Porch Railings and Stairs

Stairs and railings are an integral part of your porch. Learn how to get the most out of your outdoor space with these tips.



By: Jeannie Matteucci

Railings and stairs play a key role in the overall look of your porch. There are local code requirements for porch railings, so make sure to check with the building department in your area.

Often a guard system will be required around the perimeter of any porch that is more than 30 inches above grade and your railing must be at least 36 inches high. There are also codes for open-rail systems and requirements for the spacing of vertical pillars or balusters.

Many homeowners with front porches want their entry stairs and porch landing to align with the front door. Others prefer stairs that lead to an entrance on the side or both sides of the porch. Ramps are another consideration for homeowners with special needs. Many architects can design ramps that integrate into the design of your porch and home.

  • The entire railing system of your porch — called the balustrade — runs between the posts, and all the components need to work together so your porch is sound and secure.
  • Woods suitable for railings include cedar, white oak, redwood and pressure-treated wood.
  • There are rails made from combination materials and synthetic alternatives to wood (like vinyl) that offer durability and very little maintenance, but check warranty information and follow installation instructions.
  • An extra-deep railing can be used as a resting spot for drink glasses, eliminating the need for numerous tables that can clutter a porch.
  • Steps can be made from the same material as your porch floor, or you can combine different materials.
  • Think about the approach to your porch stairs. An attractive walkway made of brick, concrete or stone can make guests feel welcome and should integrate with the rest of your landscape.

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