat lesser variety of shapes due to the relative difficulty in machining shapes into them. Typically metal top rails are made from tubing, extrusions, flat bars, and pipe.

Another consideration is whether you want the shape to act as a shelf allowing for guests to set their drinks on it?  Or maybe you would prefer the top rail to be rounded to discourage items from being placed on the railing?  
Is the view the most important aspect to you, then maybe a thinner top rail is the best choice to be the least obstructive to your view.  

Some examples of wood and metal rail profiles shown below:

What type of top rail materials are there?

When choosing a top rail for exterior applications there are many wood and metal options. Wood is the easiest material to install since it’s the easiest to cut drill and miter. Since the top rail is the only section of the railing you will consistently put your hands on, wood is typically softer to the touch than metal. Wood will not fluctuate in temperature as much as metal. Metal rails can get very cold in the winter and hot in the summer. If choosing wood we typically recommend IPE (Brazilian walnut) for your outdoor application. IPE (pronounced ee-pay) is a very strong wood that is considered to be part of the “ironwood” family. IPE requires some maintenance and should be oiled once or twice a year. 

A metal rail is, of course, the lowest maintenance selection.  There are solid or tube metal options available in steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. We provide a splice plate system that easily attaches to the railing posts for finish fitting on location.

What color or finish should I choose for the top rail?

For metal railings, there are a variety of finishes available. All metal rails can be powder coated in a wide variety of colors. If you find choosing a color daunting see these links for help.
5 considerations for choosing color
6 Popular cable railing color options

Steel railings have the option of being galvanized before painting or if you prefer the look of galvanized metal this could be the option for you. Stainless steel rails add glitz and shine to your railing system without paint, and has the added benefit of standing up well in a coastal environment. And yes, stainless steel can also be painted. Aluminum is a great choice and can be anodized to have a more natural look, or can be powder coated also.

The first image below shows an aluminum top rail powder coated to match the railing post.
The second image below shows our curved Keuka style railing post powder coated black with an aluminum rail powder coated sparkle silver.

Do you want LED lighting built into your top rail? 

If you think concealed LED lighting is the way to go, we recommend a tube (round or square, or rectangle) type top rail that can easily hide the electric wires within it. Hiding the wires in the post as they run back to the LED drivers can be a bit more challenging, however, we have options to accomplish this.
See more pictures of the Sequoia project with concealed lighting here.

Whichever top rail material and style you choose for your railing applications, please make sure it works with the type of railing you have chosen. If you have a cable railing system there are force factors involved that most railings do not have. Therefore, it is imperative that the top rail be very sturdy since it’s a key component of the entire railing system.

If you still need help, our team of experts can advise you on the available options, to reach your desired result.

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Maintaining IPE Decking

Famous "Glass and Wood" home with Ithaca style cable railing.

Maintaining the natural beauty of IPE decking requires some care when installing and during yearly maintenance.  IPE is a natural material that moves with the elements, therefore, it is subject to checking (looks like cracking), twisting, warping, and cupping similar to other types of woods. Proper installation and maintenance are key to the long-term beauty of your deck.

There are many websites that you can access to obtain a variety of expert advice for caring for your IPE. Below are some helpful recommendations.

What are some helpful recommendations for IPE Deck Care?

Always seal the cut end (end grain) of the board with a paraffin wax, such as Anchorseal.
Do not install decking without an oil-based finish being applied to all four sides with sufficient rack time to dry.
Do not use film finishes such as a varnish

What type of finish should I use on IPE Decking?

Finish the IPE with a penetrating oil. We have had good experience using Penofins for hardwoods. When applying, use a brush, rag or sponge. Once applied,, wipe and remove all excess oil. DO NOT over apply as it will become sticky and tacky and my take a very long time to dry. IPE does not soak up the oil like a softwood does.

CAUTION: The rags (applicators used) are FLAMMABLE and must be disposed of properly – READ the manufacturer’s instructions for disposal.

How do I maintain my IPE Deck and Railing?

Our recommendations for maintaining IPE are to routinely clean off your deck by sweeping off leaves and hosing off spills and mud to help prevent staining. Depending on the amount of sun exposure the deck receives, you may need to thoroughly clean and re-oil your IPE yearly or bi-yearly. Thoroughly wash your deck with a product made for this application and allow it to dry completely before re-oiling.

Proper installation and care for your IPE deck and railings will greatly influence the beauty and longevity of your deck.

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New for 2019! Black Stainless Steel Cable Railing

Blackened Stainless Steel Cable Railing

Black Stainless Steel Cable Railing by Keuka Studios:

Looking for an alternative to stainless steel? Keuka Studios is proud to announce that we now fabricate black cable railing systems. We have blackened stainless cable and blackened stainless cable fittings* available to purchase today for cable railings. Black is making a comeback in 2019 and you can now purchase blackened stainless cable and blackened stainless fittings for your cable railing system to go with your all-black decorating theme. This is a hot new design trend in 2019. Our black cable railing and hardware is made of Type 316 marine grade stainless steel and black-oxide coated.

* U.S. Patent No. 10,436,23

Common Questions:

What is blackened stainless steel?

Typically, blackened stainless is achieved by a conversion coating process known as black oxide. This process forms a slightly transparent black patina on the surface of the metal. This can add color and character to the otherwise shiny cable railing fittings.

Is blackened stainless suitable for outdoors?

Yes, blackened stainless cable and fittings can be used outdoors. Like most patinas, the black layer can lighten over time when used outdoors. We do not recommend this finish in coastal areas.

Where can I buy blackened stainless steel cable fittings?

Blackened stainless steel cable fittings and cable are hard to come by. At Keuka Studios, we offer cable railing systems with the option of blackened stainless steel hardware. Take a look at our design process to learn how we can build and deliver your perfect black cable railing system.

How much do blackened stainless steel cable railings cost?

Because it takes time to oxidize the stainless steel, blackened cable railing hardware does cost more than regular stainless steel. Also, the cost of your railing system will depend on the specs of your project. To get a better idea of how much your black cable railing system will cost, you can request a customized quote.

Black Railing System Example:

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Keuka Studios Receives Best Of Houzz for cable railings, 2014

best of houzz 2014 award - Keuka Studios

Keuka Studios Receives Best Of Houzz for cable railings

Annual Survey and Analysis of 16 Million Monthly Users Reveals Top-Rated Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals Rush, NY February 4, 2014 – Keuka Studios of Rochester, NY has been awarded “Best Of Houzz for cable railings” by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The 12 Year Old Fine Architectural Metal Work Company was chosen by the more than 16 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community.

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Use Escutcheon Plates for a Refined Look

Railing Escutcheon Plate

By definition, an escutcheon (pronounced es·cutch·eon) plate is a shield, cover, or an ornamental or protective plate. Escutcheon plates are used to conceal something functional like mounting hardware or an unwanted hole.

Use escutcheon plates for a clean, simple, or modern style railing.

More and more customers are looking for a clean, seamless, or modern look for their home. For interior or exterior railing, whether it’s a cable railing or any other type of railing, the escutcheon plate is a great choice to conceal the hardware. I find that especially with interior applications, you might want all the fasteners and hardware hidden with no exposed bolt or screw heads. Escutcheon plates are a perfect and easy solution. They simply slide over the post, hiding the hardware and providing a more refined look. Our escutcheon plates are typically machined from a solid billet, not the thin stamped sheet metal common in the industry.

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Cable Railing Post Material Choices

stainless steel cable railing.

When purchasing a cable railing system, it’s important that you consider your railing system’s enviornment before chosing materials for the top rail and railing posts.

While the cables and fittings are usually made from stainless steel, we offer a wide selection of top rail and post materials. With so many different choices of railing materials, it can be very difficult to know what the best choice is for your railing. Here is a guide to help you understand the materials we offer and their advantages and disadvantages.

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Where Do You Find Cable Railings Used?

Green cable railing posts with wood hand rail.

Once in a while, I have a customer who contacts me and says, “I found your cable railings online and I love them!” They follow up with, “I have never seen a railing like this in my area, where can I find examples of your work?’

Since we manufacture and ship our railings all over the country, our work can be found everywhere. With that being said, there are certain areas in particular where cable railings are more popular than other areas.

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Fascia Mount Vs. Surface Mount

Fascia mount and surface mount cable railing posts.
I always get customers asking me how to attach their railing to their application. While there are many different ways to attach your railing, the most popular methods are mounting to the fascia or mounting to the surface. Fascia mounts are also referred to as a side mounts or joist mounts and surface mounts are occasionally referred to as deck mounts, floor mount, or even top mounts.
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