It's even more of a hassle to maintain a deck's railing—with its posts, caps, and balusters—than it is to keep up flat boards. So the less wood the better. Non-wood railings generally cost more; a simple, square baluster style can run two-thirds more than a similar one in cedar. But there are more stock styles to choose from, and they save time and money over the long haul.
The only wood on Smith's deck is the painted posts. The Deckorators
balusters are powder-coated aluminum with matching cups at either end that conceal fasteners. The handrail (as well as the deck's stair risers and fascia boards) is made of Azek, a paintable cellular PVC.
Alternative systems include composite balusters that resemble traditional 2x2s and metal handrails clad in white vinyl sleeves that evoke painted porch rails. Some companies offer turned balusters as well as handrails with curved profiles. Contemporary systems with tempered-glass panels or stainless-steel cables between metal or composite posts have the plus of preserving the view. Whatever style you choose, keep in mind that no other element does more to determine a deck's look than its railing.