Fences and railings, basically the same thing, right? Wrong! Although they appear the same, there are functional and design discrepancies between railings and fences that set them apart from one another. If you are thinking of putting up a barrier, knowing the contrasts is important.
To start, fences are usually put up for the purpose of restricting access to a certain area, whether it be a yard, a pool or private commercial property. Meanwhile, railings are put up to keep people in a certain area, preventing people from falling off of a deck or balcony. Think about it: would you put a fence on your balcony and a railing all around your yard? Probably not; both serve separate purposes and therefore will not be built the same. However, for a deck that is only a couple feet off the ground, your local building codes may allow a fence to be built rather than a railing.
Like we mentioned, fences are put up to block off access to a restricted area. Different Homeowners Associations may specify height, design, material and location guidelines for a fence and will require approval before installation begins. Railings also must meet a certain criteria. As they should be able to hold the average person, railings generally have requirements to withstand a certain amount of lateral force. For this reason, they must be made out of stronger or heavier materials that can withstand heavy wind, rain, snow and debris, and may cost you more (depending on size, materials, etc.).
With a little research and help from a professional contractor, you can ensure you make the right choice in fencing or railing for your property!