Porch railing provides protection against falling or slipping off a deck or porch. Railing is naturally subject to weathering, and over time it may fail due to rot caused by prolonged water exposure or insect infestation.
When the porch railing no longer provides the necessary level of protection for your home, you will need to remove the old structure and replace it.
Step 1 - Record Measurements
Take measurements of the existing porch rail so you can make accurate cuts for the replacement. Recognize that wood expands over time, so you must make allowances for settling.
You may need to contact your town’s building inspector or code enforcer in order to determine the requirements for porch rails. Most building codes require a minimum height for porch and deck rails of at least 36 inches and a spacing of no more than four to six inches between the deck balusters. These codes are designed to prevent small children from falling through.
In some cases, you may even need a building permit before you can even begin work.
Step 2 - Remove the Old Railing System
Use a claw hammer or crowbar to demolish the existing porch rail system. This should be especially easy if the wood is rotted or broken at certain points. Place the old wood to the side to be disposed of.
Step 3 - Cut the Wood to Size for the New Porch Rail
Order replacement pressure-treated wood that is cut to size. Use 2x6 lumber for the top and bottom rails and 1x2 lumber for the baluster supports between the rails, spaced at four to six inch intervals.
Once the wood has been cut, do a dry assembly of the rail system to ensure the wood has been properly cut.
Step 4 - Construct the Rails
After dry fitting the porch rail system, use galvanized wood screws to attach the balusters to the top and bottom rails. Use double hot-dipped galvanized screws to join the balusters to the rails. This will prevent rust and rotting, as these screws are specially designed to withstand outdoor temperatures and extreme conditions.
Step 5 - Attach the Rails to the Porch
Using the level, attach the porch rails to the porch. Use a toenail technique, which means driving screws in at a 45-degree angle from the rail into the support post. This will ensure the best connection and reduce the amount of movement for the rail.
Connect two galvanized screws per the top and bottom rail on each side where it will be attached to the porch.
Step 6 - Finish the Porch Rails
Once you have attached the porch rails, use sandpaper to smooth any rough spots and apply primer and paint to the rails—one to two coats should be sufficient to complete the job and create a new railing system that will last for many years.