Installing Deck Rails: A How-To Guide

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Installation of railings for your deck can be a nice aesthetic touch, but more importantly railing provide safety from falls and other injury. In fact, many municipalities require that decking that is a certain height have railing in order to be within building codes. It would be wise to consult your city, township or county building code enforcement office to make sure you are abiding by the right codes.

There are many prefabricated brackets that can be used to help join the rail pieces together. If using wood, a basic circular saw or miter saw will make cuts easily enough. If installing aluminum railing you will need to use a saber saw as the material is hard to cut through, and can bend easily. Just be wary of the sharp edges and shaving that can result after cutting aluminum. Protective eye wear is highly recommended for this material.

Planning a deck railing installation

The most difficult aspect to installing deck railing is the planning phase. It is absolutely imperative that you measure the area that will be receiving the railing, then you measure it again. This will guarantee that you will have enough supplies going forward. The layout should include posts at the ends of the railing, and every 48 inches, at the base and top of stairs. For stairs that are longer than say five feet, plan on an additional post in the center.

Supporting posts or spindle posts are placed approximately every four inches. You will need a cap for the top of the railing as well. You will also need to determine the height of the railing, which the recommended average is approximately 48 inches in height, however, this should be checked with your local building codes office.

If installing aluminum railing, you can purchase these in prefabricated sections, eliminating the need for excessive measuring and cutting. For all railing installation, you can purchase brackets that will fasten the wood railing strips to the posts. This can make the project less aggravating. If you are considering wood over aluminum, or vice versa, or unsure about the types of brackets to use, you can find for free samples and supplies to help make your decision.

Installing deck rails materials list

Below is a list of supplies that you will need to have ready prior to beginning your project:

  • Wood or aluminum materials
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Brackets
  • Measuring tape
  • Miter saw
  • Carpenters pencil
  • Protective eye wear
  • Plan

After you have gathered all of the essential materials, you can begin your project.

Set the main beams in place. It is important that these are fastened to the deck in a sturdy fashion as these will support the rest of the railing. Using galvanized deck screws will prevent corrosion and discoloration.

Attach the railing in segments to the posts using fasting brackets. An example would be a flush T-bracket.
Once the railing is attached, you can place the top piece over the whole rail. This is a necessary step for wood railings.
If installing a wood railing, you will need seal the area to prevent water damage. It is important to do this step as soon as possible so as to avoid weather damage or water damage. For aluminum, depending on the type of material, you can paint is using a metal adhesive paint or a common brand of anti-rust paint.

For information on our Lang aluminum deck railings, you might want to take a look at this illustration of deck railings screw placement.

Enjoy your new railings, and your new deck too!

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.