The porch is a very important feature on a home. It softens the appearance of the facade on the building, creates sharp interesting shadows that are pleasing to our senses, and provides a space for healthy outdoor living. The porch balustrade (hand rail, lower rail, and balusters), columns, posts, and other ct porch features, all work together to tell a story that represents the style and period of the house. The size and proportion of these various features are all based on the architecture of the building and any alteration to a single element will not only upset the composition of the porch but the visual integrity of the building as a whole. Putting up a porch railing sounds like it should be simple, but Do It Yourselfers encounter a few obstacles along the way. Here are a few tips for properly install your porch railing.
Prep Your Porch
Before installing your new railing, take time to inspect the condition of your porch. Is the foundational wood rotting? What are the measurements between columns (if you have them)? Do you want your railings to be waist high?
Make any necessary repairs to the floorboards or sidings. If you're building a new home, paint the exterior and install the porch flooring before building the railing, otherwise, you'll have to install the flooring around the railing posts, and the railing may get damaged in the process.
Choose a Material and Style
Porch railings can be constructed from wood, metal, stone or synthetic materials. Your home style, climate and budget are the key factors in deciding which way to go. Wood railings are a classic, relatively inexpensive choice that suits a wide range of home styles. A simple picket railing works well for Georgian-style homes, while a more detailed, patchwork design complements Queen Anne Victorians. Craftsman bungalows often feature square patterns, but in general, more traditional homes should have railings with a greater level of detail compared to contemporary homes. While very popular, wooden railings aren't resistant to rot. If you live in a humid climate or an area where termites are present, it's best to consider other options.
Another commonly used railing are metal railings. While not infallible, metal products are more resistant to decay. Patterns range from fanciful to stark and should be selected based on the period of the home. Picket-style iron railings enhance a historical look and are a good option for Georgian homes in climates not suited for wood.
Synthetic railings include PVC and composite materials that blend wood particles with resin and vinyl. The surface can be colored and textured to resemble natural wood. Synthetics tend to be more expensive than wood, but the benefits may be worth the cost, particularly in humid climates. Other than the price, the drawback to PVC or composite railings is that they come in a limited number of basic styles. Depending on the manufacturer, you may find picket-style railings and a few square or round patterns. The choices may be too limited for homeowners aiming for a highly customized look.
Installing the Posts
Architects use the term balusters to describe the vertical support posts in a railing. The individual balusters are the first element to be installed. They must be firmly secured to the supporting structure below the floorboards, not to the floorboards themselves. For a porch with a concrete foundation, this requires drilling a post-hole into the concrete before securing the post. For synthetic railings, a PVC or composite shell typically covers a pressure-treated wooden post that provides the actual support. The balusters are the key to a stable porch railing, so make sure they are properly aligned and secured. Take note that if your porch has pre-existing columns, you may be able to use these as balusters instead of installing posts.