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Metal baluster choices & installation: this article describes options for choosing & installing commercial or site-built metal balusters in wood or other guardrail or stair railing assemblies.
This article series describes methods for design-build projects for decks and porches, including deck stairs and railings. The page top photo shows my graddaughter Quinn Morgan Ascending stairs protected by metal guardrails but not designed for toddlers.
Metal Deck Guardrail or Deck Rail Baluster Installation Procedures
Steps in Installing Metal Railing Balusters
Metal balusters offer a distinctive look for your deck, and they are not difficult to install. Large home centers, suppliers of stair parts, and online vendors are good places to shop for a suitable product.
Powder- coated metal tubing can be found in several colors. An inch outside diameter is best. Some manufacturers offer matching post caps and decorative centerpieces to dress up the railing.
Type K or L copper tubing is another option that I've seen recommended by some writers but have never once encounterd in decades of deck & rail inspection. To use copper pipes as balusters, select 5/8-inch nominal tubing, which has a 3/4-inch outside diameter.
A railing made with metal balusters is easiest to build in sections, although it can also be built in place on the deck. The main difference is that the rails are installed on edge, so that no dadoes are needed in the posts. Begin by cutting the top and bottom rails to fit between the posts, then clamp them together on edge.
1. Prepare the Metal Baluster Mounting Holes
Calculate the baluster spacing. Instead of making a spacer as we discussed at DECK RAIL BALUSTER INSTALL , however, mark an on-center layout for the balusters on the two rails. To drill straight holes to a consistent 3/4-inch depth, use a drill guide or a drill press. Use a 3/4-inch Forstner bit.
2. Assemble the Metal Deck Railing
Unclamp the two rails, clean the chips out of the holes, and put a small amount of silicone caulk into each hole. Insert the balusters tightly into one rail, and then fit the other rail over the baluster ends. With one rail clamped in place, use a hammer and a piece of wood to tap the other rail to ensure that all balusters are fully seated in their holes.
3. Attach the Metal Deck Railing Section
Lift the railing section into place. Fasten the rails to the posts with small angle brackets on the rail bottoms and screws or nails driven at an angle through the rail tops into the posts. If you like, install a 2x6 cap rail on flat
Watch out: as we illustrate below, with any guardrail and baluster system, connections are critical for the safety of the assembly. Missing, incomplete, loose (photo at left), or improperly selected connectors risk a collapse of the railing and serious injury. The photographs just below show a flimsy factory-assembled metal guardrail assembly that was modified by the owner during installation. This rail led to a nasty fall and serious injury.
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Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
 Mark Morsching, Everflashing, Tel: 800-550-1667, Email: email@example.com. The Everflashing product comes in G-185 and Stainless Steel and is intended for use with treated lumber with copper in it. Everflashing produces a variety of specialty flashing products including flashings for use with decks at deck ledgers and deck perimeters.
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Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Ms. Hudson is an SEO copyrighter / content writer. She has provided background research and text for InspectApedia's articles on deck and porch construction methods & procedures. April 2013.
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