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How Do You Attach a Railing to a Deck?

Attaching a vinyl or aluminum deck railing to a deck may seem like a complicated process, especially if you’ve never done it before. However, with the right instructions, it’s actually not difficult at all. You can have your railing installed in an afternoon if you have all of the materials and tools on hand. If you’ve built a new deck or if your porch railing needs replaced, the following guide will help you complete this task quickly and easily.

Do Things in the Right Order

The first thing to do is to make certain you do things in the right order. Before you put up the railing, you need to make certain your deck doesn’t need any repairs, that you’ve painted everything that needs to be painted, and that you’ve taken care of any other tasks that may be more difficult to do with the railing installed. You also want to handle any repairs or change that could potentially damage your railing. 

The second thing to do before you can begin installing railing is to get all of the measurements you need. You want to make certain you get enough railing to go across the length of your porch. This measurement will also help you identify how many railing posts you need. 

Now that you have the measurements and have prepped your space, it’s time to go buy all of your materials. Once you have everything on hand, it’s time to begin installing the railing.

Install the Balusters

The balusters or posts are the first items to install. These vertical posts are there to support your railing. They’re connected to the support structure under the floorboards of your deck. Do not connect these balusters to the flooring itself—while that may be strong enough to support the railing on its own, it won’t provide enough support if someone falls into the railing or even leans heavily on it.

If you’re installing an aluminum or vinyl deck railing on a wooden deck, you’ll use long screws to attach the balusters to the support beams under the outside edge of the deck. If your deck or porch has a concrete foundation, you’ll have to use a drill to drill holes into the concrete before using special concrete screws to secure the posts. When installing the balusters, be very certain that you space them the correct distance apart. Otherwise, the railings may not fit.

Install the Railings

Next, you’ll install the railings between the balusters. Many people find it easier to install the railings between the posts as they go, while others may install all of the posts first. There are advantages to both methods.  Installing the railings as you go does help ensure that all of your posts are spaced the correct distance apart, for example. 

In some cases, you may install the end-most railings right into the side of the house or other structures. If you have support columns that hold up a roof over the deck or porch, you may also be able to secure your railings to these columns. It all depends on how your deck is set up and the distance between any existing supports.

Swivel Fittings and Stairs

Don’t forget to install a post and swivel fittings for your stair railings. The posts you use at the top and bottom of the stairs will likely be the same as those you use on the rest of the railing, but instead of connecting the railings like usual, you’ll first install a swivel fitting. This fitting allows you to angle the railing to creating a safety banister on each side of the stairs. You’ll need swivel fittings for the posts at both the bottom and the top of the stairs.

Caulk the Joints

Finally, once the railing is up and secured, you want to take a caulking gun (or tube of caulking if you don’t have a gun) and seal up all the joints. This will keep moisture from getting into places it shouldn’t be. Once that’s done, you can finish up by painting the railing if you like. Otherwise, your deck railing should be finished!