How to Build a Deck Railing with Copper Pipe

What You'll Need
Pre-cut copper pipe
2x4 Lumber
Drill and bits
Claw hammer
Pry bar
Tape Measure
Safety Goggles

Wood isn’t the only option for deck railings anymore; in fact, home owners are increasingly turning to metal deck railings, like those made out of copper pipe. Copper pipe deck railings are more expensive than the traditional wood option, but they provide extra stability and security, and can also add a unique aesthetic dimension to your deck. Best of all, though, after they’re installed, they require virtually no maintenance. Building your own copper pipe deck railing requires some advanced planning and the use of advanced equipment, but by following the steps outlined below you can easily do the job yourself.

Step 1: Get the Deck Ready

If you just built a brand new deck from scratch and now you’re installing the copper pipe railings as the last step, then you can go ahead and proceed. However, if you’re replacing old, deteriorated wood railings with copper pipe, then you need to remove the old railings before you can do anything else. Use a claw hammer and drill to remove any nails and screws, and remove the posts and balustrades. You may need to use your pry bar to remove everything.

Step 2: Order Copper Pipe

Unlike wood or aluminum, copper pipe is difficult to cut to size by yourself, so your best bet is to buy pre-measured copper pipe for your project. Some manufacturers even sell complete deck rail kits, with all the pipes cut to the size you need in one package. Make sure that the copper pipe you buy will fit the size of your deck and adhere to building codes for residential homes. According to the International Residential Code, the deck railing has to be at least 36 in high, the spacing in between the balustrades can be no more than 4 in, the gap between the deck and the bottom of the rail cannot exceed 4 in, and rail posts cannot be more than 6 feet apart from each other.

Step 3: Position the Railing

The next step is to take your pencil and carefully mark all the areas on your deck where you’ll need to drill holes to accommodate the copper pipes. Use your tape measure to make sure the spacing is accurate and conforms to the guidelines desscribed above.

Step 4: Install the Posts

If your deck has stairs leading to the ground, you’ll need to dig holes in the ground in which to insert your copper rail posts. On the deck, place the rail posts and use a level to make sure they’re completely straight. Pre-drill two holes in the deck, and bracket the rail posts securely in place.

Step 5: Install the Frame

The balusters (or vertical bars in the railing) will be installed in between two horizontal framing bars. To affix a copper frame to the copper rail post, you may either bracket them together, or use a welder to permanently affix the metal parts. However, only use the welder if you have had previous experience, and always remember to wear your safety goggles and gloves. Make sure any children or pets are not in the vicinity while working with dangerous equipment.

Step 6: Install the Balusters and Top Rail

With the frame in place, you can install the copper pipe balusters, by either bracketing or welding them in place. Finally, the last task is to install the top railing. Don’t forget to test the entire deck rail for stability before sitting back and admiring the fruits of your labor.