How to Paint a Wood Porch Railing

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What You'll Need
Sandpaper or sander
Wood putty (optional)
Extra slats/lengths and installation tools (optional)
Drop cloth

Because porch railings are outside, they’re easily weathered by sun and rain. While these railings can be made of iron or vinyl, most porch railings are made of easy-to-install wood. If you decide on having a wooden porch railing, you should paint it often to keep it looking new. Make sure your railing isn’t damp, and then follow these steps to give your porch an updated look.

Preparing the Railing

If your existing wood railing is already painted, you must first remove the paint before adding a new coat. Thoroughly sand the individual rail lengths and slats with progressively refined sandpaper or a sander. As you remove the paint, vacuum and wipe away any accumulated dust. Make sure all paint has been removed before moving on to the next step.

Checking for Necessary Repairs

While you sand the railing, check to see if there are any broken slats or splintered sections of the railing stanchions. Remove these sections, and replace them with sound slats or railing. If needed, you can strengthen the railing with woody putty. Sand the wood putty down after it’s dry to make it smooth.

Choosing Primer and Paint

Warning: No matter which type of paint you choose, follow all safety precautions as provided by the product, use drop cloths to catch and contain drips and spills, and always work in a well-ventilated area.

Make sure to match the type of primer you use to the type of paint you want to use. For instance, you should use a latex primer with latex paint, or an oil-based primer with an oil-based paint. Keep in mind that oil-based paints are generally better to use for outdoor applications. However, oil-based paints release pollutants into the air and are hazardous to your health, so wear the appropriate safety gear when working with this paint type. In addition, make sure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated and all materials are well out of the reach of children or pets.

Priming the Wood

Before applying the primer and paint, ensure the wood isn’t wet or damp. Try to work on a day that isn’t windy to prevent dirt and debris from contaminating the rails while you paint.

You may find it easier to detach the railing from the porch and place it on sawhorses to make it more accessible. Then, using a clean brush, apply primer to the railing slats and horizontal rails. Applying primer will allow the paint to stick to the wood railing easier and cover any repaired sections on the wood. Let the primer dry completely.

Painting the Railing

Once the primer is dry, you can apply the paint. Working slowly, paint each slat smoothly. Do not allow any clumps to build up. Once you have painted all of the slats, paint the length of the top and bottom of the horizontal rails. Let the paint dry completely. Then, apply a second coat of paint and let dry.

Finishing Up

Finally, re-assemble your wooden porch railing by following the opposite directions of how you removed it. Maintain your railing by cleaning it often.