How to Install Railing for a Deck

Railing is mandatory on all decks over 2 feet high and recommended for all decks as a safety feature. After the deck boards and steps are installed you can finish your deck with the railing.

  1. Cut railing posts. The heights will be 36 inches plus the width of the rim or edge joist or beam.

  2. Notch posts 1 1/2 inches deep to allow posts to fit against joists.

  3. Notch decking 1 1/2 inches deep by post width to allow posts to fit snuggly against top of joists.

  4. Level the posts with a carpenter's level.

  5. Secure the posts to the deck with 3/8-inch lag screws. A good weatherproof wood glue can be added to the points where the post and joists come into contact; this will add strength to the rail. (Use two screws per post.)

  6. Attach rails to posts at the desired height by toenailing them in place. ("Toenail" means to drive the nails into one board near its end at an angle to catch the board that it is butted up against.)

  7. Toenail the top rail flush or even with top of posts.

  8. Add a center rail, if your deck design calls for it.

  9. Center 2-by-6 cap rails over the top rail and posts and nail into place.

  10. Miter cap rail ends at a 45-degree angle where they meet and then butt ends together.

  11. Cut balusters or pickets to length and then attach to the top rail and bottom rail. (Start in the middle to prevent bowing.)