Tips for installing Deckorators code compliant aluminum deck railing
Prior to installing Deckorators aluminum deck rail kit, you may want to contact your local municipality about code requirements for both the height of the upper railing as measured from the deck surface and the open area from the bottom of the lower rail to the deck surface (known as the sweep). I’ll tell you about the standard ranges but keep in mind your local code could be different.
Due to the dozens of attractive Deckorators options, the most challenging part of this process is not the installation – it’s picking the type of baluster and the color. Deckorators originated the decorative balusters category and has provided innovative railing solutions for over a decade. Deckorators all-aluminum railing is specifically designed for use with all Deckorators baluster styles.
Important to note—there are two types of balusters: those that fit between the lower and upper rail and those that face mount to the side of the rails. If you elect to go with balusters between the rails, the holes for the connectors are pre-drilled here in the upper and lower rails. For those that attach to the side of the rails, simply turn the pre-drilled holes downward on the top and bottom rails so the rails don’t take on any precipitation.
Deckorators railing material has a lifetime warranty. It’s made of long-lasting aluminum, which does not rust and makes it ultra-low maintenance. It has a powder coated finish, which looks great, but can get scratched if you’re careless unwrapping and when you’re cutting or drilling. Be careful to not set the pieces down on any metal shavings. Keep your work area free of debris.
Prior to installing the deck railing, there’s a checklist to follow with your existing deck. This post sleeve is meant to fit over posts that are plumb -- not twisted or damaged. Replace the post if necessary. And structural support must come from the continuation of the deck support posts that extend up through the decking or from railing posts bolted to the inside of the rim or outer joists. Railing posts cannot be more than 6 feet apart (on-center).
Once you’ve determined that the posts are good to go, you’ll need to trim the post sleeves to length with a chop saw or circular saw. A carbide-tipped blade works best. Basically, sleeves should be 1-1/2” longer than the rail height. Common rail height is either 36 or 42 inches. However, if you’re installing the optional rail, you’ll need another 1-1/2” of sleeve.
It’s important to note that some wood preservatives may cause an undesirable reaction with aluminum, especially the raw aluminum edge. To prevent this, we have a liner inside the post sleeve and for the raw edge, I recommend shimming or caulking the bottom edge of the post sleeve. After caulking, install the post base trim.
Now it’s time to install the rails and balusters. To determine the length of the top and bottom rails, measure the distance between the installed post sleeves and then remove an additional quarter inch on each end to accommodate the bracket.
For spacing the balusters, Deckorators makes it a snap with pre-drilled holes in the top and bottom rails.
The idea is to try to match the uniform spacing between balusters to the spacing between the end balusters and the posts. To get the proper look, you want the greatest distance possible without exceeding 3-7/8”. To accomplish this, either line up the middle baluster with the center mark or, for spans less than 6 feet on center, line up the space between the balusters at the centerline.
Baluster connectors are secured with a screw on both the top and bottom rails. Be careful you don’t overtighten the screws. And do not insert the balusters until the bottom rail is installed within the brackets mounted on the posts.
To install the brackets, position the bottom rail by using a couple of 2x4 blocks placed under each end of the rail. Spacing of 3” is recommended for the distance between the deck and the bottom of the rail. This is called the sweep and may vary with local building codes. With the bottom rail in position, mark the location of the bracket on both posts. Then pre-drill through the sleeve only using a ¼” drill bit.
Before installing the bottom rail, you’ll need to attach a support block (or foot), cut to size, at the center line.
As noted earlier, some Deckorators balusters are attached on the face of the rails, in which case you would turn down the pre-drilled holes and mark the center line between the two posts. Then, either line up the center baluster or the center of the opening between two balusters. Remember that you want equal end spacing between the last baluster and the post and you don’t want this opening to be greater than 3-7/8”. Now you’re ready to drill the holes for each baluster. For spacing each baluster, I recommend using a small stud block, which is 3-1/2” wide.
The next step is to position and install the top brackets in the same fashion – being careful to pre-drill the bracket holes through the sleeve only. Now before installing the balusters, apply a little adhesive on the outside of the connector or inside the baluster to prevent any turning or rattling in the wind. For balusters that fit inside the rails, simply lower the top rail into position and connect the balusters, gently using a rubber mallet if necessary to eliminate gaps.
An option for a finished look is the cap rail. Cut the cap rail and cap rail insert to length. Something to keep in mind: the cap rail will be ½” longer than the top and bottom rails. Center the cap rail insert on top of the top rail and pre-drill 7 pilot holes for our 6’ span. Screw in the cap rail insert and apply construction adhesive. Situate the cap rail over the cap rail insert by pressing down from one end to the other until it snaps into place. Gently tap with a rubber mallet if needed.
Last item is attaching post caps, which are easily installed using construction adhesive. Choose from pyramid-style or solar post caps if you want to add ambient lighting to your project. Deckorators is the original and finest name in quality post caps.
Now, You should be ready to tackle your Deckorators railing installation with confidence. Be sure to follow the written instructions for recommended drill bit sizes and screws. And remember that deck stair railing kits are also available. See a video.