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DIY Deck Railing Upgrade

Swapping out wooden spindles for a cable system that opens up the view
By Mark R. Johnson
Published: July 23, 2014
deck remodeling upgrade project finished Feeney CableRail
NEW LOOK – Installing a cable system can breathe new life into an old deck space. Scroll down to see step-by-step photos of this project. (Yes, the author knows the deck needs restaining; that’s his next project.)
Photo by Carol M. Johnson
When my wife, Carol, and I bought our place a year ago, we immediately noticed that the deck needed maintenance and beautification. Before we could even think about the decking, we wanted to do something with the railings and spindles (aka balusters) because their gray paint was peeling, and some of the spindles were rotting.

When we removed some of the rotten spindles in order to replace them, Carol said she liked the open look, sans spindles. This inspired us to think about spindle-free options for our deck, including tempered glass panels or stainless steel cabling. We decided on the latter because we like the look, and it seemed that we could add it easily enough to our existing framing of newel posts and cap rail.

We chose Feeney CableRail for our project because I had looked at the product at a couple of cabin and home shows.

As you can probably imagine, the biggest part of the project was removing all of the spindles, and then sanding and staining the newel posts and cap rail. Carol and I chipped away on this project over a few weekends.

Actually installing the CableRail system was a breeze. Feeney’s instructions were easy to follow, and installation only took one day for three of us. Scroll down for step-by-step photos of the project.

NOTE: Before you get your heart set on a new deck rail system, be sure to check with your local permitting office. Some municipalities will not allow deck guard rails with horizontal elements.
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Carol M. Johnson
Old and outdated
This photo, taken before we upgraded the deck to a Feeney CableRail system, shows the peeling paint and outdated wooden spindles, some of which were rotting.
 
COST
  • Time: Three of us installed the Feeney CableRail system on our small deck on a Saturday. It took us about 9 hours, but that included adding the additional lumber (cutting, staining, installing).
  • Dollars: The CableRail and hardware cost $866 plus tax and freight.
  • Resource: Feeney Inc., www.feeneyinc.com
painting boards deck railing upgrade project
Stain and paint the lumber for your new deck before you install it. This will save you a lot of time and effort.
Photo by Carol M. Johnson
LESSONS LEARNED
There's an adage about doing a project twice: The first time you’re bound to make mistakes as you learn, so you throw that first attempt away and then do it right the second time around. Well, I don’t have the luxury of redoing this project, but I can share three lessons learned during our project that might help you:
  1. We were surprised to learn that we needed to install additional newel posts (4x4-inch lumber) and vertical spacers (simple 2x2-inch spindles). The reason: Posts must be spaced a maximum of 3 feet apart to minimize the chance that someone can force the cables apart.
  2. We also learned that we needed to install 1x4-inch wood blocking underneath the cap rail and between the posts to provide additional lateral reinforcement.
  3. We stained and painted the new lumber before installing it. Glad we did!
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