How do I make plans for a patio renovation?


My patio railing is old and rusted through and needs to be updated. What is the best way to create the plans for the new patio railing I have in mind? I want to make sure I have everything thought out regarding the size and materials I’ll need. The tools I’ve seen online are all for large decks. This is a small patio and I want to create a simple plan with measurements, material notes, etc. I’ve tried sketching it out but it ends up messy and not very organized. I’m new to this so I want to make sure I go about the planning stage correctly.

  4 answers
  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Feb 26, 2019

    Planning: Buy some graph paper and start sketching To-Scale. A guardrail on a deck or balcony needs to be 36” min. height and support a 200 lb lateral load (as if a giant friend leaned against it).

    If your patio is not >24” above grade (ground), you probably won’t have to put a guardrail up, by Code and therefore you could make it 34” H, but check your local City’s interpretation of the Codes first.

    What do you have to fasten to? A concrete patio? A wood deck?

    Have you seen the galvanized metal post bases that are meant to be lag screwed into the concrete & epoxied? Simpson StrongTie makes the ones that pass ALL the Building Codes. Be aware that galvanized hardware and treated lumber need specific kinds of coated screws. Those are specified at

    How does rain and melted snow drain off the patio? Most guardrails sit above the patio/deck by 2” so that they drain and can be swept.

    The spacing of the spindles/balustrade needs to be so that a 4” sphere cannot pass through them. This is based on a baby’s head size.

    I’m gathering you’re going to use wood? If so, go for either treated wood or cedar. There’s all kinds of pre-cut guardrail pieces at the big DIY stores. If you elect to stain or paint these items, they need to dry out and cure in the garage or shed for 2 months (so buy them now and build it in the Spring). The engineered wood is great too, but at a higher price point.

    Think about how it will go together to visualize how to design the guardrail. Start with the posts, typically no more than 4’ on center, to work with even cuts of lumber.

    you could screw together & prefinish entire sections of balustrade and then screw them into the posts. This beats trying to finish it place.

    Send us us some pics if you need more details.

    • See 1 previous
    • Carl Brandvold Carl Brandvold on Mar 01, 2019

      And here’s the rail/balustrade I have in mind.

  • Jewellmartin Jewellmartin on Feb 26, 2019

    Carl, go to the school supplies aisles in a store like a Target, Walmart, or Dollar General. Look for the fanciest scroll ruler they have. It will only be about $2. With this type of ruler, you can design the exact angles and add decorative features to your drawings. Then you can cut and weld your own railing, or turn your design over to a pro metalworker, then install it yourself. Best wishes!

  • Hi Carl - These are two articles that show how we took our small and sad deck and turned it into a gorgeous entertainment space complete with a pergola. Hope they help with some inspiration! Hugs, Holly