How to Build Wood Deck Handrails

To give a deck that perfect finishing touch, as well as to address safety concerns, it needs to have a handrail around it. Here Danny shows how to construct the railings and spindles from pressure treated wood.

The top rail is made from a horizontal 2×4 while the bottom rail is secured vertically with a beveled cut to shed water. 2×2 spindles are toe nailed into the rails before the whole unit is set in place. The top rail is then capped with a piece of 5/4” material to finish it off.

Be sure and check your local building codes for approved heights as well as for the gap allowed between the spindles.


  1. I have a ? for you Danny. I watch your shows alot and I love them. Their really helpful to me because I’m a do-it-yourselfer myself. My ? is how hard is it to add a ledger to brick for a deck? Again, I love your shows and please keep them coming. Thanks alot.

  2. Some one is building a deck for us. The handrails are yet to be built. The carpenter was planning to split treated 2×4’s for the spindles. My husband is afraid that they will warp so he told him to use the full 2×4. It does not look as good. Will the split 2×4’s work good? Also, after viewing your video section, I understood that the 2×4 at the bottom of the rail should be vertical and the top one should be horizontal. Was the 2×2 spindle centered between each 2×4. And, is it necessary to round the edges of the spindles to make them look nicer?
    Thank you very much,
    I enjoy your show very much when I get a chance to watch.
    Cathy Saffell

  3. Hi Cathy,
    You’re right, 2×2 spindles look much less cluttered and use half the material of 2x4s. Anytime you rip wood, there’s a chance it will bow due to internal stresses and uneven moisture content. This is particularly true of pressure treated pine, since it’s not the most stable wood and usually comes still wet with preservative. I would rip them, cut them to length, and stack them out of direct sunlight for a few weeks before installing to allow them to acclimatize. Alternate the direction of each layer in the stack and leave a gap between each spindle so air can circulate, then discard any warped ones before installing. You can either round the edges or not, but since the 2×4 edges will probably already be slightly rounded, it would look best if the cut edges matched. Use a router or shaper with a round over bit to mold the edges. A better—but more expensive option—is to buy treated 2x2s that are made for use as spindles. The reason for a vertical bottom rail and horizontal top rail is that it allows the bottom rail to provide support against sagging while the top rail resists sideways movement. The spindles are centered over both rails.

  4. The deck in the house we just bought is only 2 feet above grade with no railing and no posts. How can I install a railing with no posts to stiffen the railing. With the deck only 2 feet high there is no way to reach under the deck to secure railings. Someone can easily fall off the deck accidently and hurt themselves.

  5. Hi,
    In building railings for a deck you say:
    “…. the bottom rail is secured vertically with a beveled cut to shed water. ”
    Could you precise where the bevel is?


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