If you have an existing deck and want to spruce it up, adding a decorative railing can be just the thing you need. Of course, before you install the top and bottom rails, the balusters and the top cap, you must first install the posts to support it all.
The installation of decorative rail posts is a challenging, but not overly difficult job.  In most cases, only general knowledge of carpentry is required, but it does require an assistant.
Tools and Materials
  • Circular saw
  • Saber saw
  • Power drill with bits and countersink bit
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Lumber for posts (4x4s, cut to length)
  • Carriage bolts with washers

Putting Up Posts for Decorative Deck Railings

Safety equipment should be used whenever cutting wood. This includes eye and ear protection, work gloves, heavy-duty boots and a breathing respirator or air mask.
Before you can start, determine the best place to place the posts. They should be spaced evenly around your deck, one at each corner. At each post location, make a mark on the fascia or joists so you know where to make your cuts.
If your deck floor boards overhang the edge of the joist, the overhang will need to be removed to accommodate the post. Use a saber saw to remove the excess wood so the posts will rest flat against the fascia or joists.

Step 1: Sizing and Notching the Posts
When determining the length of the posts, make sure to include the height you desire for the railing (measured up from the deck’s surface) plus the thickness of the deck flooring and the width of the joist below that.
Next, the post’s base needs to be notched so it can be secured to the joist while the bulk of the weight rests on the deck’s surface. To do this, mark one end of the post to accommodate a cutout that’s two inches deep, or half the thickness of the post. Extend this cut the length of the measurement you took earlier (of the deck and joist). Use a circular saw to carefully make the cuts and then finish off the notch with a hammer and chisel so the corners come up clean.
Step 2: Installing the Posts
Have your assistant hold the post in place and check it for level. Then, use the power drill to drill pilot holes through the post and into the joist.
If you are using carriage bolts, use the countersink bit to remove a bit of wood from the pilot holes to accommodate the carriage bolt’s head so it doesn’t stick out. Drive the carriage bolts (with washer included) through the pilot holes to secure the post in place. Double check for level before you tighten the bolts. Check once again when everything is tight.
With your posts installed, you can now add your decorative rails, balusters and top cap.

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