The Fourth of July holiday is upon us once again next week. Among many other traditions this time of year, it’s Dale‘s classic summer post for everyone embarking on their getaways. Even though it technically is the Gin & Tonic Rail, all libations are welcome. What favorite drink will you have on the deck rail this weekend?
Have you ever driven several hours to a lake cabin and walked out on the deck and said, “Wow, what a view!” Then you sat down in some casual deck furniture and were disappointed with the loss of that view due to an ill designed deck rail. You totally missed the loon passing by or your daughter’s first attempt at snorkeling? As a designer, I’m infuriated by such railways and have created a solution to deal with it.
Railways have to meet a building code of 36” (residential) off the deck floor. Most builders fabricate a standard rail with heavy horizontal support boards at the top of the rail. When we sit down in a deck chair five feet away from the railing, this heavy cap obstructs our view down to the water. We can appreciate the steadiness of the railing, but we paid too much money for the lake view to have it obstructed.
My suggestion as seen in this drawing below is to place a heavy rail horizontally approximately 2′-3″ off the deck floor. Above this add two metal rods horizontally so that the top rail meets the 36” code guideline. The code also mandates that no opening between the rods or rails be greater than 4”. There I fill in with vertical rails below to within 4” of the deck floor. Another designing tip, a 4” gap at the bottom for the rail makes it easier to sweep leaves off the deck.
The cross section with the heavy horizontal top rail comprised of a 2 x 8 is off centered towards the inside of the deck. This facilitates anchoring the rail to the support posts and aligning the vertical rails with the posts. Most importantly, if you sit down you’ll not only see the water, but you’ll have a perfect place to set your Gin and Tonic! Cheers, and have a terrific Fourth of July weekend!