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Installing My Cedar Deck Railing Top Rail

Installing My Cedar Deck Railing Top Rail
This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Building My Deck Step by Step
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This is the last part of my step by step deck building series and it is now time for the final element that will complete the deck, the cedar deck railing installation.

On my deck I made the top of my deck railing out of a cedar 2×6.  I did this because I needed a piece of wood that was wider then the 4×4 posts it will be sitting on top of so therefore this made the most sense. Along with making the most sense it will look very nice since it creates more shadow lines, which can always be visually pleasing.

My deck railing top rail was divided into 9 different sections and where each section meets another it will require a miter joint to keep the look uniform all the way around.

railing sectionsAround the top level of my deck there are 4 outside miters and 2 inside miter joints to complete. On the stairway and landing there is another 2 sections and it requires another outside miter but the miter is on the 1½” side of the board not on the 5½” side.

Fit All the Joints One at a Time

Each individual joint will need to be fitted one at a time since the corners are not going to meet at perfect 45 deg angles every time. Wood is just that way and it is a wooden deck not a cabinet we are building so things are going to fluctuate somewhat.

As I went around the decks railing cutting each piece to the correct length and fitting each of the miter joints I also needed to strengthen the miter joints since end grain miters do not stay together with just glue. Another issue is if you do nothing to do the joint to keep them nice and tight, over time water enters into the wood and your joints begin to look like crap very quickly. So how did I get around this? It was pretty simple in fact.

hidden wood splinesUse Hidden Wood Splines to Strengthen Your Miter Joints

The way I added strength and more gluing surface to each of the deck railing miters I simply added a hidden spline. I cut splines ¼” thick by ¾” and made them about 5” in length. The router bit I had determined the thickness and width. Typically I used this bit for making tongue and groove joints in boards but it also works well for this task too. On every miter I added one slot and one spline, if you want to make this joint even better you could make two splines.

1 section of cedar railing installedFor fastening the deck railing to the deck posts I used 3½” coated screws and in each location. I installed 4 screws at each post location and between the post and the deck railing I used my outdoor wood glue. So if it was the end of the run the railing received 4 screws and wherever there was a miter each board received two screws on top and another across the corner of the miter.

To keep my deck railing nice and smooth on top and also to help resist getting water into the screw holes, I predrilled first, then countersunk the screw and completed each with a cedar plug. I did this on the screws that were drilled into the sides of the miters as well. Keeping water out of the wood will make a big difference in the length of life of the wooden deck.

IMG_0916Cedar Deck Railing Installation Is Complete

That is everything then, the cedar deck railing installation was the last task, which is done, and the deck is now complete. Our new cedar deck will last us for many years. Already we have enjoyed it immensely and have entertained often while barbequing and drinking a few beers with family and friends.

If you made it this far through my how to build a deck step by step series, Thank you very much I hope I was able to provide some assistance to a few!

Series Navigation<< Building a Deck Railing Design to Installation – Step by Step Deck Building Part 9 ....
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Warning: The topics covered on this site include activities in which there exists the potential for serious injury or death. BasicCarpentry.org DOES NOT guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information contained on this site. Always use proper safety precaution and reference reliable outside sources before attempting any woodworking or home improvement task!

One Comment

  1. I’m building a deck on my house. I have most of it down, but I just don’t know how to do the railing. I didn’t realize that it could be so complicated! It might be best for me to hire a professional to take care of it.

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