How to Build a Deck Railing | Ask This Old House

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In this video, Ask This Old House carpenter Nathan Gilbert builds and installs a railing for deck stairs that will match the original railing around the rest of the deck.

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Nathan Gilbert and Mauro Henrique make a house call to help a homeowner build, install, and paint a deck stair railing. The stair entrance to the deck on the front side of the house has a railing, but the backyard entrance does not. This troubled the homeowner because she has a young son that loves to play in the backyard, and she’s worried he might fall off the steps. Nathan agrees, there are four risers and any stairs that have over two should have a railing for safety. Since there are railing throughout the rest of the deck, Nathan plans to build a replica railing to match so it looks like they were always there.

Time: 5 hours
Skill Level: Moderate

Shopping List:
2x2” stock for the balusters []
4x4” stock for the posts []
2x4” stock for the top and bottom of the railing []
Stainless steel screws []
Structural screws []
Primer sealer spray []
Safety glasses []
Ear protection []

Drill []
Miter saw []
Circular saw []
Level []
Sander []
Measuring tape []

Steps for building a deck railing
1. For material, Nathan picked up wood made of fir, which is a great material for decks and is water resistant. It also takes paint better than pressure treated wood does.
2. Remove the bottom stair deck boards.
3. To find out what you need to notch out of the post, use one of the 2x4’s and plumb a level from the stringer. Make a mark on the inside of the level and take a measurement for the cut.
4. Take the notch out of the posts.
5. Make the top of the post from 45 degree cuts all around.
6. Drill a couple pilot holes at the bottom of each post for the structural screws.
7. Put the post in place, make sure it is level and plumb.
8. Secure posts by screwing in the structural screws.
9. Find the angle and length of the bottom and top rails by laying the two pieces together on the nose of each stair tread, and mark where they hit each post.
10. The angle of the rails will be the same angle the balusters will need to be cut.
11. Make the cuts.
12. Spray the ends of the balusters and rails with primer.
13. Assemble the balusters to the top and bottom railings.
14. Install it to the posts.

Where to find it?
Nathan built the deck stair railing out of fir decking in a variety of sizes, including 2x4”s for the top and bottom rails, 4x4”s for the posts, and 2x2”s for the balusters.

To cut the lumber to size, Nathan used a sliding compound miter saw, which is manufactured by Dewalt [].

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by William C. Gilbert Carpentry.

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From the makers of This Old House, America’s first and most trusted home improvement show, Ask This Old House answers the steady stream of home improvement questions asked by viewers across the United States. Covering topics from landscaping to electrical to HVAC and plumbing to painting and more. Ask This Old House features the experts from This Old House, including general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada, master carpenter Norm Abram, and host Kevin O’Connor. Ask This Old House helps you protect and preserve your greatest investment—your home.

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How to Build a Deck Railing | Ask This Old House

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