For the perfect deck railing, you should consider how the deck will be used. Most decks are used for entertaining, and that involves drinks and food. Sometimes there is not enough seating space for guests on a deck, so the rail is a great extra spot for guests to sit drinks and small plates.
Make the top of the deck rail nice and wide. We used a 2×6 with a routed bottom detail and a rounded top edge. It is positioned on top of a 2×4 plain. Our deck railing is made from 4×4 material, so the 2″ pieces together equal the thickness of the rest of the deck material. It has a nice solid look; provides a place to put a drink or small plate, and feels substantial enough so that guests won’t feel like they are going to fall off.
I like the concept of porch lights looking like candle lanterns that have just been set on the railing. To achieve this look, we added a 12×12 piece centered on top of the hand rail. It got the same top and bottom details to make it consistent with the rest of the cap rail. We drilled the center of it for wiring, and placed a custom lantern from McLean Lighting Works on top of that. This is their Arts and Crafts lantern, which we felt had the same artistic design as a simple old French farmhouse lantern would have. The base of the lantern is attached to the plinth, and the top is removable for changing bulbs. Since the lantern was custom, we had the option of making the candles varying heights. This is a great touch which adds a sense of real candles to the lanterns.