Last Updated: April 18, 2019
Are you ready for a battle of the metals? Choosing a new railing can be tough, and it’s important that you consider all of your options. If you lean toward metals and alloys (which are combinations of two metallic elements), this is the post for you. Today we’re comparing two popular metallic railing choices: aluminum and steel. Although they’re both attractive and strong, their contrasting qualities make them prime candidates for a head-to-head battle. We’ll compare them based on a number of factors, including maintenance, durability, cost, beauty, and installation. Aluminum vs. steel railings: who will be the victor?
Aluminum vs. Steel Railings
Steel and aluminum both make for beautiful railings. As metals, they have a similar appearance, and they’re both versatile materials that can be used in a range of railing styles. However, over time their aesthetics will change. Steel may rust, creating unsightly orange splotches that will linger until you roll up your sleeves and take care of them. In addition, if you choose to paint steel, it’s important to know that it may peel and flake as the years go by, compromising its beauty until you sand and repaint it. Aluminum, on the other hand, is available with a powder coating that will protect it through thick and thin. Because it won’t rust, flake, or fade, it will retain its beauty throughout its life.
Aluminum vs. steel railings: which is most durable and capable of standing up to extreme weather conditions and pests? In truth, steel and aluminum are both known for being tough and durable. Though steel is technically stronger, aluminum is more malleable and elastic than steel, which means it is less likely to be pushed to its limits. Especially in cold temperatures, steel can be brittle. In addition, if you allow rust to eat away at a steel railing, you could compromise its structural integrity. Although most people think of rust as an aesthetic problem primarily, it can begin eroding steel, making it unsafe. Aluminum, on the other hand, will not rust due to its protective powder coating.
Aluminum railings are typically offered in a beautiful, powder-coated finish. This innovative product protects the railing and will not blister, peel, rust, or crack. Plus, it requires virtually no maintenance whatsoever. You won’t need to repaint the railing, reapply the powder coating, or provide any staining or sealing treatments. Although you may wish to hose down your aluminum railing from time to time, to remove loose dirt and debris, aluminum railings don’t require any maintenance to retain their beauty and remain strong and reliable.
Steel, on the other hand, will rust if you don’t take care of it properly. Because it is made of iron, if it is exposed to both oxygen and water, a chemical reaction (corrosion) will occur, forming rust. You will need to keep an eye on your railing, and if rust appears, you must remove it before it corrodes the railing and compromises its integrity. In addition, you can paint steel railings if you wish, but they will likely need to be stripped and repainted periodically to prevent rust.
First, it’s important to remember that the global costs of steel and aluminum are constantly fluctuating based on supply and demand, fuel costs, and other factors. In terms of raw material costs, aluminum typically costs more than steel; however, this doesn’t mean that steel railings are more affordable than aluminum. In fact, while railing costs will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer (no matter what material you’re talking about), aluminum railings are typically less expensive than steel railings.
In addition, it’s important to note the costs of maintenance when you’re calculating the total costs of steel railings and aluminum railings. As we’ve already discussed, aluminum railings require essentially zero maintenance, saving you money. With steel, you’ll need to deal with corrosion that occurs over time by purchasing products to clean and protect the material. You may also choose to coat steel with a special protectant (like a sealant or wax) or paint it (which will require repainting over time).
Finally, the installation costs of steel and aluminum railings vary as well, with steel costing more than aluminum. We’ll discuss this in a little more detail in the next section.
Steel is tremendously difficult to install due to its hefty weight. Transporting it and handling it will require some heavy lifting, unlike aluminum, which is more lightweight. Additionally, if the railing will need to be cut for installation, aluminum is preferred because it can easily be cut with a miter saw. Steel, on the other hand, requires heavy-duty equipment in order to be cut.
Due to its weight and the complexity of its installation, steel must be installed by professionals. Aluminum, on the other hand, is lightweight and available in easy-to-assemble kits. Many homeowners are perfectly capable of installing their own aluminum railing, and if they choose to do so, they can save quite a bit on the cost of installation.
Aluminum vs. steel railings: which material is the best choice for your application? Ultimately, the decision is yours. However, we encourage you to explore all of the factors involved before you make your decision so that you understand the true differences between steel and aluminum railings.
And if you decide to purchase an aluminum railing, do yourself a favor and check out MMC Fencing & Railing. You might be interested in the Westbury Aluminum Railing systems, which are available in a variety of styles and colors: black, chocolate, sandy shore, speckled walnut, silver, beige, white, and more. With sophisticated names like Tuscany, Riviera, Montego, and Veranda, you can trust that these railings are both elegant and understated. Plus, they come with a lifetime-limited warranty, giving you peace of mind.
For more railing options, please check out the MMC Fencing & Railing online store or give us a call at 1-866-931-5002. Our talented and knowledgeable team would be happy to help you select the perfect railing for your home or business.