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Building a Deck

How to Install Deck Railings and Balusters (page 1 of 2)

The final steps for completing construction of your deck are followed by seal, stain and enjoy.

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  • Time

    Weekend

  • Price Range

    $500 - $1,000

  • Difficulty

    Moderate to Hard

Here's How To Do It:

Step 1: Cut a Notch For the Corner Handrail Post

Figure the height of the handrail post (in our case it is 36 inches) and subtract 1-1/2" for the top cap rail. Then add 9 inches for the amount that will bolt into the deck beam. Cut the post to the measured length. Measure 1-1/2" on the end of the post and place a mark 9 inches long. Flip the post over 180 degrees and make the same mark. Using a circular saw set at 2-inch depth, saw the notch out of the handrail post. Use a wood chisel to clear out any excess wood (Image 1). Fit the post into place and check for level and plumb. Drill two holes in each side all the way through the beam and install two carriage bolts on either side (Image 2). Tighten down the nuts on the carriage bolts. Note: Be sure to check with you local building-codes inspector to see that you have the proper height for the railing.

Step 2: Install the Middle Handrail Post

Measure from the end post to the corner post and divide by two. This is the location for the middle handrail post. (If the span is longer than 8 feet apart, divide the total span by three to allow for an extra handrail post.) Check with the local building permit office for code restrictions. Trace an outline where the post will go and for a guide to cutting out the decking with the jigsaw. Next, measure and mark the middle handrail post for length and for notching out. Using a circular saw, notch out the middle handrail post (Image 1). Then, using a jigsaw, notch out the decking where the post will be installed. Fit post into place and check for level and plumb. Drill two holes (Image 2) in each side all the way through the beam and install two carriage bolts on either side. Tighten down the nuts on the carriage bolts.

Step 3: Install Railings and Balusters

Figure the height of each baluster by taking the height of the handrail posts (36") and subtract 3-1/2", 1-1/2", 1-1/2" and 1-1/2". So, 36" - 8" = 28". This is the height of each baluster. Tip: Cut balusters by making a saw stop block. Measure from the saw blade out to 28 inches and screw down a scrap piece of lumber at that mark. Add 2x4 blocks to each side of the handrail posts for support.

make a saw stop block to cut balusters

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

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