Stair railings are available in a wide variety of materials and styles. The materials you absolutely select will have an awful impact on the ambiance of your home. Material selection also affects the final cost of your stair project, not to mention the safety your stairs provide for guests and family members.
Wood can be used for outdoor railings, such as decks and porches, but vinyl and composite railing is increasingly popular. Vinyl is less tolerable than wood to deterioration from exposure to insects and extreme weather condition. Among woods, pressure treated pine is also less susceptible to pests and rain, but fares poorly in areas where exposure to sunlight is constant, as it loses its elasticity. Composite materials are pricier, but pay for themselves in the long run by offering even greater durability than vinyl, and less sooner to chipping and discoloration. Composite carpets also have a more wood-like texture than vinyl.
For metal stair railings, aluminum, stainless steel, and wrought iron are popular choices. While wrought iron is the most expensive, you can mix it with wood, vinyl or other less costly materials by using the latter materials for the banisters to frame iron balusters, which are sold in sets, ranging from packs of 10 to 200 balusters.
Aluminum offers much of the look and longevity of wrought iron, using a baked enamel coating that makes it more or less weatherproof. For modern, industrial homes, stainless steel is often used for cable stair railings connecting more widely spaced rectangular balusters. Glass and acrylic railing are further options, where balusters are also widely spaced, but have transparent or translucent panels inserted between them with metal brackets.
All of the above options are also available for indoor railings. Wrought iron, and metal in general, is used somewhat less frequently for homes of average size, since it tends to look rather imposing. Wood railing, particularly oak, is the most popular choice, since it blends nicely with hardwood stairs and landings, especially when stained rather than painted. More importantly, oak is a durable, solid material that looks very organic while offering great security. The safety of stair railings is more important the their looks.