How to Install Metal Deck Railings

Metal railing with illumination in the railing caps

Metal deck railings offer durability, style, and versatility for your deck. They also provide extra safety and security for your guests, family, and loved ones as they enjoy the great outdoors. With many styles of prefabricated metal deck railings on the market and plenty of DIY kits, you have a ton of choices when shopping for this addition to your deck.

You can realize several benefits from metal railings for your deck:

  • Durability: Metal deck railings do not succumb to the elements like wood does.
  • Security: There are no cracks or weaknesses you might find in wood railings.
  • Style: Manufacturers offer several styles to fit your aesthetic.
  • Versatility: With powder coating, you can choose one of three colors with Trex metal deck railings.

We'll take a look at how to install metal deck railings from start to finish as part of your beautiful outdoor space and as a way to improve your existing deck.

Types of Metal Deck Railings

Metail railing on a patio

There are three different types of metal railings for decks on the market today: stainless steel, wrought iron, and powder-coated aluminum. Stainless steel is appealing because of its silvery luster. Wrought iron is a classic choice with its sturdiness and paintability. Powder-coated aluminum is extremely durable and powder coats can come in many colors.

Of these three types of metal railings for decks, aluminum is the one that is most maintenance-free. Stainless steel comes in a close second with its corrosion resistance. Wrought iron can be prone to rust due to harsh winter weather, so you'll need to watch out for that. While wrought iron can be painted over, you may need to touch up the paint every year or two.

What to Consider Before Installing Metal Deck Railings

2nd level with a metal railing and a stone walkway

Metal deck railings offer many benefits. You have a few things to consider before installing them.

The budget, determined by the size of your deck and how many metal railings for your deck you'll need for the project, can fluctuate by a few hundred dollars. You need to account for the outer perimeter of the deck but also any stairways. Do you want to install it yourself or hire a contractor? A contractor will cost more money than a DIY kit.

Local building codes come into play, too. They vary from state to state. In some instances, you may need a permit to install your deck's metal railings. Check with your local building code office for more information.

Will a Metal Deck Railing Match my Style?

Metal deck railings come in many styles to match your aesthetic appeal. Wrought iron can have the classic fleur-de-lis tips at the top that embellish your deck in a traditional style. Stainless steel offers a modern touch, while powder-coated aluminum is both contemporary and eclectic if you choose a contrast to the colors of your deck or home.

Glass deck railings offer a popular option because they provide unobstructed views when sturdy, tempered glass is installed using appropriate bottom and top rails in between posts. You can also go for cable-style deck railings made of thin metal cables for another see-through choice.

How Long Do Metal Deck Railings Last?

Powder-coated aluminum metal deck railings can last 20 years or more. The powder coating resists rust, corrosion, and chemicals, and non-wood deck railings don't suffer from the same ravages due to ice and rot. Do aluminum railings rust? No, they do not because aluminum is a non-ferrous material.

Do Metal Deck Railings Get Hot?

Brown metal railing

Yes, especially in direct sunlight. However, aluminum works differently. Does black aluminum deck railing get hot? Yes, but it dissipates heat more readily than other metals and even wood. The key is being out of direct sunlight. Once sunlight no longer touches aluminum deck railings, the metal quickly loses its heat, whereas wood maintains its heat for several minutes after being out of direct sunlight.

How Much Do Metal Deck Railings Cost?

The cost of metal railings for a deck can run anywhere from $40 to $55 per linear foot for aluminum. There are many factors that can dictate the final installed cost of a metal deck railing. The amount of railing you need and the material are two. The ultimate cost of aluminum deck railing will depend on whether you’re installing it yourself. Hiring a contractor drives up your expenses when talking about how much a metal deck railing costs.

Are Metal Deck Railings Easy to Install for Do-It-Yourselfers?

Yes, particularly when metal deck railing do-it-yourself kits are available with step-by-step instructions. You'll need a helper or two along with the right tools. But handy homeowners can complete metal railing installation in a weekend.

How to Cut Metal Deck Railing

Chop saw cutting through metal railing

Aluminum can be cut with a standard saw blade just like wood to be custom fitted to your design. Some systems come in pre-manufactured steel or aluminum panels that are easy to install. Metal rail systems are usually top-mounted to the deck surface by bolting the rail posts into the framing. In order to accomplish a solid connection, you will be required to install blocking into the framing to provide a stable foundation for the posts, and always consult and adhere to local building codes.

Tools Needed to Install Metal Railings

Installing metal deck railings requires a few tools. 

You'll need:

  • Cordless drill with screwdriver bits
  • Chop saw with a blade that can cut through metal
  • Level to make sure you install the metal deck railings without any slant
  • Tape measure
  • Rubber mallet
  • Retractable utility knife
  • Marker, pencil, or pen

How to Install Metal & Aluminum Deck Railings

Installing a metal deck railing requires careful planning and at least a weekend afternoon for someone who's handy. Before you cut a single piece of aluminum deck railing, you'll want to measure your deck and draw out a sketch of a plan for how to install metal deck railing properly. This should be done even before the decking is installed to ensure proper blocking is in place for surface-mounted posts. Surface-mounted posts are installed after the decking is in place, so it’s very important to have this framing done correctly to allow for this.

Step 1: Space & Mark Post Locations

The first thing when learning how to attach a metal railing to your deck is to space and mark the post locations. Using your tape measure, mark the spots on your deck where the aluminum posts will go. Posts are generally 6 to 8 feet apart, depending on building codes and whether the deck is for a residential or commercial building. 

Step 2: Attach Metal Post to Deck

Pre-drill holes in your deck where the metal posts will go. This will make attaching the metal posts to the deck easier. Set your first metal post upright and secure it with one bolt before going to the next one. Consider having a buddy hold the post upright until you can get the first bolt or two on it. Use your level to make sure the post is exactly vertical. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for proper post installation to ensure you are following all install requirements.

Step 3: Attach Rail Brackets to Posts

Once all of your metal posts are fastened to the deck, it's time to get to the rail brackets. These brackets hold the rails against the posts firmly and at the right spacing. Attach brackets per your manufacturer’s instructions. You may need a cordless drill to install the brackets, and the posts should be marked to show where they go.

Step 4: Install the Bottom Rail

Because each metal deck railing kit is different, review the detailed instructions that come with the one you purchased in order to ensure that all the steps are followed in the correct order. In general, you will start with the bottom rail. Each bottom rail has premade holes for balusters with the correct spacing. Fasten the bottom rail to the bottom brackets using a level to make sure it's straight.

Step 5: Position & Fasten the Balusters

Each baluster should snap easily into place into the bottom rail. Balusters are spaced no more than 4 inches apart. Use your level to see if the balusters are perfectly straight.

Step 6: Install the Top Rail

Next, install the top rail snugly over the balusters. Again, these have premade holes in them for a snap-tight fit. After the top rail aligns properly, secure it to the top brackets on each end. Take a few sights with your level to ensure the rail is perfectly straight. 

Additional Feature: When determining how much deck railing costs, you might want to consider adding lighting to your overall plan. You can install deck lights along the railing to add some extra ambiance to your late-night outdoor gatherings. You’ll want to install any deck lighting before putting caps on.

Step 7: Cap the Tops

After the balusters are in place, it's time to cap the tops of the posts and finish your metal deck railing installation. Simply put the caps on each top and secure them with the fasteners included in your kit. 

Get Started With Your Metal Deck Railing Project Today

2 plants sitting atop of a metal railing

Metal deck railing can add sturdiness, value, and peace of mind to your outdoor slice of heaven. You've made it this far! Take the next step in your project when you Find a Retailer and Find a Contractor for your metal deck railing installation. Need some more inspiration? Look at some Trex® deck railing systems to see what catches your eye.

Popular Railings Articles
Glass Railing

Glass Deck Railing Ideas and DIY Installation Tips

All glass panels used for deck railings must be safety-tempered and shatter-resistant. Learn how to install glass railing panels and get ideas for your deck.

Deck Railing Types

Best Aluminum Deck Railings: Reviews & Benefits

Aluminum deck railings are a great low maintenance option for any home. Compare different materials and find the best aluminum deck railing system for you.

Deck Railing Types

Vinyl Deck Railing Reviews, Comparisons, & Costs

Compare Vinyl Deck Railings to wood, aluminum, and composite. Find reviews and cost information to help choose the best deck railing for your home at Decks.com.

Next Step: Features Articles
Benches, Planters & Skirting

Deck Skirting and Fascia

Skirting can be an attractive feature that can be added to any low-level deck.

Benches, Planters & Skirting

How to Build Deck Planter Boxes

Learn how to build planter boxes to display flowers on your deck that will look nice and hold up well for many years.


How to Easily Install Solar Post Caps

Compare the pros and cons of solar deck lights and learn how to install them on post caps and rails at Decks.com.

Get more helpful resources delivered right to your inbox

Explore Articles by Topic

Popular Railings Articles
Deck Railing Types

5 Cable Railing Ideas to Inspire Your Deck or Porch Railing

Cable railing adds a modern touch for those looking to add a unique twist to their deck or porch. These top ideas offer inspiration and guidance on cable railing for your deck.

Glass Railing

Glass Deck Railing Ideas and DIY Installation Tips

All glass panels used for deck railings must be safety-tempered and shatter-resistant. Learn how to install glass railing panels and get ideas for your deck.

Deck Railing Types

How to Build & Install an Outdoor Deck Gate

In this easy-to-follow guide, we explain the process of building a deck gate and installing it on your deck.

Next Step: Features Articles
Benches, Planters & Skirting

Deck Skirting Ideas

Deck skirting offers more than aesthetics. From added storage to critter deterrence and concealing structures, explore our top ideas for your backyard's transformation.


Building an Outdoor Kitchen? Here’s What You Should Consider Before You Start

Building an outdoor kitchen is an investment that can add value to your home. Learn what you should consider before building an outdoor kitchen on Decks.com.

Outdoor Ideas

25 Balcony Decor Ideas to Make the Most of Your Space

Make the most of your apartment balcony space with these decor ideas from lighting to furniture to privacy solutions.

Get more helpful resources delivered right to your inbox

Explore Articles by Topic