New Deck Railing Advice
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Thread: New Deck Railing Advice

  1. Top | #1

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    New Deck Railing Advice

    We're having some landscaping done and as part of that project, I'm going to replace the deck railing we have now. We've never liked the railing and have finally decided on the style that we want to replace it with. I'm hiring the landscaping done, but I'll want to do the railing myself.

    Here's the current railing....
    Click image for larger version. 

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    You can see that it's pretty much off the shelf, lumber yard generic styling. (Yeah, I know - I need to fire up the weedeater! )

    The new railing will have posts with railing sections between the posts. My big dilemma concerns attaching the posts. I want the railing to be somewhat over the deck, not totally hanging off the edge. The easiest thing would be to notch 4x4's, 4x6's or 6x6's and attach them to the outside board. BUT, I know that a notched post is inherently weaker than a non-notched post, especially attaching it to where you'd be pushing against the weaker attachment point if you were leaning on the rail.

    The other option would be to pull up the outside couple of deck boards and install notched posts inside the structure and then cut the deck boards to fit around the posts. In this case, I'd want to notch the posts to push the overall structure towards the outside edge of the deck. In spite of the increased amount of time and labor this would take, I'd do it if this were the preferred method.

    If I go with the second method, how would I go about attaching railing posts around the deck supports at the corners and the angled joints as shown in the pic above?

    Any advice on the best way to build the supports would be appreciated!
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    Senior GTT Super Slacker Gizmo2's Avatar
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    I built this in 2006.

    2006...
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    Today...
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    No nails at all, only screws used were in the deck boards.
    The aluminum balusters were the best money I ever spent.
    Baroque Aluminum Balusters - Deckorators
    Last edited by Gizmo2; 07-23-2017 at 01:42 PM.
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    My rails

    I can get more detailed if you like.

    Steve

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    tj1
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark02tj View Post
    We're having some landscaping done and as part of that project, I'm going to replace the deck railing we have now. We've never liked the railing and have finally decided on the style that we want to replace it with. I'm hiring the landscaping done, but I'll want to do the railing myself.

    Here's the current railing....
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	20170723_124833_resized.jpg 
Views:	8 
Size:	2.10 MB 
ID:	415922
    You can see that it's pretty much off the shelf, lumber yard generic styling. (Yeah, I know - I need to fire up the weedeater! )

    The new railing will have posts with railing sections between the posts. My big dilemma concerns attaching the posts. I want the railing to be somewhat over the deck, not totally hanging off the edge. The easiest thing would be to notch 4x4's, 4x6's or 6x6's and attach them to the outside board. BUT, I know that a notched post is inherently weaker than a non-notched post, especially attaching it to where you'd be pushing against the weaker attachment point if you were leaning on the rail.

    The other option would be to pull up the outside couple of deck boards and install notched posts inside the structure and then cut the deck boards to fit around the posts. In this case, I'd want to notch the posts to push the overall structure towards the outside edge of the deck. In spite of the increased amount of time and labor this would take, I'd do it if this were the preferred method.

    If I go with the second method, how would I go about attaching railing posts around the deck supports at the corners and the angled joints as shown in the pic above?

    Any advice on the best way to build the supports would be appreciated!
    My advice and its advice we give to any builder who doesn't know the current deck codes or has questions; is to type in DCA6-09 on your web browser and it will give you the code for any part of a deck you have questions about including railing supports and how to make that connection, it is also the IRC codes which is nation wide now for 1&2 family residential homes and in place in all US states, (you may just have a different year, we are still in the 2009 codes here in Ma soon to change to the 2012 version) .... We as inspectors have to make inspections on lots of decks and the worst thing I have to do is comment about how a deck or rail system does not meet the intent of the code and they have to take it apart... It also puts that 200 pound guard and rail rating into prospective.. You don't appear to be 30" from grade in spots and that alone lets you off the hook for a necessary guard system in those areas but to be safe it's advisable to comply.. Hope you find the site informational.. especially the "notching" the 4X4 part..... I know; damn building inspectors, I hear it constantly! Good luck and nice decks Giz, they look inviting..
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmo2 View Post
    I built this in 2006.

    2006...
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    Today...
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    No nails at all, only screws used were in the deck boards.
    The aluminum balusters were the best money I ever spent.
    Baroque Aluminum Balusters - Deckorators
    I like that, thanks for the link
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  10. Top | #6

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    i would second the thought of aluminum balusters. That is what I have also and they are great and in a number of different designs.

    I would also suggest the hand rails be made from man made decking materials. It really saves on the maintenance.
    etcallhome and Gizmo2 like this.
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    Several comments from 35+ years in the business, with no disrespect to anyone or any other suggestions intended. First most manmade materials are not rated nor strong enough for railing duty, especially over longer spans, >6'. Check the manufacturers specs before using. Second post should be notched and attached to the side of running joists NOT the outside band joist. When attached to the band joist the post are actually levers and too many people leaning on a rail attached incorrectly have caused failure where the whole band joist railing system peels off. I have always subscribed to the two fat guys drinking beer at a rowdy barbecue approach, if it won't hold back two 300 lb people getting frisky it's not well made. Most rail/baluster systems like those pictured in the op have very poorly single nail (usually a box nail to avoid splitting the baluster)top and bottom fastenings on the balusters and would never prevent someone who has tripped and fallen from blasting off a bunch and allowing them to fall off the deck. Placing the baluster inside the rails would be a huge step in the right direction. To answer the corner post notching issue, while notching a 4x4 post on two sides reduces the remainder to a 2x2 this post now has support from two adjoining runs of railing and the 2x2 is usually ( if a well picked knot free piece) strong enough for the job.
    Years ago I looked at the time needed to properly lay out spacing and fastening for a solid and good looking rail system and came up with something that takes a little longer, not much, and holds up over time. It is clean looking with minimal wood and stronger than any wood rail/baluster system I have seen. In my opinion woods like cedar,cypress and redwood while attractive and naturally resistant to decay are totally unsuitable for rails as they are not strong enough to be safe. In the 1980's mahogany was very inexpensive here in Massachusetts and I did many decks and porches using it for decking and rails. Now it has tripled in cost so #1 PT is more cost effective and very strong.
    Top and bottom rail is 2x4, top can be 2x6 but it takes a second jig. Top rails run over posts and are as long as possible, I try to have a post at least every 7' or less. There is some careful measuring and a little math, one of the very few times a calculator comes in handy on a job I think. I made a router jig of 1/4" plywood and 3/4x3/4 strips that fits over the width of the 2x4 with a fence on each side and then a box to limit router travel on the other side. The base of the router stops on all four sides against the box and with the correct bit, usually a 3/16 or 1/4" I get pocket 1/4" deep that have the same radius of premanufactured balusters. I drill a centered hole in the bottom rail in each pocket and an off centered hole for drainage. Rails are assembled on a set of horses with a couple of planks top. Each baluster after being cut to length in bulk is inserted into bottom pocket and secured from below with a 3" exterior screw. When bottom rail is completed the top rail is started at one end inserting the baluster top of the first few and loselly clamping with a bar clamp. Work your way along inserting baluster and using a second or third bar clamp. Top rail is attached to balusters with several finish stainless screws driven diagonally thru the baluster from the side just under the rail. When attached to posts this setup is incredibly strong, balusters are impossible to knock out without breaking, there is minimal wood with almost no visible fasteners and it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The edges both top and bottom can be routed with any one of a number of different profiles to suit individual taste with all corners and ends on the top of the top rail done after installation to insure smooth transition from one piece to the next.
    I no this is exceptionally long winded and maybe difficult to follow. There is also no pictures. I can provide a picture and more details on the math etc. if anyone is interested. Railings on a deck are extremely important to safety in my mind and these have stood the test of time, there is one I made on our laundry deck 31 years ago that is weathered but still very strong .
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  12. Top | #8
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    You may want to give some thought to something maintenance free. I've done wood decks in the past. You have to apply a maintenance coat to them every three years or they really start to look like crap and become rough as the grain lifts. I will admit, finding a composite or manmade deck material has had it challenges as well. The number of class action laws suits against decking manufactures speaks to that.

    I've been utilizing "Brock Deck". I originally encountered the product back in the early '90s when researching dock materials. I ended up going with an aluminum dock with "Brock Dock" decking. It is a PVC material very similar to PVC pipe. I purchased that dock in 1992 and I still have it today. It looks as good today as the day I purchased it. The "Brock Deck" is identical with the exception of the top finish pattern.

    My only complaints are the stuff is crazy expensive (and it is not even painted green) and somewhat labor intensive to install. Pictured below is my beach house balcony and stairway I utilized it on about 10 years ago.

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    The railing posts are PVC sleeves. Initially, I had planned on utilizing the routed post (rectangular holes routed into them the top/bottom rails slid into). These utilized a steel liner post. These were time consuming to mount as they required a pocket be built in the joist and then when installing, using cedar shakes as shims to assure they were plumb. In places where a pocket couldn't be constructed, I utilized a surface mount steel liner that attached with lag bolts, such as on top of a gluelam beam. These were time consuming as well as they had to be shimmed for plumb. Here are some photos of the main house deck construction from last winter that depict this:

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    They discontinued the routed railing system and the distributor is now supplying a similar product that has PVC post sleeves that slide over a 4x4. The rails are inserted into a pocket that attaches with screws. There are a number of different suppliers for this railing system. I'm going to be ordering the main house railing components this spring and at this point, I believe I'll be sourcing it from:

    Great Railing - Quality Decking, Fencing & Railing

    I'm going to retain the steel post liners that I have in place. I'll fit some 4x4 treated blocks into them for screw backers for the rail pockets. The non-routed rail posts sleeves are intended to be dropped over a 4x4, presumably treated. If you've worked with treated lumber at all, you know it comes very "wet" and has a tremendous amount of shrinkage as it dries, not to mention warpage and twisting. Depending on the cost differential, I may inclined to utilized treated parastrand posts, aka: Timberstrand. I utilized these for the deck support columns, under the gluelam beams. This selection was more about the difference in load limitations between 6x6 treated lumber posts and the 6x6 treated parastrand. Here is a photo:

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