There are many design properties that can be built into your deck railings in addition to their safety elements. Standard ‘builder deck’ railings are the most simple to build and install, while other railing systems may require an architect or engineer to sign off on their integrity. In either event, railings are crucial to meeting codes and keeping people safe.

Required Materials

  • 1×3″ outdoor stock
  • 1×2″ outdoor stock
  • sandpaper
  • screws
  • nails
  • bolts
  • carpentry glue

Deck Railings 1 How to Build Deck Railings

Required Tools

  • hammer
  • drill with full bit set
  • circular/table saw
  • pencil/paper
  • chalk line
  • level
  • string


  • Layout – A railing system is a fairly easy system to lie out and construct. Stiles are the vertical pieces of your railing system. Cut as many to length as needed to make the distance satisfy your local code. Although there may be subtle differences that you should check, most code dictates about a 4″ space maximum between stiles.
  • Cutting to Length – If you are building a standard ‘building’ railing, decide whether you will be attaching the stiles just to the railing elements or to the face joist of the deck below as well. Cut the stiles to length, keeping code heights in mind.
  • Style and Drilling – Cut the outside corner of the top end of the stile off at whatever angles you choose for design flair. Drill two screw holes into the newly cut portion of the stile – one above the other – and countersink.
  • Corner and Mid-Posts – If the corner posts of the deck do not reach above the decking proper, you may need to cut the decking to continue the post – or install a corner post above the decking. In some instances you can simply use a slightly larger piece of stock to act as the corner post.
  • Attaching Stiles – Use the bottom of the face joist as a guide when installing the stiles. A pre-drilled hole is good for galvanized nailing. Create a jig for spacing between stiles and then nail them in place. As you reach the 10′ length, add another vertical support to accept the header board. This board will support the upper end of the stiles and often comes in 10′ lengths.
  • Header Board and Cap – As the stiles continue to be placed and nailed, begin to place the header board. This board will connect the system together. At each stile, place the drill into the already drilled hole and continue drilling the hole into the face joist. Screw the stile to the header. For added strength, drill galvanized nail holes into the cap piece and header piece. Nail the cap to the header.
  • Painting – Painting or staining will seal the wood. If you have cut all of the stiles, it will be easier to paint or stain before you install them.

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