Whether you’re concerned about safety, trying to get a little privacy from the neighbors, or just interested in a fun and creative way to make your porch look prettier, a nice deck railing is a great addition to any house.
While you could hire a contractor to have one built for you, many homeowners and DIY enthusiasts have found that building a deck railing can be a surprisingly fun and simple project — as long as you have a good plan and the right tools for the job.
Building a deck railing for yourself can be much cheaper than having one built for you, and it can also be better for the environment. Home improvement projects are a fantastic opportunity to recycle old materials into something new.
Let’s get to work and break down the basics.
Important Details to Consider When Building a Deck Railing
Before you start any major home improvement project, it’s a good idea to take a moment and check with your local planning and building department to make sure that you aren’t going to run into trouble with building safety requirements.
They should be able to let you know if you need any special permits and explain any specific legal requirements for your area.
Deck Railing Size and Type
Typically, the building codes standardized by the International Residential Council require deck railings to be at least 36 inches tall. California, however, requires a minimum of 42 inches. Again, it’s best to double check the building codes before beginning work.
Measure from the deck surface to the top of the railing to determine the height of your rail. You’ll also want to measure the width of the deck that you’re planning to modify to find the length of the railing you’ll need.
Once you have the measurements, you’ll need to decide what type of deck railing you want to build for your DIY project. There are many options available, and which one you choose depends on your taste, style, and budget.
Picket Fence Wooden Railings
Picket fence wooden railings can be fashionable and sturdy. Well-treated wood is a wise choice for safety. But it can require a lot of maintenance to stay in good condition and may block a lot of the view you want to enjoy from your deck.
Cable railings in a wooden or metal frame are ideal for keeping a clear view of the scenery and can make for a great opportunity to reuse or upcycle old ropes and cabling. Metal cables make for a more expensive version of this style, but also, a much stronger and more lasting one.
Glass panels are stylish and provide an excellent view. Although they might seem expensive to work with at first, the cost of materials can be surprisingly cheap if you can find old window panes or other discarded glass panels to recycle as part of your project.
Metal frames are among the most durable and long-lasting options, provided they’ve been properly treated to prevent rust. They can also be an excellent choice for a homeowner who wants their project to hold up over the years, no matter the weather.
Types of Materials to Use
Your building material is dependent on where you live and your local climate. For example, a homeowner living in a damp, tropical region like Florida needs to pay more attention to waterproofing and mold resistance than someone working in dry, arid environments like Arizona or New Mexico.
In general, any design needs something sturdy for a frame and some way of blocking out the space between posts. These options can range from solid panels to intricate rope frameworks to classic fence posts, but for any option, it’s ideal to reuse old materials where you can.
In particular, hog wire and other mesh panels can be a fantastic choice for anyone who wants a more open view. They are extremely sturdy without blocking the lovely scenery of your backyard.
If you’re building a railing on an existing deck instead of starting from scratch, you’ll want to take the design and material of the deck itself into account to make sure your finished design looks cohesive.
Take a close look at the plan before you begin to see what tools you’ll need for the project. A primarily wooden frame will have different requirements than a purely metal structure.
If in doubt, it never hurts to try calling your local hardware store. Their more experienced staff will likely be able to advise you on what options would be the best for working with your preferred materials.
Free Deck Railings Plans to Consider
Once you have your tools and materials and know what you want to do, it’s just a question of drawing up a plan. Fortunately, there’s no need to make up your design from scratch (unless you want to). There are tons of fresh and creative ideas online, readily available for anyone to use.
The internet is a storehouse of DIY ideas ranging from simple beginner projects to complex advanced plans. Home improvement fans of any experience level should be able to find some designs suited to their needs and taste.
Here are a few great DIY deck railings plans we’ve collected for you. They are free to use and ready to go.
Building Deck Railings by HowTo Specialist
If you want a perfect tutorial for a beginner project, look no further than this one. Their instructions are clear and meticulous with straightforward diagrams and solid results. An ideal choice for someone just starting to experiment with DIY projects who wants a reliable plan.
My Outdoor Plans: Deck Railing Plans
Extremely detailed instructions for a classic, wood fence-style railing. Simply laid out and easy to follow, it’s a practical choice. While the author mentions having premium plans on their website as well, the basic plans are all available for free and work like a charm with no extra spending required.
Hog Fencing Modern Porch Railing
This railing is a solid old classic design. It is not only simple to build, it is also a great choice for those who don’t want to spend too much on materials. This design is a beautiful example of how hog panels and other types of mesh fencing can work for a DIY project.
No-Maintenance Deck Rails DIY by Family Handyman
An incredible find for anyone who hates dealing with tedious, repeat maintenance to keep their home in good repair, this DIY design makes excellent use of aluminum and other weather-resistant materials for a long-lasting design that takes little to no effort to keep in perfect shape.
Basic Deck Railings
This plan features an exhaustive step-by-step detailing of how to build a basic deck in multiple formats that’s presented in a handy interactive fashion. It is a standard design, but it offers instructions for different styles and materials, so it is an excellent plan to give mixing and matching various options a try.
DIY Wire Deck Railing
This wire deck railing is a solid and reliable design, ideal for anyone with a solid understanding of DIY work. You may want to be careful with this plan if you are not confident using power tools. But if you are an experienced builder, it should be an easy project on a minimal budget.
DIY Chicken Wire Deck Railing
A fantastic option for someone not looking to spend too much on the basic materials for their project, this is a variation of the DIY hog wire mesh paneling project redesigned for a lower budget. This design plan is best when used for a smaller deck size, but can easily be scaled up for use on a much larger project if necessary.
DIY Chippendale Style Deck Railing
The tutorial for this plan provides a refreshingly simple look at how deceptively easy it can be to make this complicated-looking wooden design. Though the project can take a while, the work itself is a lot more straightforward than you might expect. The finished product is lovely when complete. Even beginners will have few problems smoothly and steadily completing following these instructions.
Wooden Deck Railing Plans
This detailed plan is for the specialists. The author goes point by point into making and installing a wooden deck railing, and how to make it last under some of the most extreme weather conditions. This plan will likely be best for those who are already confident with DIY projects, and it could be a good choice for you if you’re tired of replacing damaged or moldy railings but still love the gorgeous look of polished wood.
Rod Railing System
This DIY railing is a rugged, practical combination of wood and metal that can also be good for use on long stretches of property that need to be cleanly fenced — much like it’s being shown for the very creative, floating tree walkway in the video tutorial.
DIY Wooden Sunburst Railing
This DIY idea is a lovely design that is stylish and delightful to look at. The process of putting all of it together is a lot simpler than you may expect, and the attached tutorial walks you through the whole thing fairly easily, even if you’re not already familiar with woodworking as a craft.
Easy DIY Deck Railing
This deck railing plan is a nice (and easy look at) combination of wood and metal deck railing that is suitable for beginners. That said, while the instructions are clear and the design’s final product is solid, this one tends to lean more toward assembly than pure DIY work, so you might want another option for something more customizable.
Horizontal Deck Railing
This option can be a great choice for anyone who happens to be interested in a clean, modern look. It’s stylish without being too complicated, and straightforward without getting too bland. Overall, this choice could be an excellent introduction to woodworking.
The wonderful thing about all these DIY projects is the sheer variety of plans available for anyone who wants to find one. There’s a DIY deck railing out there for everyone, no matter your decorating style or level of experience.
You can build many beautiful and inexpensive cable deck railings without breaking the bank: Cable deck railings, intricately woven wooden lattices made to serve as privacy screens, clever builds made of upcycled glass window panes, reused hog panels, and brand new constructions of wire mesh and wood. Anyone can do these projects smoothly and at cheap prices.
All you need to succeed is the DIY plan that suits your tastes. Find the right tools for the job, head on out there, and get to work. Then enjoy your new deck railing.