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Aluminum Railing used for multiple balconies at a multi-family development

Aluminum Vs. Vinyl... How Do They Compare?

  •   Posted on August 24, 2020

When choosing between a vinyl or aluminum railing system, is there really any difference? Of course, there is! Just like toppings on a pizza, what your railing is made out of will have dramatic long-term effects.

Selecting the right railing material is a decision with a significant lasting impact. How will it withstand the various weather conditions? Will it remain in good shape in 5, 10, 20 years? Let’s take a quick dive into a few of the many factors at play when looking at aluminum versus vinyl for a railing solution.


When looking at any railing systems, small routine maintenance will be needed regardless of the material selected. However, that amount of maintenance (and the routine investments required) differs dramatically depending on the materials being used. Common pitfalls of vinyl railing are cracking and warping due to fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions. When a vinyl railing system does begin to crack or warp, the structural integrity of they railing system is put at risk. Vinyl railing is already structurally weaker than its metal counterparts, meaning any crack or warp in the vinyl railing system creates an even larger difference in structural support. Alas, there is no easy solution to prevent natural weathering from happening, the only true solution for cracking or warping of vinyl railing is to replace the panel that has been cracked or warped and hope it does not happen again.

On the other hand, aluminum railing requires little to no maintenance at all. Depending on the location of the installation, periodic cleaning might help keep your install looking pristine, but the structural integrity will remain rigid. Aluminum rarely if ever shows cracking or warping and is a solid long-term investment.  

Series 2000 Aluminum Cable Railing covered in snow.

Aluminum railing withstands any weather condition, hot or cold

Visual Appeal

Having a building or structure whose components fit seamlessly together is the goal of any architect or building owner. Of course, that same seamless fit is still desired years after construction has been completed. As mentioned before, warping and cracking are common occurrences among vinyl railing that hinder the visual appeal, but so too is yellowing. Yellowing refers to the discoloring caused by algae growth and an exposure to sunlight. This process can happen quickly too, in some cases in as little as a few weeks.

Vinyl railing end experiences yellowing and discoloration when exposed to humidity and sunlight

Yellowing present in a vinyl column a few weeks after installation

By contrast, aluminum railing systems do not experience yellowing. While over time the paint on an aluminum system may fade or need touched up (if desired) the phenomenon of a unique color spreading on the material will not occur.

Knowing the Difference

When making any decision between two products its always important to know the major differences. While a vinyl railing system might come at a cheaper price, the long-term cost can be substantially higher due to frequent maintenance and replacements. Over time, correcting these issues adds up, quickly burning a hole in the buyer’s wallet.

Got a question about aluminum? Please feel free to contact us. If you are interested in obtaining an aluminum railing of your own, check out our railing quote tool!

Further Reading

Aluminum vs. Other Metals

Buy Pre-Assembled, Or Fabricate on the Jobsite

Changing Plans Pt.1