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Photo of side mounted railing attached to composite wood balcony.

How Do You Attach this Railing? Pt. 2

  •   Posted on March 31, 2021

When installing railing, there are a variety of surfaces that railing can attach to. What are they and does it even matter?

In Part 1 of How do you Attach this Railing we discussed the various mounting options that are available for railing systems. Today, we will discuss the common surfaces these mounts are being attached to and how they can make a large difference in the installation of a railing system.

Composite Wood

The first surface type we will discuss is composite wood. Composite wood can be used as balcony and decking surfaces and is the most commonly found surface material for these applications. Composite wood is often seen as the easiest decking and balcony surface to attach a railing system to. This is primarily due to the ability for the railing system to be anchored into the composite wood through surface or side mounting techniques. As discussed in Pt. 1 of How Do You Attach This Railing, both side and base mountings use base plants that are anchored into surfaces with bolts. Because of this, when using prefabricated railing systems, this means an installer simply has to use anchoring bolts in the designated areas to secure the railing system to a composite wood surface. In any wood or composite wood application, it is imperative to ensure there is proper blocking on the bottom side of the surface, particularly in locations that rail will be anchored.

Series 9000 Railing mounted on composite wood decking.

Composite wood surfaces are simple to attach to


The next surface material to be discussed is concrete. Concrete provides a stronger and heavier surface compared to its composite wood counterpart. With concrete as a surface material, attaching a railing system becomes slightly more complex as concrete is harder to drill into than wood for surface and side mounting options. While wood is easier to drill into, concrete provides the opportunity to embed railing into the surface. Simply put, this means inserting the post(s) into the concrete (preferably before it is dry) and allowing the strength of the concrete to support the railing. Weep holes are a requirement in this type of installation.

Series 550 with series 500 handrailing embed into concrete

Concrete provides a stronger alternative to composite wood

Lightweight Concrete

The final surface we will discuss is lightweight concrete. This relatively new surface material has quickly risen in popularity due to its waterproof membrane and reduced weight compared to its counterpart. While composite wood and concrete can be drilled and anchored into, lightweight concrete cannot. This is due to the aforementioned waterproof membrane, as drilling through it would break this membrane. Because of this, mounting for railing needs to be planned farther ahead than usual. In a lightweight concrete scenario, the only way to mount a railing to the surface itself without breaking the membrane is to first install embed plates while the concrete is being poured. These plates can then be used to mount the railing after the concrete is poured.

Series 550 attached to lightweight concrete balconies.

Lightweight concrete can only use embedded mounts

Why It Matters

As we just explored, each surface type provides something a bit different and can affect the installation of your railing system. Planning ahead and knowing what material(s) you are working with is critical! Join us next month for our final installment as we discuss the differences between prefabrication and on-site welding!


Further Readings

How Do You Attach This Railing Pt. 1

How Do You Attach This Railing Pt. 3

20 more Railing Terms

A Brief History of Railing Design