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Metal Railings' Service Life

Plan for safety now and then

Fairway Kyp May18 1

Safety in railing solutions is an invisible workhorse.

The composition of the metal, the intersecting fasteners and sealants that connect concrete to rail, precision application and responsible upkeep all contribute to metal railings’ service life. That service is safety, predominantly, and laws and code protect the occupants living in that space as well as the workers who have built the space. What person— or woman—has not stood on a terraced balcony, threw up her hands and did her best “don’t cry for me Argentina” Evita impersonation, and thought, “Gee, I hope these railings are safe.” Safety is assumed. The Evita in all of us counts on that.

Safety at the Planning Stage

The adage “safety first” rings true: Builders must have safety top of mind during the planning stage and carry that responsibility all the way from construction to occupancy. The architect, developer and contractor are the trilogy charged with getting the safety game down. This trio is tasked with upholding safety codes and will confer with an array of sources and professionals to do so.

New and updated codes occur often and sometimes unexpectedly. To be educated as to where codes might be moving toward, look back and review the history of where that code has been. To eke out the longest service life of your metal railing solutions, look ahead as well. The website,, posts a 2021 Code Development Schedule where residential construction professionals can join forums that dictate future code-making. There are metal railings regulations that might vary from source to source (ICB to OSHA). In those cases, go the way of the stricter codes.

Metal’s Makeup and Nature’s Impact

Knowing the makeup of metals and how weather impacts these materials is paramount. Weather factor—rain, cold, heat, snow and right down to the salt you use to melt ice on your balcony—can lead to corrosion problems, especially where metal meets cement. Equip your project with the right metal. Aluminum is lighter in weight, easy to work with and customize, and has a protective layer that helps combat certain weather conditions. Always factor in the material composition and the weather cycle to the safety equation.

When properly planned, metal railings can provide a long-lasting outdoor experience that is architecturally sound, smart and, above all, safe. The inner Evita in all of us should be able to express herself from the balcony with no fear for her safety.

Rob Blackman is the national commercial sales manager for Fairway Architectural Railing Solutions, Mount Joy, Pa. To learn more, visit