The 2×2 pickets (also called balusters) are cut and installed to complete the new deck rail. This project is continued from How to Build Code Compliant Deck Railing – Part 1. Also see How to Repair a Sagging Wood Deck for the project series introduction.

How to Build Code Compliant Deck Railing – Part 2

I purchased 2×2 inch by 8 feet long #2 grade pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine lumber, measured and sawed the pickets. The pickets are cut to span the distance from the 2×4 top rail to the 2×4 bottom rail with a 25 degree angle bottom cut for a drip-edge. My DeWALT miter saw was ideal for fast and precise cuts. Each picket is fastened with four (4) Simpson Strong-Tie SD #9 x 2-1/2 hex screws, which exceeds the #8 screw deck code requirement. This design complies with the Georgia Amendments Prescriptive Deck Details based on the 2012 International Residential Code per Figure 27 “Typical Guard Detail” on page 15. I prefer screws instead of nails because screws hold better than nails and can be easily removed to replace a picket.

Wood Deck Rail with Pickets Profile Drawing

Wood Deck Rail with Pickets Profile Drawing

I chose to mount the pickets outside the rail for a smooth and nicer looking rail.

Simpson SD #9 x 2-1/2 compared to #8 x 2-1/2 Wood Screws

The galvanized Simpson Strong Drive (SD) #9 x 2-1/2 inch hex head screw embeds equally deep in the wood as a #8 x 2-1/2 exterior wood screw. The SD screw is better for fastening 2×4 rails and pickets owing to the flat hex head which won’t push apart the wood like the bugle head #8 wood screw:

Build Deck Rail - #8 Deck Screw compared to Simpson Strong Drive SD #9 x 2-1/2 Hex Screw

Build Deck Rail – #8 Deck Screw compared to Simpson Strong Drive SD #9 x 2-1/2 Hex Screw

I do install the #8 wood screws when the screw head needs to be even with the wood surface, for example in the 2×6 cap rail and 5/4 deck boards.

The SD #9 screws are easy to drive and hold firmly with a magnetic 1/4 inch hex drive. Not having to hold the screw in your fingers is highly convenient when leaning outside the deck rail and hanging on with the other hand.

Simpson Strong-Tie SD #9 x 2-1/2 in Screw with Malco Magnetic Hex Drive Bit

Simpson Strong-Tie SD #9 x 2-1/2 in Screw with Malco Magnetic Hex Drive Bit

The 2-1/2 inch SD #9 screw is ideal for fastening 2x lumber without under- or over penetration:

Build Deck Rail - Fasten Pickets with Simpson SD #9 x 2-1/2 Screw

Build Deck Rail – Fasten Pickets with Simpson SD #9 x 2-1/2 Screw


Install the Deck Rail 2×2 Pickets

I drilled 1/8 inch strain relief holes for each screw to prevent cracking or splitting the pickets.

The deck code requires the pickets to be spaced such that:

“openings shall not allow the passage of a 4 inch diameter sphere; wet lumber must be spaced such that when shrinkage occurs, the maximum opening is maintained”

A kiln dried 2×4 block is ideal for spacing the pickets with 3-1/2 inch openings. Check each picket for plumb with a level, then fasten with four screws. I set the pickets tight against the block – which holding the block here:

Build Deck Rail - Install 2x2 Pickets with 2x4 Spacer Block

Build Deck Rail – Install 2×2 Pickets with 2×4 Spacer Block

When installing pickets next to a 4×4 guard post, one side may have an opening less than 3.5 inches and that’s OK per the deck code requirements. Resume the 3.5 inch spacing between pickets on the other side of the post:

Build Deck Rail - Install 2x2 Pickets

Build Deck Rail – Install 2×2 Pickets

View of the installed pickets. A couple of the SD #9 screws drove a little below the face of the picket because some pickets were softer than others. I had to adjust the torque on my cordless drill to prevent over driving. This photo was taken after a 2nd coat of redwood stain toner:

Build Deck Rail - 2x2 Pickets Detail

Build Deck Rail – 2×2 Pickets Detail

Deck corner construction closeup. Take care the space between the pickets at the corner is less than 4 inches wide:

Build Wood Deck Rail - Outside Corner Construction Detail

Build Wood Deck Rail – Outside Corner Construction Detail

The rebuilt deck rail. A plus for the new deck rail is the leaves go under the rail instead getting caught against the pickets like they did with the old rail when using the leaf blower:

Build Deck Rail - Finished Rail

Build Deck Rail – Finished Rail

I’ll rebuild the rest of the deck rail to match the new rail after replacing those deck boards that are incorrectly installed parallel to- instead of across the joists.

I’m back to working on the new 6×6 deck post in How to Install Deck Post Knee Braces.

Thanks for reading,

Bob Jackson

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