There are two basic deck railing systems available to the homeowner and a third is now rapidly becoming popular. The most common of these three is the pressure-treated wood baluster with bottom rail system sold in lumber yards and home centers across the country. The second type is a cedar or redwood picket with bottom rail system that uses support posts at regular intervals along each side of the deck. The newest deck railing system involves using only half round pickets (or panels) made from composite materials such as recycled plastic, wood fiber or aluminum alloys which do not need any hardware at all other than 2x2s placed between them every 8 inches or so for added strength.
The first question you should ask yourself when designing your deck is what type of system will look best with the overall style and architecture of my home. Then also determine if you need the major support offered by a deck railing system that uses posts placed in the ground every few feet across your yard, or whether or not the more minimalist design of an all picket or half-round panel fence will be sufficient to meet your needs and complement your home and property.
Another fundamental concern when choosing a deck railing for your wooden decking project is how well it will resist decay from moisture, both from rain as well as being constantly exposed to water vapor rising up off the ground below. If you live in areas where there’s a lot of snowfall during winter months then this factor becomes even more important so it’s even more crucial to choose a deck railing that is designed for harsh outdoor environments. Additionally you’ll need to consider if the system you choose has enough weight and density to resist being easily pushed over by adults or children leaning on it, or perhaps strong winds that might occasionally occur.
The first type of deck railing most people think of when they decide to create an attractive barrier around their wooden decks is the pressure-treated wood baluster with bottom rail option made available from lumber yards and home centers across the country. This system uses pressure-treated 2x4s as posts placed every 8 feet or so apart in the ground sunk at least 6 inches deep so they won’t move about during wind storms. Then straight ¾ inch x 1½ to 2 inches pressure-treated wood balusters are used for the side rails and top rail, with bottom caps added to the end of each post and at the ends of the horizontal boards. This is a very common deck railing system that has been around forever as it’s considered one of the most economical ways to enclose your deck area while still offering strength and durability.
Pressure treated wood has been used in America since before WWII when this was considered an innovative use of wartime surplus lumber. Today an estimated 4 out of every 5 decks built in America or Canada utilize some type of a pressure-treated wood product whether for its strength, low cost, fast availability or ease in application. Pressure-treated lumber comes from woods such as Western Red Cedar and other species that are naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attacks but have been processed with a preservative treatment (such as TCC) in order to make them even more resistant to rotting.