A Stainless Steel Railing System Offers a Lesson in Strength

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
Presented by AGS Stainless, Inc.
The authority on prefabricated stainless steel railing systems offers an AIA-approved continuing education course for trade professionals.

Though railing systems are an integral part of building safety and add aesthetic value, they can often be overlooked in the grand scheme of a project. With budgets dwindling at the end of a build, project managers often shortchange the railings—only to incur other costs associated with hiring a local fabricator or using cheaper materials. Washington state’s AGS Stainless, Inc. has nearly three decades of experience in this field. Specializing in prefabricated stainless steel railings, the company’s sponsored Continuing Education Unit (CEU) educates architects, builders, and homeowners on the benefits of using a prefab system and the qualities of stainless steel. Hear what Kevin Harris, director of sales and marketing, has to say about prefab railing systems, and then head to the CEU for the full course and accreditation test.

A Stainless Steel Railing System Offers a Lesson in Strength - Photo 1 of 5 - "Replacing the old railings that are wrought iron or wood in your home can completely change the look of the room," says Harris. "Because we prefabricate everything, the homeowner can install the railings with some simple hand tools."

"Replacing the old railings that are wrought iron or wood in your home can completely change the look of the room," says Harris. "Because we prefabricate everything, the homeowner can install the railings with some simple hand tools."

Traditionally, general contractors rely on metal fabricators to provide custom railing systems that are locally built. This method, however, can add costs, time, and safety hazards to a project with the additional risk of subpar work. Having the custom railings prefabricated ensures uniformity and a high level of craftsmanship. "Architects prefer the quality of the railings be consistent," says Harris. "That’s one of the challenges of dealing with local fabricators. The railing is one of the most visible parts of the home. You hold them, you use them—it’s functional artwork." Because prefab systems are easy to install, building professionals can rely on even the least-experienced member of the team to efficiently and proficiently complete the job.

A Stainless Steel Railing System Offers a Lesson in Strength - Photo 2 of 5 - Glass infill provides extra security, and when used outdoors, it can serve as a wind barrier.

Glass infill provides extra security, and when used outdoors, it can serve as a wind barrier.

"The railing is one of the most visible parts of the home. You hold them, you use them—it’s functional artwork." 

—Kevin Harris

A Stainless Steel Railing System Offers a Lesson in Strength - Photo 3 of 5 - Whether it be on an outdoor deck or an indoor stairway, a railing system is one of the most visible elements of a home.

Whether it be on an outdoor deck or an indoor stairway, a railing system is one of the most visible elements of a home.

When it comes to choosing a railing material, aluminum has remained popular among builders: strong, durable, and lightweight, it’s easy to work with. Stainless steel requires more specialized skills and equipment, but it also carries more visual impact. "People see stainless steel and go, ‘Wow, that’s gorgeous,’" says Harris. "Architects choose it because the home deserves it. For commercial projects, the clients want to send a message of permanence and quality." Resistant to corrosion and scratching, stainless steel is nearly three times stronger than aluminum. This allows for slimmer posts and top rails, creating railing systems that provide support without obstructing views.

A Stainless Steel Railing System Offers a Lesson in Strength - Photo 4 of 5 - Marine-grade stainless steel resists corrosion so that even in coastal environments, the products have longevity and are easy to maintain. Above, thin cabling allows a panoramic view.

Marine-grade stainless steel resists corrosion so that even in coastal environments, the products have longevity and are easy to maintain. Above, thin cabling allows a panoramic view.

Working with stainless steel requires expertise, which AGS Stainless, Inc. has cultivated over its 27-year-history. The owners oversee manufacturing on Bainbridge Island, a rural community outside of Seattle, Washington. The company has invested in state-of-the-art technology for laser-cut precision, a commitment that Harris appreciates: "Our fabrication of stainless steel rail systems is unsurpassed. We have everything standardized. Our owners are here every single day. This is their total passion; that kind of care about what you do is totally visible in our product."

A Stainless Steel Railing System Offers a Lesson in Strength - Photo 5 of 5 - "One of the biggest compliments we get is quality," says Harris. "It comes from only doing one thing and doing it for a long time."

"One of the biggest compliments we get is quality," says Harris. "It comes from only doing one thing and doing it for a long time."

Visit the online CEU to read the course text and take the test. 

Please direct all questions regarding the AIA/Architectural Record Continuing Education program to ceu@bnpmedia.com, or call (248) 786-1240.