Deck railing is a highly visible feature of your deck that can be seen from every angle. Your railing design should be both creative and functional, adding beauty while it protects your guests. The materials and designs to choose from are endless. Your design can be traditional, rustic, simple, contemporary, or a masterpiece of carved complexity, but it should meet safety requirements, match the style of the house and deck, and please the eye.
Building a railing may take a couple of days to complete, so plan accordingly. It’s a simple task, but it requires precision and care.
Deck Railing Design
When considering the design of your deck railing, think about the shape and style of your home. What type of rail will look most like an extension of the house? If you’re trying to update the look of the house, consider creating a more modern look without a jarring effect by adding contemporary hardware or using a highly polished top rail in a contrasting wood.
Stains and contrasts can add dimension and style while blending with a rustic or traditional style. An unusual geometric design can add personality to an otherwise plain deck, and a shabby chic whitewash finish can add a comfortable, lived-in Cape Cod feeling to a brand new outdoor living space. You may also choose to incorporate a less expected material, like Plexiglas or wrought iron to add intricacy and style to your design.
Measurements and Safety Concerns
Any deck raised above ground level should have a railing. For safety purposes, the railing should be 36” to 42” inches high, and the balusters should be set no more than 4” apart to meet building codes. This prevents a child’s head from passing between the balusters.
Measuring for baluster placement is the task that presents the greatest challenge and requires the most precision. First, measure the distance between posts and make note. You also need to know the width of the baluster posts. Add the width of one baluster to the desired spacing between balusters (typically 4”). If you’re using balusters that are 2” wide, then your total measurement for each baluster is 6”. Divide the distance between the posts by the baluster measurement to figure out how many balusters you need between posts.
To ensure that the railings are perfectly straight, clamp the top and bottom rails together to mark the installation spots.
Installing the Railings
Start with the posts. Set each post against the joist and secure with the appropriate hardware. The hardware you choose is another design decision. For a simple railing, carriage bolts are sturdy and reliable, but you may desire more interesting hardware. Hardware is often recessed and covered to be less obtrusive to the overall look.
The next step depends on design. If your balusters are designed to fit between the top and bottom rails, you can assemble the sections of railing before anchoring to the posts. This method is also effective for an outside-rail installation. Another method is to attach the top and bottom rails to the posts before attaching the balusters.