My New Backyard Project: Balcony Railings

Feb 27, 2018

You've probably heard me mention the need for a balcony railing on the retaining wall in the backyard several times. We had no idea when we built our house that the backyard was on a large slope until the lot was cleared. My husband was upset because a pool was something we wanted to put in right away, and he didn't think it was possible. I assured him that we could build a retaining wall and have steps down to the pool that would look amazing. I was right, but I didn't realize how much more expensive retaining walls and balcony railings would cost. We were way over our budget because of it when we built our pool so we nixed the railing. I was so nervous someone would fall off the retaining wall that I added these tall potted junipers for a visual barrier. They did the job for a good two years, but my youngest son did fall off the wall right before Christmas. He slipped on ice when we had snow and freezing rain as he was running from the back door to the side yard. Thankfully, the chaise lounge broke his fall and he just ended up with a bruised bum. He has since decided he doesn't like snow!

Do you see how dangerous this could be? I haven't measured, but I believe there's about eight feet between the kitchen island and the drop-off. That distance is probably why we haven't any other accidents. My first priority this spring was to install a railing after a contractor no-showed last summer. I also really wanted to replace the chandeliers in the living room, dining room and foyer too. In order to do both I considered adding inexpensive fencing panels I found at Home Depot. My husband was convinced he could do it. I decided to just get one more quote to see the price difference. It turns out after talking to the contractor that those fencing panels were open on the ends and would end up rusting within a year or two. That means no chandeliers! Not only did we get a quote for the railing, I also got a quote for stone pillars. I noticed this look in several homes and on trips to Mexico and Capri. Even though it was more expensive for the pillars I decided to go ahead with it because it isn't one of those things I can go back and add later.

Sidenote-I also want these umbrellas and clay pots!

Here is the closest example of what ours will look like when completed. Eventually, I'd love to add the stone on the face of the retaining wall and stairs like in this photo. 


The stone we planned on using is the same as the pool wall. It's a split face travertine with a combination of cream and brown split face travertine. 

The only problem is the company that supplied it no longer sells it, and the contractor can't find it anywhere else. The contractor did find this exact cream colored stone, but there just won't be any brown in it. I have to admit that I'm not that upset because I've never really been a fan of the brown stone. It doesn't really bother me, but it kind of looks like patchwork to me. My only concern is that we would have two different types of stone back here. I was in a bit of a quandary last night when they told me about the stone being discontinued. 

I decided to go ahead with the cream stone instead of trying to find the cream/brown one after thinking about it. The deciding factor was knowing I eventually want to add stone to the front of the retaining wall. If I'm not thrilled with the way it looks on the pool wall then I definitely wouldn't be happy with it on a larger surface. Maybe when I get the retaining wall done next I can ask them to replace the brown stones on the pool? I have no idea if that's an option, but you never know until you ask. FYI, this is an old pic. You wouldn't believe how tall and wide the trees have gotten!

Here is the progress with the cinderblock framing for the pillars. I forgot to take a picture, but I was able to screenshot a previous Instagram story. There will be black iron panels between the stone pillars. They are plain for cost reasons. Honestly, the reason why we went with the stone pillars is that an iron railing with any detail to it is almost the same price as the plain iron with the stone pillars. 

As I'm typing I can hear the guys outside cutting the iron panels. The stone work is just beginning, too. I'll update on my Instagram stories later today so you can see the progress!