Remarkable Redwood Railings


A curved redwood railing ornaments a semi-circular redwood deck. Post/columns are hollow redwood boxes with built-in lighting and custom cut decorative moldings on top and bottom. Uprights alternate in size for extra design interest. White paint was used to provide a crisp contrast to the rich cinnamon color of the redwood deck and top railing and to blend with the color of the house.

raillam.jpg This curved redwood railing elegantly defines the shape of this redwood deck. The curves were achieved by laminating thin boards, gluing them together and shaping them with a vise. Double top railings and carefully spaced uprights are the stylish components of this artfully crafted design.

railcut.jpg Hand-crafted redwood railings are characterized by a whimsical heart motif. The artful capitals which top each post were also carefully machined and crafted by the builder. The railings are a finishing detail on a redwood deck addition to a Tudor-style house.

railcopr.jpg Unusual Craftsman-style railings built with knot-textured Construction Heart redwood were faced front and back with wood shingles to echo house materials. Redwood railings were champher-detailed to add extra elegance. Uprights are one-inch copper pipes which will weather to a blue green patina to match the trim color of the house.

lights.jpg Redwood deck and stair railing uprights were handcrafted in a hexagonal shape to echo design elements used throughout the deck. The addition of lights on the top of posts makes this deck fun to use at night.

kiefer.jpg Contemporary railing features a combination of redwood tongue and groove siding and sleek brushed stainless steel piping. The angular pattern of the railing placement adds extra eye appeal.

Unique redwood deck railing features a classic Chinese lattice pattern. The 19x50-inch panels were pre-assembled and then mounted into a standard redwood post and rail system.

Cheerful red metal piping was used to create the railing system on this B grade redwood deck. The pipes are supported by columns faced with diagonally-placed redwood. The railings were angled to provide space for an inviting triangular redwood bench.

orrient.jpg Every year the California Redwood Association receives hundreds of calls and letters from do-it-yourselfers asking for deck railing ideas. In response to these requests, the Association has compiled the following summary of railing design trends and how-to information.

In the nineties, railings are curved and angled to define the shape of the deck. Redwood posts are intricately routed, machined or carved in rounded, geometric and classic patterns. Posts are often topped by interesting added details such as capitals, moldings or lights. The spaces between the posts are filled in with redwood patterned inserts or detailed uprights that can alternate in size for extra design interest.

Increasingly, redwood is being combined with other materials such as metal piping, bricks and glass to create unique railings. Another trend is the incorporation of redwood benches and planters into the railing design.

One thing that never goes out of style is quality, and redwood is a classic for decks and railings because of its beauty and decay- and insect-resistance. There is a grade for every use, and redwood is a good choice for railings because its dimensional stability means that components will stay in place and not warp, cup or bend. Do-it-yourselfers enjoy working with redwood because it is lightweight and easy to saw, shape and bend.

When working with redwood in an outdoor application, be sure to use stainless steel or top-quality hot-dipped galvanized hardware. An application of a water repellent finish is also recommended.

Whether a redwood railing is down-to-earth or fanciful, it usually consists of similar elements and is built with the same basic rules and techniques. According to most building codes, a deck railing should extend from 36 to 40 inches above the deck surface.


Redwood railings typically consist of three elements:

  • Railing posts--4x4 railing posts should be spaced four feet on center, with posts located at deck corners and against stair stringers.
  • Rails--these two-inch members extend between posts and support the balusters. Some railings are designed to have three rails: a top rail, a bottom rail and a capital. Other railing designs have only a top rail or top and bottom rails.
  • Balusters--typically 2x2's, balusters are installed vertically in a conventional railing. The space between balusters should be six inches or less. In some railing designs, baluster ends are cambered or beveled for appearance.

Remember to design a redwood railing that doesn't encourage sitting unless it is intended for that purpose. Railings should be sturdy barriers erected at the deck's edge without completely obstructing the view.

Railing supports should be securely fastened to the framing of the deck. They should be bolted to joists or beams, or they may be an extension of the post.

With a little imagination and know-how, a do-it-yourselfer can design and build a redwood deck railing that is creative and functional and blends beautifully with the design of the house and deck to which it is attached.

A good idea-starter is the 12-page, color booklet, Redwood Landscape Architecture. This features state-of-the-art decks, railings, trellises, gazebos, fences and other amenities. It is a hardworking information source which discusses the properties of redwood and shows grades and sizes suitable for landscape applications. It also suggests beam and joist spans, hardware, nailing patterns and finishes. Send $1.00 to California Redwood Association, Department LA6, 405 Enfrente Drive, Suite 200, Novato, California 94949.

Courtesy of the California Redwood Association