HomeOutdoor Living BlogDeck Top Rail Ideas for a Polished Perimeter

Deck Top Rail Ideas for a Polished Perimeter

March 24, 2022
Deck top rail ideas by TimberTech

Your deck top rail is a fundamental part of your railing design and can influence the entire look and feel of your outdoor living space. That’s why finding the right top rail style is an essential part of planning your deck design. But with so many options, how do you know which is right for your space? To help you in your journey, we’ve gathered deck top rail ideas to suit your unique style, plus guidance on how to incorporate each look into your design.

FAQ: “What Is the Top Rail on a Deck Called?”

Before you jump into deck top rail ideas, get familiar with all the components of a railing, including the top rail, so you can customize your design like a pro.

Deck railing components diagram
  1. Top rail – The uppermost piece of the railing that runs between posts and connects to the top of the infill. The top rail is also sometimes referred to as a cap rail. A top rail is different from a handrail, which is typically installed lower than the top rail and is meant to be graspable.  
  2. Bottom rail – The lower piece of the railing that runs parallel to the top rail between posts and connects to the bottom of the infill.
  3. Infill – The piece that fits between the top and bottom rail, filling the inner portion of the rail.
  4. Post – The vertical piece that connects each railing panel and secures the railing to the deck surface. Composite railings feature a post sleeve that covers a wood post, while aluminum railings feature a full aluminum post.
  5. Post cap – The top piece of the post that often features a design and can include lighting.
  6. Post skirt – A detail piece that covers the bottom of the post, where it connects to the deck surface.

See How All the Pieces Fit Together

Explore deck railing designs to get a sense for how every component impacts the whole aesthetic.

Deck Top Rail Ideas: Know Your Material Options

Deck top rail ideas and styles can vary by your material choice. While traditional wood has historically been a popular choice, it’s not the best. More contemporary materials like composite and aluminum railing can give you that look you want — with the durability and performance you deserve.

Deck Railing Materials

With TimberTech® composite and aluminum railing, you skip the rigorous maintenance while enjoying high-performance, high-style railing designs. Plus, our railing systems offer several top rail, color, and infill options, so you’re bound to find the right look for your space.

Explore Your Deck Railing Material Options Further

And learn how to customize your railing design from top to bottom rail.

Now that you’re familiar with your material choices, explore deck top rail ideas from contemporary, popular options to more timeless, traditional designs.

Popular Top Rail Profiles

Interested in the latest deck top rail ideas for your design? These popular options give you not only a stylish design, but also a functional perimeter with their broad, flat surfaces that make for a perfect spot to set down your drink.

Deck top rail ideas include the Drink Rail

Drink Rail

The Drink Rail features a deck board top rail for a linear, horizontal profile that gives you a chic look ideal for transitional and modern design styles. The deck board top rail can be installed in an over-the-post application for a continuous, flat rail or in between posts for more definition in your design.

The Drink Rail is featured in both our Classic Composite Series and Impression Rail Express aluminum railing series, so you can choose the option that suits you best. Plus, for your deck board top rail, you can choose a deck board color from any TimberTech decking collection featuring square-shoulder, full-profile boards.

Deck top rail ideas include the Classic Composite Series Drink Rail

Classic Composite Series Drink Rail

3 color options: Matte White, White, and Black

4 infill options: Composite balusters, aluminum balusters (round and square), stainless steel cable rail, glass panels*

CHOOSE THIS FOR: A highly customizable railing design to get just the look you want.

Deck top rail ideas include the Impression Rail Express Drink Rail

Impression Rail Express Drink Rail

3 color options: Dark Bronze, Black, White

2 Infill options: Aluminum balusters (rectangular only), glass panels*

CHOOSE THIS FOR: A sleek, modern design that gives you clear sightlines with its narrow profile.

Drink Rail Inspiration

Explore deck top rail ideas featuring Drink Rail to get a sense of whether this design is right for your space.

Deck top rail ideas include the Classic Composite Series Contemporary Top Rail

Contemporary Top Rail

Similar to the Drink Rail, the Contemporary Top Rail features a board as the top rail for a sleek, linear design and welcome functionality with a flat surface to place your drinks on. This deck board top rail is featured in the Classic Composite Series and comes in two colors with four infill options. The Contemporary Top Rail is only installed in over-the-post applications, giving you a linear, modern look for your deck perimeter.

Contemporary Top Rail Inspiration

Explore some of your options to determine whether the Contemporary Top Rail is right for you.

Traditional Top Rail Profiles

Prefer deck top rail ideas featuring more classic designs? These top rails range from traditional milled wood looks to stately wrought iron-inspired designs.

Thinking About DIY-ing Your Railing?

A successful DIY deck railing project is possible with the right tools and resources. However, keep in mind that some deck top rail ideas are easier to install on your own than others.

Be sure to check with your local building codes department and refer to your railing’s installation guide before breaking ground on your build.

Railing Installation Best Practices

No matter what style of railing you choose, there are common railing installation best practices you’ll need to abide by to ensure a safe, sturdy structure. If you’re thinking of installing your railing on only a section of your deck, keep in mind for your design that any part of your deck surface that is 30” or more above the ground will require a railing.

Deck railing height diagram

Common Railing Best Practices

Deck height: 30” or more above the ground will require a railing

Top rail height: At least 36” minimum from the deck floor.

Space between balusters: 4” maximum.

Space between bottom rail and deck floor: 4” maximum.

Choose any Impression Rail Express top rail for a panelized railing system where you install the balusters as one piece, rather than individually. LEARN MORE

Deck Top Rail Ideas: Bring Your Vision to Life

With deck top rail ideas percolating in your mind, you’re ready to start bringing your vision to life. Download the TimberTech Railing Guide for a complete list of all your top rail options as well as guidance on how you can customize each one to create your unique deck perimeter.

Find the Right Railing for You

The beauty of a railing’s many parts? Ample opportunity to customize to your personal style. Browse our Railing Guide for insight and inspiration.

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