Installing Railing

Build a distinctive and attractive railing for your deck.

Installing the Railing

For a small amount of time and money you can build a distinctive and handsome railing.

None of the steps in building this railing requires special woodworking tools or skills. All the pieces can be cut with a circular saw, though a power mitersaw or a radial-arm saw will make the job easier. The pieces are attached with screws or nails; fancy joints are not needed.

The post is made of 2x4s and 1x4s that in combination are much less likely to develop cracks than a standard 4x4 post. A built-up post also lends a handcrafted appearance to the deck.

Consult local building codes to determine the required overall height of the railing and how far apart the balusters must be.

Prestart Checklist

Working with a helper, a day to construct about 60 feet of railing

Tape measure, hammer, drill, circular saw, layout square, post level, ratchet and socket wrench

Measuring and cutting boards, laying out for consistently spaced balusters, fastening with nails or screws

Determine post locations and notch the decking to accommodate

2x4, 1x4 for posts; 2x4 for top, bottom rails; 2x6 or 5/4 decking for rail cap; 4-inch lag screws; 2- or 3-inch deck screws or nails; angle brackets

Railing Overview

Space posts at equal intervals so the baluster sections will all look the same. Attach the posts to the joists with carriage bolts or lag screws.

Step 1

To make a regular post, cut two 1x4s and one 2x4 to the height of the railing, minus the thickness of the rail cap. Cut another 2x4 to the same length, plus the combined width of the outside joist and the decking thickness. Fasten by drilling pilot holes and driving screws or nails.

Step 2

Make a corner post with three 2x4s and one 1x4. Use a scrap of 1x4 as a guide for the 3/4-inch reveal along the edges of the boards. Join 2x4s with 3-inch deck screws.

Step 3

For each post, notch the decking so the longer 2x4 can attach tight to the joist. Position the post with the short boards resting on top of the decking. Hold the post plumb, drive pilot holes, and attach with lag screws or carriage bolts.

Step 4

Measure the distance between the posts and cut two 2x4 rails to fit. Mark on the rails for balusters that are evenly spaced; you may choose a paired pattern as shown -- an alternating spacing of 1-1/2 inches and 3-1/2 inches. Set the rails on a flat surface, and lay two pieces of decking as spacers next to them so that the 2x2 balusters will be centered within the width of the rail. Attach the balusters to the rails with one screw or nail driven into each joint.

Step 5

Set some 2x4 scraps on the deck to temporarily hold the baluster section up so its top is flush with the tops of the posts. Slip the baluster section into place and clamp it. Drill angled pilot holes and drive nails or screws as shown.

Step 6

Reinforce the top rails with angle brackets. Attach a rail cap to the top of the railing. One advantage of this approach is that the whole railing section can be removed for future maintenance -- especially helpful if you choose to paint it.

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