Aluminum is Taking Over the Balcony and Railing Market

Property owners should know the advantages and disadvantages of replacing steel balcony railings with its aluminum counterpart.

Dakota Evans Restoration is advising property owners looking to replace or install a balcony to become familiar with updated building codes and the benefits of different materials that can be used.

Most condominium buildings that need balcony and railing replacements or improvements were built at a time when different building codes were adopted. In the past few years, codes for new railings requires them to be 42 inches high, with no more than 4 inches between the spindles. Buildings built before newer codes were adopted are now grandfathered in, but issues can arise when the actual railing is removed from the balcony. Once removed, the railing cannot be reinstalled if it does not meet current code requirements.

“Many property owners and managers may not be aware that old balcony railings cannot be reattached,” said Chuck McCrimmon, founder and president of Dakota Evans Restoration. “Prior to making a decision on a new railing, a building owner or manager should consider the following aspects of the replacement and removal process: durability, maintenance, cost, variability and installation.”


Steel is extremely strong, but only if it is continually maintained. Water, salt and rust will corrode steel, especially where the post penetrates the balcony. Over time, this can lead to costly welding repairs. Aluminum is a viable solution since it does not rust and is as durable as steel when properly installed.


Steel railings must be continually maintained and painted every few years to prevent rust from forming. If rust spots do develop, the areas need to be ground down to the bare metal and painted, as rust cannot be painted over. Repainting the steel with an epoxy over an industrial enamel may provide a few extra years of protection, but the rail still needs to have consistent upkeep. Proper maintenance for steel railings includes regular cleaning, polishing and repainting. Aluminum is generally known as ‘maintenance free’. The powder coating that is applied will retain a shine for several years, with minor maintenance including hosing the railing down periodically.


Although the price of aluminum has gone up due to an increased demand, and the cost of steel has gone down, aluminum railings are significantly less expensive to fabricate and install compared to steel. This, coupled with the fact that aluminum railings are virtually maintenance-free, shows that aluminum rails can save on time spent on upkeep, in addition to money, in the long run.


Aesthetics, such as the color of railings, also vary between steel and aluminum. Steel can be painted any color, giving property owners flexibility on variation. Since aluminum is powder-coated it is available in a number of modern colors. In terms of design, steel can be welded into a range of designs and shapes. When designing aluminum rails, the possibilities are more limited since the pieces are prefabricated, which allows for little to no customization.


Steel railings are exceptionally hard and time consuming to install due to its heavy weight and the potential need for additional equipment to be put in place. Aluminum is modular, extremely lightweight and easier to manipulate when it is being installed.

Dakota Evans is working at an increased rate with aluminum steel railings, although it does service and install both types of railing systems. If the main focus is cost and longevity, utilizing aluminum has become the best option for a majority of Dakota Evans Restoration clients. If the focus is design and color, steel may be the best option.

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