Build a top notch deck

Five strategies for DIY deck-building

By Steve Maxwell

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3. Safe & Solid Railing Design

The most powerful railing design advantage begins with your deck’s support posts, the ones that rest on the concrete piers. Instead of cutting them off at deck-floor level, extend the posts high enough to form the main uprights of your railing whenever you can. This takes a little more planning up front, but the result is a super-solid railing that never loosens.

The best design for your project depends on how high the deck floor is above surrounding soil. If it’s low to the ground, then building codes typically don’t require railings to meet safety parameters. (Double-check with your building inspector to determine what’s right where you live.) In cases like these, the best railing designs include routed pockets in vertical railing posts that hold horizontal railing members. These look good, they don’t interfere with snow removal and they’re very easy to paint or stain.

If your deck is going to be high enough to require a railing for safety reasons, then consult your building inspector for the proper spacing and height required to stay out of trouble. You may also find that a removable railing design is worth thinking about. The ability to take sections of railing down for refinishing and repair is a valuable advantage.


– 36″ to 42″ top railing

– support post continues through to railing

– less than 4″ openings between balusters

– less than 2″ spacing below lower rail


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