If you take notice when you drive down a neighborhood street, the houses have many different and interesting types of handrails on their front porches. They are usually made with pressure treated lumber, metal or a combination. In this article we are going to talk about making railings out of all wood.
Since there are several ways that you could construct handrails from wood, we are going to start by discussing the simplest railings with minimal materials and tools. Once you know the basics, you can make your own modifications that make the railings your own.
• Tape measure
• Power drill with a Phillips head screw bit
• Circular saw
• Two foot carpenter’s level
• 3- ½ inch galvanized wood screws
Basic Building Code Regulations
Here we will quickly mention some common codes that you need to be aware of when adding railings to a porch or deck. It is best to use pressure treated lumber to be sure to comply with local codes. However, if you need to match a different type of wood, most areas allow for other types of wood that have a natural resistance to weather such as redwood or cedar.
Decks that exceed 30 inches from the ground are required to have a railing 36 inches high. Any openings on the sides of the railings should not permit a 4 inch sphere to pass through. Handrails are required on stairs that have more than 4 risers. Stair handrails should be from 34 to 38 inches in height according to most codes, you should always check your local code to be sure.
Constructing Simple Railings
Our simple design will be constructed with a combination of one 1x1s and 2x4s. The secret to making your railings strong is to make sure that they are anchored to proper newel posts on all ends and corners.
This simple method in particular relies on the construction of sturdy corners and ends. In this design we simply have a two by four on top laid down flat so the wider edge is presented to your hand.
The balusters are made from one inch square lengths that have another short 1×1 that braces it to the side board of the deck. Cut the larger of the 1x1s to the height that you want the railing minus the thickness of the 2×4.
Then cut the second 1×1 to cover most of the face of the side board and overlap the larger 1×1 by 3 inches. Usually six to eight inches is a good size.
Then fasten the shorter 1×1 to the larger one so that it overlaps the bottom by 3 inches. Be sure to use galvanized screws for this task.
Now you should have a vertical baluster that gets placed vertically on the edge of the deck floor and the smaller 1×1 overlaps both the larger 1×1 and the face board of the deck simultaneously.
Make as many of these as you will need to place them every 4 inches and set them aside to be used when the top railing has been assembled. Now simply put up your newel posts and run your 2x4s face up on top of the newel posts so that they are between 34 and 38 inches from the floor.
Now you can secure everything with galvanized screws and attach your banisters so that you cannot pass a 4 inch sphere between them. Many popular railing designs will have the 2×4 top railing as ours and a 2×4 at the bottom of the vertical balusters as well so you have a ladder like structure that is then normally supported every 4 feet by additional 4 inch high supports that are attached to the floor.
Photo by Andrew, Creative Commons Attribution License