How to Build a Deck Railing

Lead Image
  • 4-5 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 400-700
What You'll Need
Wooden pickets - pressure-treated lumber 44 inches in length
2x4 pieces of pressure-treated lumber 12 inches long
2½ inch exterior grade screws
Variable speed drill and drill bits
Measuring tape
Wood pencil
Measuring square

A well-built, sturdy deck railing is essential to the safety of those who will enjoy and use your new deck. Railing will also give your deck a finished appearance. Follow this guide to build an attractive and functional wooden railing for your deck.

Step 1 - Measure for Pickets

Starting at a side corner of your deck, measured inward exactly 1 inch. Mark the spot with a pencil, and make a large X on the side of the mark away from the edge of the deck.

Start from your first mark and move along the edge of your deck. Measure and mark every 4 inches around the perimeter of the deck, and draw an X on the inside of each mark.

Decide where you want your staircase to be. Choose a 36-inch space where you will not install pickets.

Step 2 - Attach the Pickets

Using your measuring square, draw a plumb line for each picket at the marks you created before. Use a drill bit slightly thinner than the thickness of your deck screws to pre-drill 3 holes into the space for each picket: one at 1 inch from the bottom; one at 3¾ inches from the bottom; and one 6½ inches from the bottom

Next, secure the pickets to the deck by lining up them up to each plumb line, on the side marked with the Xs. The bottom of the picket should be flush with the bottom of the deck joists. Screw deck screws into the holes in the pickets to attach them to the joists.

Step 3 - Create the Lower Guardrail

Turn a 2x4 onto its side so its edge faces upward. Measure from the house to the point where you want the guardrail to end at the edge of the deck. Mark that distance on the 2x4. Beginning at that point, make a 45-degree cut on the wood, using the mark as the outer point of the angle.

Next, line up the 2x4 so that it is flush with the tops of the pickets. Attach the board to the pickets by screwing through the pickets and into the side of the 2x4 with two deck screws for each picket. Pre-drill holes to avoid splitting the pickets.

Secure the 2x4s on the inner face of the pickets—do not attach them to the outside face. Repeat the process for the other sides of the deck.

Step 4 - Build the Handrail

Lay a 2x4 flat on top of the pickets that have been attached to the facing 2x4s, creating an overhang of the pickets of about ¼ inch. Mark point for a 45-degree cut so you can form corners.

Square cut the 2x4s where they meet the house and stairwell opening. Secure the handrail to the house by screwing in deck screws at a 45-degree angle.