How to Reinforce Deck Railing Posts

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Things You'll Need

  • ½-inch galvanized carriage bolts, washers and nuts

  • Drill and ½-inch bit

  • 2-by-8 pressure-treated lumber

  • Chop saw

  • Mallet

  • Deck tension ties

Reinforcing your deck railing posts is important to family safety.

Deck railing posts, usually made of heavy 4-by-4 inch lumber, may tend to wobble a bit, an undesirable feature where safety is concerned. Posts often benefit from reinforcement, especially those located on an end joist, which tend to wobble the most. You can reinforce deck railing posts during initial construction or as a retrofit if problems become more noticeable over time.

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Step 1

Investigate possible causes of wobbly deck railing posts, recommends the Simpson Strong-Tie Company in "The 5 Warning Signs of an Unsafe Deck" (see References, below). In older decks, check for missing or loose nuts on the galvanized bolts holding the post to the joist. Replace or tighten as necessary.

Step 2

Add ½-inch galvanized carriage bolts and matching washers and nuts if the post is held by nails only. Clamp the post in place, remove the nails, drill ½-inch pilot holes 1 inch from the top of the joist edge and the bottom of the post for maximum reinforcement, and bolt the post in place.

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Step 3

Add blocking between joists for either new or retrofitted construction. Cut 2-by-8 pressure-treated lumber to a length that will fit snugly between the joists ( typically around 14½ inches for joists installed 16 inches on center). It's best to measure carefully, cut the blocking a hair long, and trim it back gradually on a chop saw until it fits snugly, requiring a mallet to fit between the joists.

Step 4

Place blocking on either side of the deck posts. Nail the blocking in place with galvanized nails.

Step 5

Add deck tension ties for maximum reinforcement of deck railing posts (see Resources for manufacturer). Bolt the post through the rim joist and into a hole in the base of the deck tension tie, which resembles a large joist hangar. Nail the deck tension tie to a joist using the eight holes provided. For posts on the end joist, bolt the post into the base of the deck tension tie and nail the tie to a piece of 2-by-8 blocking.

Tip

Design your deck so that each corner features two offset corner posts rather than one. This design offers more reinforcement and is also a simpler installation, according to Scott Schuttner in "Building a Deck." Space the posts 4 inches apart to avoid needing a baluster to meet code spacing requirements.

Double the end joist to reinforce the deck railing posts.

Sandwich four lengths of blocking together and fasten in place on the inside of the rim joist as an alternative style of blocking. Fasten the post using 12-inch galvanized carriage bolts and matching washers and nuts to the joist and its blocking.

Warning

Avoid notching the posts when installing on the outside of the joist to avoid a reduction of their strength.

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references & resources

Rogue Parrish

An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.