How to build a handrail for a deck

deck with a view image by Bruce Shippee from

A deck just doesn’t feel complete until you’ve installed railings. They give the deck the feeling of an independent outdoor space, and are also important for safety. Even if your deck isn’t that high off the ground, installing railings is the best way to guarantee that young children will be safe and sound.

Prepare the main posts, which will go at each corner of the deck. You can also add posts between the main posts if you're building a long deck. Cut a 90-degree angle at the bottom of each board with a circular saw. Align the angled bottom of the post against the deck so that it is flush against the joist. Do this for each board.

Drill two holes through the bottom of the deck and into the post. Add two bolts to the holes you just created. Tighten the bolts to secure the post to the deck. Repeat steps one and two until all of your main posts are secured around the perimeter of the deck.

Measure the distance between posts. These measurements will be used to create the sections of rails, also called balustrades, that will be installed between each post.

Lay out a bottom and top rail that correspond to a measurement between each post. The bottom and top wooden rails can be purchased at the thickness that you desire, or you can cut 5 by 10 cm (2 by 4 inch) boards to the dimensions you need with a table saw.

Create the balusters that will run vertically from the top rail to the bottom rail. Again, these can be bought from a timber merchant in the thickness and dimensions you need, or you can cut them to length with a table saw. Attach the finished baluster to the end of the bottom rail with a screw.

Attach the rest of the balusters to the bottom rail. Use a wooden block as a spacer between each baluster. Move the spacer over to ensure that each baluster is an equal distance apart.

Attach the top rail. With all of the balusters drilled into the bottom rail, put the top rail in place. Drill a hole through the top rail and into the top of each baluster. Secure the top rail to the balusters with screws. Once you are finished, it will look like you have constructed a small ladder.

Fit the finished rail section between the main posts on the deck. Place wooden blocks on top of the deck between the main posts. Set the balustrade on top of the blocks. This will ensure that the balustrade is installed at the appropriate level above the deck.

Drill two holes through each end of the balustrade and into the main posts. Secure the balustrade by tightening lag screws through the drilled holes. Repeat the steps to create more balustrades for the remaining areas between each main post.

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