Deck – Railings

There are several types of railings that you can choose from when building a deck. Just remember that there are certain local codes that you may have to adhere to, and this applies to railings. Check with the local building authority about the types that you can and can not use when you are planning your deck.

You will also need a railing if the deck is more than a certain distance from the ground, often 30 inches. The code will allow only a certain gap between the ballusters, sometimes called spindles, around 4” – 9”. This is so that a child cannot slip through. The height of the railing is regulated, too – 36” – 42”. Be sure you check all of this before beginning.

Also choose a style according to your budget, time, and energy, as well as to the overall look and use of the deck. Get some design inspiration from books or design magazimes.

Below lists several types of railings that are more common:

1. Typical Builder Deck Railings:

Beveled 2×2 wood pickets fastened to a 2×6 on edge at the top and fastened to the rim joist of the deck (outer band of wood in the deck frame).

2. Custom Wood Deck Railings

3. Pre-Fabricated Vinyl Extrusions With Metal Sleeve Inserts (for Strength):

These are with aluminum inserts in wood deck railings. Aluminum pre-fab deck railings are also available at most lumberyards. These screw- together extrusions often utilize Plexiglas (which yellows, but you can cut to size) or tempered glass inserts.

Metal deck railings can range from the old basic welded metal (painted) deck railings, to architectural aluminum-powder coated finish.

4. Composite Deck Railings:

Composite railing mostly have metal reinforcement and is made to look like wood.

Basics to installing deck railings

These steps apply to most types of railings. Just make sure that there is stability when you install railings. As discussed above there are codes that apply to deck railings. Make sure you adhere to those codes for safety reasons.

This installation involves constructing 2 x 2 ballusters with a 2 x 4 top railing with bolting the bottom of the ballusters to the band joists, using two Hot Dipped Galvinized lag screws, and by tying the railing into the house at several places.

1. Cut all the ballusters.
2. Then cut the 2 x 4 top rail. Use pieces that are long enough to span the entire length of each section. If you need two pieces of top rail because the span is too long, join two over a 2 x 4 picket for adequate bearing. Make sure you position this break for the most balanced appearance.
3. Where two sections of the deck come together, miter cut the top rail to cover any exposed end grain.
4. Mark the top rail so that the ballusters will be property spaced. Then bolt the ballusters to the rail using lag screws.
5. At the bottom of each balluster drill two holes that are one size smaller than the lag screws that will hold the ballusters to the joists and band.
6. Make sure that the second hole on the baluster is at least 1 1/2” from the edge of the band joist that you will be installing it on.
7. You are now ready to install the entire assembly onto the deck. Use two 2 ½” lag screws (Hot Dip Galvinized, aluminum, or stainless steel so they will not rust) at the base where the picket meets the joists and band.
8. Nail a few ballusters temporarily in place to hold it there. Then use a level to locate where each balluster will meet the band and joists to make sure they will all be level and parallel to each other.
9. Hold the picket in place while you mark the location of the holes on the band and joists. Then drill these holes on the band and joists with a drill bit one size smaller than the shank of the lag screw.
10. Bolt the lag screws in around the entire deck until the railings are all in place. Where two railings intersect at their mitered cut railing top, drill pilot holes through one top railing into the other and then nail together with 10d HDG finishing nails, two from one direction and one from the other.
11. Your railings should now be complete.