By Gene and Katie Hamilton
The railing around a deck can be a distinctive design detail while it creates a secure enclosure and safe footing on the stairs. A railing can be ordinary or intricate and add value to its construction while it meets local building code requirements. If you're building a deck or replacing a railing, keep in mind that hand rails are mandated by local codes for decks of a certain height.
A deck contractor will charge $665 to replace 30 feet of cedar railing with end posts, balusters (either square or spindles), a cap rail, and post end caps and trim pieces. That includes labor and material. You can buy the cedar components and bolts and fasteners for $290 and do it yourself, and save 56 percent, assuming you have carpentry experience.
The job involves removing the old railing and making any necessary repairs to the decking. Measure the length and width of railing needed for the deck, being careful to follow any specifications from your local building department for the height and spacing of railings. Take a rough sketch of the deck to a lumberyard or home center to get advice about the amount of materials and the type of fasteners you'll need. When you remove the old railing system, note how the posts are attached to the deck structure, then reinstall the new posts in the same manner. For tools you'll need a carpenter's square, tape measure, hammer, circular saw, electric drill and screw gun.
For inspiration about deck features, a new book, 'Deck Idea You Can Use,' offers plenty of ideas.