There are many railing styles available. If the yard has a fence, the deck railing may be similar or an entirely different style. No matter which patio railing style is in place, it's important that water doesn't pool on the cross members of the deck railing. This can cause the wood railings to rot or sag. Proper care of the deck railing is important also because it helps prevent the deterioration of the wood.
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The bottom rail is the portion of the patio railing that is most likely to have water pool on it. (See References 1) Typically the bottom rail is either 2-by-4 inch lumber or 2-by-6 inch lumber set horizontally and attached to the deck posts. Depending on the style of the deck, the bottom rail may be set in notches in the posts, or nails "toe nailed" in place may secure it in position. Other common ways of installing a bottom rail is to turn the lumber on edge to set it vertically. This makes the bottom rail appear to be wider. When a bottom rail is in place, the upright pieces, or pickets, connect the top rail to the bottom rail. These pickets may be either on the inside of the patio or the outside, but their spacing must follow local ordinances to prevent a child from putting his head through them. One solution to the problem of water collection on the bottom rail is to bevel both of the top edges away from the pickets.
Like the bottom rail, the top rail is often 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 inch lumber set either horizontally or vertically. In some cases there are actually two top rails. The lower board is set in place and connects with the pickets. The top board, which is wider, covers the lower board and gives the patio railing a more finished look. Whether one or two boards are in place, they may also have bevelled edges to give them a more decorative appearance. Top rails may connect individual posts, but a top railing that sets on top of the posts provides the appearance of a more continuous flow on the deck rail. It's also a stronger, more stable option.
Posts and Caps
The posts support the deck from the ground and provide the strength to support the weight of the deck railings. Whether there's a continuous top rail or not, there are still a number of options to finish the posts. The most popular is post caps. These decorative tops simply screw in position on top of the deck posts.
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