Hometime Team
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Trans 1) Deck Overview Trans
2) Materials & Tools
3) Preparing Siding for Ledger Board
4) Preparing Ledger Board
5) Attaching Ledger Board
6) Digging Footings & Pouring Concrete
7) Cutting & Raising Posts
8) Installing Beams
9) Installing Joists
10) Installing Deck Boards
11) Building Stairs
12) Installing Railings

Installing Railings

Deck railings are comprised of posts, top rails, bottom rails, spindles and cap rails.

Posts (usually 4x4 stock) are installed first at the corners of the deck and at intervals no greater than about 8 feet.

There can be a single post set at each corner or 2 posts on either side of the corner with no more than 4" between them

Installing RailingsThe posts are set against the rim joist, so if there's an overhang on the deck boards they should be notched in flush with the rim joist where the posts go.

To secure a post, first set it in place and plumb it in position. When it's plumb, trace reference lines to show where the tail should end up on the rim joist and set the post back down.

Spread exterior construction glue over the inside surfaces of the notched area.

Set the post back in place, line up the tail with the reference lines and drive in a couple of galvanized screws to hold it in place.

Then finish securing it by pre-drilling for 2 lag screws and driving those through the tail into the rim joist. For a stronger connection use carriage bolts, which go all the way through the post and rim joist and are secured with washers and nuts.


Notching Posts

Notching Posts The bottoms of the posts are often notched out so part of the post sits on the deck.

Typically, the notches are cut to the height of the rim joist and to a depth of about 2", leaving a tail 1-1/2" thick on a 4x4 post.

Use a circular saw to cut along the sides and then set the blade for 2" to cut across the face of the notch.


TIP: The circular saw doesn't quite reach far enough in to finish the cut. But if you hammer on the notch, it'll break the waste free and you can chisel away the remaining waste.

CAUTION: Check with your local building department about any special requirements for attaching railing posts. Some may not permit notching. Some may require the post to be screwed to more than just the rim joist.



Assembling Railing Sections

Assembling Railing Sections Once the posts are all secured, you can attach the rails individually to the posts or assemble the railing sections on the deck surface and set them in place as units.

Measure between the posts to get the exact lengths of the rails, cut those and lay them parallel on the deck.

Most building codes require that the spindles on a railing have no more than a 4" gap between them. So with 2x2 spindles (which actually measure 1-1/2" x 1-1/2") the spindles should be spaced no more than 5-1/2" on center. It usually looks best to measure the space between each set of posts and for each section of railing calculate a gap between spindles (equal to or less than 4") that will create even spacing.

After cutting the spindles to length, nail or screw them into the rails at their marks to finish each section.


Setting Railing Sections

Setting Railing SectionsOnce a railing section is assembled, set it in place between the posts and angle screw through the sides of the hand rail and the bottom rail into the posts to secure it, or use galvanized connectors.

To align the railings in the center of the posts, put marks at the center of the post and at the centers of the rails. Then line those up during installation.


TIP: It's hard to hold the railing section in place while you secure it, so cut 2 blocks of wood to the exact height you've allowed between the deck and the bottom rail (2-4"). Set the blocks next to the posts and rest the bottom rail on those as you line up and secure the hand rail.

Install all the railing sections before setting the cap rails, which go over the tops of the railings and the posts.

Center the cap rails by leaving equal overhangs on each side and secure them by screwing or nailing down through them into the rails and posts.



Setting Stair Posts

Setting Stair Posts On a stairway, you can notch the post tails to let part of the post sit on the tread. However, this cuts into the walking area, so the posts are often secured directly to the stringers without notches.

The posts are generally secured before the tops are cut to height, so the stairway itself can help determine the height and the angle.

To determine where the top of the post should be cut, set the tongue of a framing square (the 16" side) across the front of the treads above the post and use a straight-edge (like a level) to transfer the angle at the top of the blade (the 24" side) to the side of the post. That represents the cutting line. Use a square to transfer it to the other 3 sides and cut the top with a circular saw.


Setting Stair Rails

Setting Stair Rails On stairways, it's easiest to set the rails and spindles individually rather than in sections

For the hand rail on stairways, lumberyards usually have special stock molded on one side for gripping.


Attaching Stairway Spindles

Attaching Stairway Spindles Once the rails are done, mark the spindle location on the hand rail.

To get the same span on the stair rail as on the deck rail, first divide the stair run into the rise. Multiply the result by the span used on the deck rail. Take the square of that figure, add it to the square of the deck rail span and find the square root of that, which will be the spacing to use in marking the stair's hand rail. It'll be a bit longer than the span you used on the deck rail, but since the stair rail sits at an angle you'll end up with exactly the same horizontal spacing between the spindles as on the deck railing.

Use a level to plumb down to the bottom rail from each mark on the hand rail and mark off a matching mark.

Cut the spindles to the length needed with the appropriate angles on the ends and attach those to the hand rail and the bottom rail.


Attaching Skirtboard

Attaching Skirtboard If you've been planning a skirtboard, you can install that after the railings are done.

Cut the boards to fit between the post tails, and nail them into the rim joist.