Several manufacturers of composite decking now offer composite railing kits that are easy to install by do-it-yourselfers. Aside from the advantages of using reclaimed and recycled materials for your railings, composites are also virtually maintenance-free and come in a variety of styles and colors. Some railing systems are packaged in kits with all the components necessary to build six-foot sections of railing. Other companies sell the pieces individually. You may need to cut the components to size to fit your railing application.
Tools & Materials
Level; Ratchet and sockets or impact driver; Drill/driver; Railing support bracket; 16·gauge pneumatic nailer and nails; Posts; Balusters; Rail cap; 1/2″-diameter bolts, washers and nuts; Corrosion·resistant deck screws.
Composite deck railing systems are very durable and require only minimal maintenance.
Install railing support brackets, if applicable, to the posts using corrosion-resistant deck screws. For the railing system shown here, an assembly bracket tool sets the placement of the brackets on the posts without measuring.
Assemble the balusters, top, and bottom rails into the correct configuration on a flat work surface. Again, the assembly tool shown here sets the spacing of the balusters. Fasten the bottom rails to the balusters with 76-gauge pneumatic nails or deck screws, according the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Place the assembled railing section onto the railing support brackets and check it for level. Drive pairs of deck screws up though the support bracket holes and into the handrail. Toenail the bottom rail to the post with 16-gauge pneumatic nails.
How to Install a Glass-panel Railing
For the ultimate in unobstructed viewing, you can install a glass-panel railing system on your deck and avoid balusters altogether. The system shown here is quite manageable to install without special tools. It consists of a framework of aluminum posts and top and bottom rails that fasten together with screws. Extruded vinyl liner inserts that fit inside the top and bottom rails hold the glass without fasteners. Tempered glass panels that are at least 1/4″ thick will meet building codes, provided the railing posts are spaced five feet on center. It is recommended that you assemble the railing framework first, then measure and order the glass panels to fit the rail openings.
Tempered glass panels are both DIY friendly and code approved, provided you install them according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Insert the top post sleeves into the post ends, then measure and cut the top rails to length. Assemble the rails and sleeves, fastening the parts with screws. Check each post for plumb with a level before driving the attachment screws and adjust if necessary.
Measure the distance between the glass inserts and add 1/4″ to determine the height of the glass panels. Measure the distance between posts and subtract 3 to 6″ to find the glass panel width, less air gaps. Order glass. Install the bottom rails on the brackets.
Slip each glass panel into the top insert, swing it into place over the bottom insert, and lower it into the bottom channel to rest on the rubber setting blocks. No further attachment is required.