All of us admire fancy woodworking while wishing we had the skills to include it in our home projects.  The sunburst deck railing is one such feature that attracts attention and you can build yourself!  


The sunburst deck rail design is relatively easy to build, but requires a number of angle cuts. This is made easier with a power miter saw.  Our Tools section discusses one such saw that is relatively low priced (at $139) and useful for many projects around the home.

The sunburst deck railing design works best with  upright post spacing of 4-5 feet between posts. The sunburst shown in the photo to the right is over 7  feet long, therefore requires more 2x2 spokes than a shorter span.



Step 1. Install upright 4x4 posts evenly spaced on each straight run of rail.  To determine the spacing, divide the total distance to be covered by the railing (in a straight line) by 4 to see how many 4 foot spaces your distance requires. (See Example calculation below) Since you want each post-to-post space to be the same, you divide any remaining "partial" space by the total number of post-to-post spaces in that section of railing.  (Example: 18 feet of straight line railing distance, divided by 4, equals 4.5 sections to cover 18 feet. Since we can't build 4 1/2 sections we need to divide the 1/2 section among the remaining 4 sections equally.  1/2 section equals 2 feet long. 2 feet divided by the 4 sections of railing is 6 inches added to each section. Each section of railing will be 4 feet 6 inches long, therefore space each post 4 feet 6 inches apart.)


Step 2. Once your upright posts are in place fasten a 2x4 horizontally from post to post at the top and 4" off the deck at the bottom. Mark the center point of these top and bottom boards.

Step 3. Use 2x2  PT  lumber as the pickets for the railing.  Reference Figure B below and secure one of the two semi-circular cover boards to the bottom horizontal board. Measure and fasten your first picket in place which is the center vertical one. The tops of all pickets are toe-nailed into the board they touch. The bottom of all pickets are face nailed into the semi-circular cover (cut from 2x10 board). See Figure A for an example of one picket installed.


Cut a taper in the bottom 3 inches of each picket as shown in figure C to allow them to be positioned closely together. Location "X"  in figure C is where the largest space occurs between pickets. This distance cannot exceed the greatest picket spacing allowed by your local building code. The "X" distance will determine your picket spacing, and the number of pickets needed to complete the railing. To install the rest of the pickets, hold in position determined by spacing distance "X", and mark angle, cut and nail. After all pickets are installed, fasten other semi-circular cover in place. Remember you toe nail the top and face nail the bottom of each picket.  Repeat for each remaining section of railing.  Enjoy and let your friends wonder how you did it!