Design & Planning

What to Know About Deck Railing Height

December 9, 2020

The key to an eye-catching outdoor living space? A polished perimeter. If you’ve chosen enduringly beautiful composite decking, opting for durable deck railing is the next logical step. We’ll cover:

  • Different components of a deck railing system.
  • Correct deck railing height — plus, the right width of your balusters and height from deck surface to bottom rail.
  • Your deck railing options.

What Is a Deck Railing System?

When you think “deck railing,” you may think of it as a single piece tracing the outside of your deck. In reality,  deck railing is a system of interconnected (and often customizable) parts.

Parts of a Deck Railing System

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The top rail is the uppermost piece of rail that connects to the top of the infill.

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The bottom rail is the piece that runs along bottom beneath the infill.

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The infill is what fits between the top and bottom rail, filling the inside of the rail. It can be made of glass, composite or metal balusters, or CableRail.

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The skirt is a covering that surrounds the bottom of the post.

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The post is a vertical piece that sits in between the infill and connects the top and bottom rails.

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The cap is the piece that sits on top of the post. It can sometimes include lighting.

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What Is the Right Deck Railing Height for My Deck?

In the U.S., the International Residential Code (IRC) dictates the minimum required deck railing height.

Note: Please be sure to check with all local building codes in your municipality and state before beginning any projects. Thoroughly review the relevant Railing Installation Guide before beginning.

Deck Railing Height for USA Decks

Deck Railing Height & Spacing Requirements

For single-family homes: The IRC requires guardrails to be at least 36" in height measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail.

California is the one exception. The requirement there is 42”.

There are a few additional minimum height and width requirements to keep in mind, especially if you’re interested in DIY-ing your railing.

Spacing Requirements for Balusters

The balusters, or upright portions between posts, should be spaced no more than 4” apart.

Note: This won’t apply for a glass panel infill, which is one solid piece of glass.

Spacing Requirements for Bottom Rail

For most states, the distance between the surface of the deck and the bottom rail (the bottommost bar, running perpendicular to the deck) should be no more than a 4” gap.

What Are My Deck Railing Options?

With TimberTech, you have your choice of composite or aluminum railing systems.

White Radiance Rail by TimberTech

Composite Railing

  • Impervious to moisture damage: A composite core with a 4-sided cap covers the backside and grooves and contains no organic wood filler.
  • Enduringly beautiful: Whether you go traditional or modern, your composite deck railing system won’t weather like wood railings do.
  • Environmentally friendly: Composite railings from TimberTech are made from up to 50% recycled material.
TimberTech aluminum railing systems

Aluminum Railing

  • Offers an attractive wrought iron-inspired look: Powder-coated aluminum keeps the look sleek and inviting, and the timeless profile ensures clear sightlines.
  • Incredible durability: Won’t rot or deteriorate and resists fading, staining, and scratching. Plus, exceptional moisture resistance protects against corrosion, fading, or warping.

TimberTech Composite Railing Options

TimberTech® Aluminum Railing Options

Need to Visualize Your Deck With Railing?
Go beyond just considering deck railing height and compare the look of different railing systems with our 3D Deck Designer tool.
LAUNCH DECK DESIGNER

Choosing Your TimberTech Deck Railing

Composite Deck Railing by TimberTech

Once you’ve decided between aluminum or composite railing, customizing the perfect complement to your deck is easy. Just follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose Your Top Rail

The top rail will either be aluminum, composite — or, in the case of Drink Rail, a moisture-resistant TimberTech composite deck board.

Step 2: Choose Your Color

Select the right hue for you. Choose from black, white, or shades of brown/bronze for a polished perimeter that will complement your outdoor living space, whatever the aesthetic.

Step 3: Choose Your Infill

Your infill is the portion that “fills” the space between the top and bottom rail. Choose from infill options including:

Cable Infill With CableRail

CableRail

Go for contemporary and industrial-chic with this infill that maintains clean sightlines.

Aluminum Infill Metal Balusters

Aluminum Balusters

Available in both square and round varieties, this durable option can go modern or traditional.

Composite Balusters Composite Rail

Composite Balusters

For a classically elegant look, go for enduringly beautiful composite balusters.

Glass Channel Kit Infill

Glass Channel Kit

A sleek glass infill pairs well with sweeping views or a second-story deck. Glass not included.

Now that you know some best practices when it comes to deck railing height, as well as your options, you’re ready to explore the 2020 Outdoor Living Catalog. Get the inspiration you need for not only your railing system, but your entire backyard escape.

Aluminum Deck Railing: The Perfect Frame to Your Space

See our full railing portfolio and more in the 2020 Outdoor Living Catalog.  

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