While a deck rail adds style and character to your outdoor decking, its main purpose is to provide safety and functionality, protecting you and your family. Despite the many purposes they serve, deck railings are surprisingly easy to install, as well.
Deck Railing Options
It’s important to take into account the material you choose to use for your deck railings, as there are several deck-railing options:
- Plastics (Vinyl, etc.)
- Metal (Powder-coated aluminum, Steel, etc.)
While traditional wood deck railings are initially more affordable and convenient for do-it-yourself builders to install, it requires more annual upkeep and maintenance (i.e. sanding, staining or painting, treatments, sealants, etc.), ultimately costing more over its lifespan.
By opting for maintenance-free deck railings like composite railings or metal deck railings, such as powder-coated aluminum, you eliminate tedious maintenance and future upkeep costs. Maintenance-free deck railings often arrive in installation kits, so you have everything you need to begin your railing installation, simplifying the deck-building process for homeowners.
4 General Steps to Install Deck Railings
While detailed instructions on installing deck railings may differ slightly from material to material, there are some general installation tips to follow to safely install your deck rails to your existing outdoor deck:
Step 1: Prep & Install Your Posts
- Determine how many 4×4 posts you will need to support your deck railings. Put a post in each corner and place another support post every 4-6 feet on center, depending on the size of your deck and desired look. Mark the center of each post on your decking, so you know where to install them later.
- Measure your posts to the desired height. Be sure to account for building code requirements; the top rail must be at least 36 inches high. Add extra length to bottom of posts to be able to secure them to your decking. If you’d like to install post caps and have your support posts raise above your top railing, be sure to account for extra length at the top of the posts, as well. For example, if you want a 40-inch railing, add at least 4 inches to the bottom to hang over the deck frame, and add at least an inch for a post cap, bringing the total height of your post to 45 inches.
- Cut all posts to desired height.
- Create an overhang cut at the bottom of each post. This is the bottom portion of the post that you accounted for in your measurements that will attach the post to your decking. To create an overhang of 4 inches, measure 4 inches from the bottom of your post and mark it. Then, measure 2 inches from the side of the post to where you marked your 4 inches—this is usually the center if you are using a 4×4 post. We are looking to cut a 2”x 4” notch into the wood, almost creating an inverted “L” shape. This will allow the post to sit seamlessly on the decking and give ample space to drill into the decking for support. Make sure your cuts create a right angle, so it sits tightly on your decking. It will help to use a square when making your markings.
- If needed, prepare all posts by sanding, staining and sealing all sides of the boards, and wait until sufficiently dry. If you are using maintenance-free deck railing materials, you don’t need this step, but you may have additional installation steps using brackets, etc.
- Bolt the posts to your decking where you’ve previously marked. Line the marking up with the center of your post. Drill pilot holes first before screwing to help ease the bolting process.
Step 2: Build Your Top & Bottom Rails
- Railing boards are typically 2×4 boards, but use whatever you prefer that fits within building codes.
- Measure between each support post to get the length you need for each board, and cut your top and bottom railing boards.
- Sand, stain and seal the boards, if needed, and allow to dry sufficiently.
- Screw your top railing to the support posts, first using pilot holes. If you have your support posts higher than your top rail, be sure to install the top rail lower than the top of your handrail (e.g. 1 inch). Remember to drill into the support posts at an angle. Make sure your railing is level before drilling and that your top railing height meets building and safety codes.
- Repeat the last step for your bottom rails, accounting for space between the decking floor and bottom rail.
Step 3: Attach Spindles
- Standard spindles can usually be made from 2×2 boards, but as long as it falls within local building codes, choose what materials you prefer.
- Measure from the center of your top rail to the center of your bottom rail to get the length of your spindles (i.e. balusters).
- Determine how many spindles you’ll need to meet building code requirements. In most cases, having a spindle at least every 4 inches should suffice.
- Cut all spindles to the desired lengths.
- Optional: For a polished look, you can cut an angle off the bottom of your spindles to create a beveled edge. The longer side will be attached to the decking, while the beveled edge will be facing outward.
- Attach spindles by creating pilot holes then drilling them into the top and bottom rails.
Step 4: Add Finishing Touches, If Desired.
- Once the railing is completed, you can add finishing details like a post cap to each support post to complete the railing.
As you begin your deck railings installation, confirm with your local building and safety codes to make sure your measurements and installation meet all the necessary requirements. For more information on how to determine measurements, contact UglyDeck.com!
Turn to UglyDeck.com for All Your Deck Railing Needs
Whether you are a DIY homeowner looking to install your own deck rails or you want to enlist the help of professionals, UglyDeck.com can help with any of your decking and railing needs.
At UglyDeck.com, we enjoy working closely with our customers to make sure they have quality materials to make all their home projects a success. If you are ready to get started on your deck-railings project, head on over to UglyDeck.com where you can order all your decking and railing materials, like our stylish maintenance-free Westbury aluminum railing styles. You can also contact us for a free consultation and estimate on our railing installation services, where one of our Twin Cities deck builders can help you customize your deck railings to complement your home, recommend deck railing ideas to bring your vision to life, and help you plan for professional installation. We would be honored to be a part of your decking project!