Dangerous deck (C) Daniel FriedmanMetal Baluster Installation Procedure
Deck Design-Build Online Guide

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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.

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Metal Deck Guardrail or Deck Rail Baluster Installation Procedures

Steps in Installing Metal Railing Balusters

Metal guardrail assembly (C) Daniel FriedmanMetal 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.

Pier installation details (C) Daniel Friedman Dangerous deck (C) Daniel Friedman


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Or see BALUSTER INSTALLATION for details of baluster spacing, installation, connections, & installation.

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