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Americans spent approximately $713 million on new outdoor decks and porches in 1998 alone, topping all other categories including new kitchens, roofing, and siding. While there is no way of knowing how much of that money was spent on railings, there's no question that railings add cost and complexity to a deck project. Pre-engineered railing systems and pre-assembled modules may take some of the head-scratching out of design issues as well as the pricing of materials and labor. While wood has long ruled the roost in deck construction, its shortcomings are well known. A regular diet of scraping, sanding, and painting is required to keep a wooden railing looking spiffy. Maintenance-free materials and finishes save everybody work, from the installer to