Page B1.1 . 08 November 2000                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
  • Wood in the Landscape: Decks Part V
  • Wood in the Landscape: Decks Part IV
  • Wood in the Landscape: Decks Part III

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    Wood in the Landscape: Decks Part V

    by Daniel Winterbottom

    This article concludes our five-part series on deck construction. This time we look at seating and railings. Although there are many options for designing railings, they can be strictly regulated by local building codes.


    Built-in benches must be planned during the design phase because they are often incorporated into the structural framing, with the posts serving as the vertical supports from which the bench supports are cantilevered.

    A reasonable amount of surface area is required to attach the bench supports, and often the posts are sized as 6X6s or as independent 2X8 members extended up from the structural framing.

    These structural members can be notched to support the bench slats, and ripped to 4 inches above the seating to support a backrest. The structure is banded with 2X4s with 2X6 cross members supporting the bench slats.


    The design of deck railings can be very complex, such as those with ornate features such as turned balustrades and finials. Or, they can be designed as very simple and functional elements. The illustrations show a sample of options but the following provides some basic principles that should be followed regardless of the design.

    Most local building codes regulate railing heights and maximum balustrade openings. Generally, a 42-inch railing height is required if the deck is greater than 18 inches above finished grade.

    This article is the fifth in a five-part series. It was excerpted from Wood in the Landscape: A Practical Guide to Specification and Design, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.



    ArchWeek Photo

    A pressure-treated wood framing structure and plastic lumber bench slats form a continuous bench. University of Washington Design/Build studio, 1999, instructors Daniel Winterbottom and Luanne Smith.
    Photo: Daniel Winterbottom

    ArchWeek Photo

    Vertical members connected to the joist below the decking, support horizontal rails, for the seat slats. A backrest is created by extending an angled, rear vertical member. University of Washington Design/Build studio, 1999, instructors Daniel Winterbottom and Luanne Smith.
    Image: Jody Estes


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