Your choice of deck railing design plays an important part in your overall deck design. Whether you’re looking at the deck from the back yard or you’re standing on the deck looking out into the yard – the style of railing will greatly impact the appeal of your deck. To increase interest and to keep your railing design from becoming boring, consider adding some sunburst deck railing (also called starburst deck railing).
Let’s be honest. A standard 2×2 deck railing design, while functional and efficient, is pretty boring – especially on a long run of decking. A sunburst deck railing design provides a more contemporary look and feel to your deck. It will cost a bit more than standard vertical 2×2 baluster railing, but not a great deal. You will still use 2×2 balusters, but the labor costs will be higher, simply because it takes more time to cut and install the sunburst style. There will be slightly higher materials costs as well, depending on the particulars of how you design and install your railing.
It is not necessary to surround your entire deck with a sunburst deck railing design. In fact, it is easy to overdo the design if you are not careful. I suggest that each section of sunburst railing pattern should be separated by a section of standard vertical railing. Make the sunburst sections an accent, not a dominating feature. The result should be areas of added interest. Too much sunburst becomes too “busy” and detracts from your deck rather than enhancing your deck. As a rule, I suggest that individual sections of sunburst patterns should be between four feet and six feet wide. But, you say, my sections between my posts are eight or ten feet wide. No problem. You will just add vertical 2×4’s, evenly spaced from your posts, so that you reduce the span to six feet or less. Then use standard vertical 2×2 balusters between the posts and the 2×4’s. Fill in the space between the 2×4’s with your sunburst design.
It is also unnecessary to have a sunburst design between each and every set of posts, although you may do that. It really depends on the size of your deck – specifically the length of the sides you want to spice up with sunburst sections. Just be careful not to overdo it.
Can I Do This Myself?
If you have reasonable carpentry skills, the right tools, and some time, this can be a do it yourself project. There is nothing difficult about the work, but it is important to plan it out properly. Remember to keep your span for the sunburst section under six feet. Draw this out on paper before you start. Measure the spans between your deck posts. If they are all the same, your job is easier. If not, you will need to select you sunburst section spans to conform with the spans between the posts. I’ll briefly explain the installation process for sunburst deck railing, but this will assume you already have the ability to install a standard 2×2 railing design. If you don’t, there are other places to learn that basic ability. For our purposes, let’s assume you have eight foot spans between 6×6 posts, and you are going to put five foot sections of sunburst design in the center of some of those sections. First, install the top and bottom horizontal rails between the posts. You will need them there in order to have something to secure the balusters to. Place two vertical 2×4 balusters 18 inches inside the posts so that you can cut the center span down to five feet. Find the center and plumb your first baluster there. From that center baluster, work to each side by placing the bottoms of each baluster against the preceding baluster, then fanning the tops out, leaving no more than four inches of spacing at the top. The code requirement remains four inches of maximum spacing. Continue this process until there is no space greater than four inches remaining. As you fan out, each baluster will get longer. Often the pre-cut balusters are not long enough for the longer pieces, so you will probably need to buy some eight foot stack pieces and cut them to length. Then simply install a second top and bottom rail to cover the ends of the balusters, and you’re through.
If you want a tighter pattern at the bottom of your sunburst section, you can cut each baluster on an angle so that they will fit closer together. You will have to cut the end of each baluster at an angle where the join the vertical post (or 2×4 if you used one to reduce the span). The bottoms and most of the tops of the balusters will be sandwiched between two 2×4’s so they will not be seen.
If you opt for a tighter pattern at the bottom of your sunburst railing design, you may need to include a half round piece at the bottom center to cover the angle cuts. Angle cuts will likely extend beyond the top of the bottom 2×4 rail, so after all balusters are installed, cut a half round or elliptical shape of sufficient size to cover them. This adds an additional bit of flair, so you may choose to do it even if you don’t need to cover up any cuts.
Sunburst deck railing can add a nice touch of flair and sophistication to your deck. Use it to transform a plain railing system into an eye catching work of beauty. Whether you do it yourself or you pay a professional, your deck can become a focal point of your backyard.