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  • Writer's pictureKiersten

Adding Wood Railings and Steps onto the Remaining Deck

Earlier this summer we demo'd the lower level of our deck in favor of getting more useable space in the backyard. While the two-level deck was huge, it wasn't 100% useful and had a lot of boards that needed repaired. Here's where things started:

deck ready to demo
Deck in early spring 2021

We demo'd the lower level and bench but kept the main level of the deck, which gave us a new design decision to solve... where and how to add steps down, and whether or not we were going to add a railing.

deck demo finished
Main deck area left after our demo

Backyard Pool and Deck Planning

Every decision we're making in the back yard is in anticipation of our someday-pool, so while that's still a ways off, we don't want to spend time and money now that will eventually need to be changed. So we started dreaming and planning out pool scenarios just to figure out how to finish of the deck and make it safe and useable. We talked about traffic flow out of the house, and possible future traffic flow around the house as we sketched out some early rough plans for the backyard. We've been making iterations of this sketch for so long that when this photo was taken, Hank had a lot more teeth!

backyard pool planning drawing
Hank Modeling Our First Backyard Pool Sketch

Sketching things out helped us decide that we wanted to have two sets of steps off the deck. One wider set going straight off the middle of the deck to the backyard/future pool, and another over on the north end of the deck (right side in drawing above) where we imagine directing most of our traffic from the front yard back along the side to the back.

And after a lot of online browsing for deck design options, I decided I did want to add railings to the deck. I considered doing full length/width steps down but what I didn't like about the two-level deck before was the fear of getting furniture too close to the edge of the deck, which ate a lot of our walkable space. Having railings would give this more of a defined space and be able to use nearly every sq ft of it, pushing furniture up to the edge. As I planned for furniture placement, it was important to not factor in what we currently have on the deck, but what I think I'll do when we have more patio out back.

backyard pool and deck sketch
More dreaming, more sketching.

So, rough sketch in hand, we got to work.

Deck Construction

Actually, we didn't get to work. We decided to hire this one out and called our old friend Matt who has a handyman/construction business called 5ive17 LLC. He came to scope out the project and give us a bid. He told us with the condition of our main deck, we probably have another 5-7 years max life left, so with that, we wanted to make this useful but not spend big bucks on premium materials. I sent him a bunch of Pinterest inspiration from other sites and blogs that I liked and we landed on building the railing out of wood, along with the steps of course. He was able to get us on his schedule after only a few weeks, and it only took him a few afternoons to get the job done.

He started with the frame for the railings.

When you start looking around at decks with railings, you often see the spindles installed on the outside, top and bottom horizontal boards. Looking from the yard to the house, I liked the idea of putting th spindles on the inside so it looked more "finished" from the yard.

I don't think there's a right or wrong way to do this, so it's probably just preference.

After the lower level came off, you can see how beat up that board is that runs along the length of the deck on the side.

We were thrilled that when he built the steps and hand rails, that he replaced those torn up pieces too. We only needed one step down on the front and two down on the side based on where the ground hit for now, but wanted to make sure we put in hand rails up the stairs to make it feel more finished, and to help those who need a little extra help up stairs.

We've still got the concrete footings from the lower deck to get out. As you can see, Zach tried to dig one out, and after hours, he gave up. Hoping to find a crew to help with this sometime soon.

I was so super impressed by how quick he wrapped this project. We decided to do an 8-foot opening and step out the front, giving plenty of space to go in and out. And we did a 4-foot step off the the side. With this treated lumber, he recommended we wait at least 6 months or so before we do any staining or painting. So most likely, this will be an early spring project next year.

We moved the patio set down to the ground under some mulch for now. We covered up some of the dirt with mulch just to limit mud and tracking in and out. Once we get the concrete footings up, we'll have to decide if we need a more "permanent" fix until we get closer to being able to pull the trigger on the pool.

With the patio set off the deck, we were able to make a cute little sitting area in one corner, bring the grill up and have plenty of space to move about the picnic table.

Side Note - Both the patio set and picnic table have been holding up great this summer after I painted them! With the deck railings in, I decided I had waited long enough and wanted to get some cute patio cafe lights. I had some plans to make cute DIY posts for stringing up above across the deck, but after messing around with that for about 15 minutes in 95 degrees, I bailed, grabbed some Christmas light gutter clips and hung my lights this way for now. I've got them on a timer so they come on each evening for a couple of hours.

Not how I originally envisioned hanging these, but they still bring me a lot of joy this way! I had to get creative with stringing the extension cord, but planning to get a beige one to disguise it a bit better soon. I digress... but, it's the little things, right!? And these patio lights make me so happy!

Alright, railings and stairs in, lights all aglow, and now we wait for spring to finish it all off... and figure out what to do with the mess down below.

Need a fix-up? Here's what we used:

  • Can't take the credit or tell you what tools to use. But if you're in the Des Moines area and need some project help, contact Matt! Highly recommend!

Shop-able furniture and decor:

*DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, we may receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!




we're kiersten and zach

Follow along with us each week as we work to make the very 2000s home we bought during the middle of a pandemic more “us.” We’ll share everything from quick fixes to more permanent changes, along with projects you can do in your own home. Zach will also share all his lawn and garden advice as he starts over on the yard.


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