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11 Steps To Building A Wooden Deck Railing

Your deck railing can look amazing and increase the safety of your deck.

Even if it’s almost at ground level.

But building deck railings yourself isn’t the easiest DIY job.

Which is why we want to help by letting you see how we install deck railings.

It takes us 11 steps, and some steps have parts in them too.

But it can be worth it:

  • Increase the appeal of your home
  • Set a boundary on higher decks
  • Keeps pets and small children close by
  • Provide a place to lean on

You can have these benefits and love your deck too!

First, let’s check out the tools and materials you’ll need.

If you’re trying to add value and sell, you may want to know about working with real estate agents >>

Large back deck with white railing

Tools And Materials

Depending on your choices you may not need all the items listed.

For example, you may not need any wood cutting equipment if you have the lumber store cut it for you.

  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Dust mask
  • 1’ x  3’ lumber for handrails
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • 2’ x 2’ balusters (the vertical pieces of wood going between the top and bottom rails)
  • Pencil
  • Clamps
  • ¼” x 1 ½” wood pieces (one strip per section)
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Electrical cord
  • Tape measure
  • 1 ½” – 2” screws
  • 3” – 4” screws
  • Post level
  • Level
  • Wood glue
Circular saw cutting through lumber
Photo by Ben Ferenchak – Creative Commons 2.0 license

1. Check local deck building codes for details

You can learn permitted sizes for railings and other important information.

These codes are to keep your deck and the people on it safe.

2. Choose your railing material

While you can choose from a variety of different materials, some need special installation.

So we’re going to use wood for this example.

Pressure treated lumber is a common material for decks because it is sturdy and durable.

It isn’t hard to work with either.

You can also paint or stain it to make it look even more amazing.

3. Determine how many posts you’ll need

Start with where you want the first post to be.

Choose a measurement of 6′ or less and make a mark where the posts will be.

Count the total amount of posts.

4. Cut your posts to code size

The post’s ends will be even with the bottoms of the rim and end joists (the sideways boards under the deck).

All railings must be 3′ or higher.

Cut posts a few inches higher than you want the railing to be.

You’ll want some of the post to hang down on the side of the deck. This is where you will be attaching the post to the deck.

*This is also where you can add a finish to the posts if you want.

5. Install the posts

First, use your post level to ensure the post is straight.

Then drill pilot holes for the screws/bolts through the post and joist board.

Put wood glue on the part you’re attaching to the deck.

Finally, drill the screws or bolts in.

  • For screws make the holes half the size.
  • For bolts make the holes only a little smaller than the bolts.

This should keep the wood from splintering and becoming useless.

You’ll repeat this process around the entire deck.

6. Mark the railing height

You will have to have a minimum height, usually between 3-3 ½ feet.

7. Double check the distance between posts

8. Attach balusters and handrail pieces together

You can apply finish to them first if you’d like.

They must be 4” apart or less.

Take the thin strip of wood and measure the distance you want the balusters to be from both ends.

So if you want them 4” apart, measure 4” in from both of the short sides.

Screw all of the balusters in place with 1 ½” – 2” screws.

Attach another wood strip to the other end of the balusters.

9. Screw the bottom rail to the posts

Set it up on some scraps of wood 4” high or shorter.

Screw in 3” – 4” screws to attach the board to the post.

10. Attach balusters to bottom rail

Use shorter screws that won’t poke out the bottom.

11. Attach the top rail like you did the bottom

Repeat steps 8-11 for each section.

Deck with new railings
Photo by patriotweb – Creative Commons no derivatives 2.0 license

Love Your Newly Built Wooden Deck Railing

You can enhance your deck, making it look better than ever. But, not everybody has the time to do this. You may want to leave it to a professional home construction company instead.

You can check out our remodeling and additions page for more information >>