Install Stair Railing

To install stair railing (using the following myCarpentry deck stair design), the stair stringers should already be installed, along with the risers and treads.   If they aren't, see the building stairs section for easy to follow instructions. 

Building a Deck

myCarpentry Deck Building Links
Design Framing Footings Decking Stairs  Railing Stair Railing

Railing should be required if your deck or porch is high enough off the ground so that stepping off of it might be a safety hazard.  You should also check your local building code for deck heights requiring railing.

Stair Railing

Install Stair Railing

[A] - Typical Railing

Stair railing requires at least one post at the foot of the stairs and one post at the top to receive the upper stair rail. 

Attach a 4" x 4" x 4' post to the lower outside end of each outer stringer.  You can use a post anchor or hurricane straps to connect the bottom of the posts to the concrete footing.  Don't worry about the length of the lower posts now.  They will be cut to the appropriate length in a later step.

Stair Railing
[B] - Install Stair Railing - Stringer and Rail Post Framing

Once the posts are attached at the base of the stringers and the concrete is poured, make sure that the posts are perfectly plumb before the concrete sets up.  Once the concrete has cured, it will be safe to mark and cut the posts without fear of knocking them out of plumb.

With both upper and lower posts attached, place a level (or other straight-edge) on the tips of the treads to determine the rail pitch.  Make a small pencil mark (indicated as c on diagram [C]) on the front of each post where they intersect with the top of the straight-edge.  While the straight-edge is in position, measure the pitch angle with a speed square.

Note:  If you used the stair calculator, the Stair/Rail Angle is provided in the calculation.

On the front of the lower post, make a small mark at 32" from the top of the tread on the first step (the mark is indicated as d on diagram [C]) (this will be the front height of the lower post).  From that point, mark the angle of the stair pitch.  Transfer the marks around the post and cut with a circular saw.

Stair Railing Elevation
[C] - Stair Rail Framing (Side View)

Once the angle has been cut on the top of the lower post(s), measure the distance between mark (c) (made by the intersection of the straight-edge) and the lower point of the pitch cut (d).  On the upper post, using this measurement, measure up from the straight-edge mark made earlier and make another small mark.  This will be the position of the bottom of the hand rail cap.  

Now that the upper and lower posts have been prepared, it is time to mark and cut the upper and lower picket rails.  Using the same method used to mark the posts for the pitch-cut, cut a 2x4 at a length that exceeds the distance between the inside of the upper and lower posts. 

Hold the 2x4 up to the posts along the points of the treads and mark the pitch angle on the upper and lower ends, using the posts as a guide.

Using this board as a template, place it on another 2x4.  Mark it and cut it the same length.  These are the upper and lower picket rails.

Attach the upper and lower picket rails to the posts as shown in diagram [D].  Layout for the pickets is the same method used on the standard deck rail sections (6" on center).

Stair Railing Elevation
[D] - Install Stair Railing - Stair Rail Section Complete

 Of course, there are many ways to install stair railing.  The above method is one that I have used many times and always looks great!

For deck design and structural information, check out the Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide, by the American Wood Council.

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