How to Make a Porch Rail

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:    We’re just pulling into town here in St. Joseph, where Ray and Kathy Mueller live.  The Muellers have a beautiful front porch and we’re going to help them build a new porch railing.  Okay, here we are.  This is the house right here and there’s the porch, just waiting for some rails.  I just had this idea of gentle breezes and lemonade on the front porch.  (MUSIC OUT)  Hey guys, how are you doing?

RAY MUELLER:    Hey, Ron!


RON HAZELTON:    Ray, Kathy, how are you?

RAY MUELLER:    Doing well.


RON HAZELTON:    So this is the porch, huh?

RAY MUELLER:    You bet.


RAY MUELLER:    What we want to do is put up some handrails between these posts around the whole perimeter of our porch and then also handrails going down the stairways.

RON HAZELTON:    Okay.  (TALKING CONTINUES IN THE BACKGROUND - INAUDIBLE) The posts on the front of the porch are spaced just about perfectly.  The way we see it, the railing sections can be set in between.  On the side, though, we’ll have to add a post in the center.  So let’s start.  Kathy, take this, just find the center of this deck right here.

RAY MUELLER:    Kathy got the dumb end.

RON HAZELTON:    I got a... the dumb end... okay.  We’ll give you the smart job then.  Half of 130.

RAY MUELLER:    (laughs)

RON HAZELTON:    Come on, come on, come on.

RAY MUELLER:    Trick questions again.  (inaudible)... 65 inches.

RON HAZELTON:    All right.  Kathy, take your drill.... (TALKING CONTINUES IN BACKGROUND - INAUDIBLE)  In order to cut a square opening on the deck, we first need to drill a starter hole.  (LAUGHTER)  Surprise!  Forgot to tell you about that.  Then we cut out the opening using a jigsaw.  Beautiful.  Okay.  Kathy, drop it in and see if we got a fit there.  Okay?

RAY MUELLER:    All right!


RAY MUELLER:    Hey hey!

RON HAZELTON:    Okay, here we go.  That’s a snug... perfect.  All right.  In order to attach that post to the porch framing, one of us has got to go up under here.

RAY MUELLER:    Yeah, Ron.

RON HAZELTON:    In the spirit of fair play, we should do this with a little game of chance.  What do you take?

RAY MUELLER:    All right.  Heads.

RON HAZELTON:    You lose.  Come on, let’s go!

RAY MUELLER:    (LAUGHS)  Yeah, right, I lose...

RON HAZELTON:    Come on, no welching now.  Okay.  Get up under...

RAY MUELLER:    I somehow figured this was going to happen.

RON HAZELTON:    Get up under there.  Come on.  Come on, come on.


RON HAZELTON:    Once he’s underneath the porch, Ray uses a right angle attachment on the drill to bore pilot holes.

RAY MUELLER:    Okay.  I’m pretty we’ve got that.

RON HAZELTON:    Then he attaches the poles using leg screws.

RAY MUELLER:    Yeah.  This will hold the pole real nice.

RON HAZELTON:    Okay, great.  All right, guys, here’s how I think we should build this railing.  If you could just tilt this up for me, Kathy.  Ray, if you can bring that one up.



RON HAZELTON:    Okay.  This is going to be the bottom rail.  Okay.  This is going to be the top rail right here.


RON HAZELTON:    In between we’re going to have several of these pieces here called ballisters that we’re going to cut to link.  So I think that’s going to be our next step.  Let’s cut a bunch of these.


RON HAZELTON:    All right, Kathy, anytime... we’re going to cut, what, 107 ballisters now?

KATHY MUELLER:    Yeah.  Mmm hmm.

RON HAZELTON:    We want them all to exactly the same length -- 20 inches in this case.  This is a great way to do it.  We’ve set up a power miter box here.  I’ve actually secured this to the table with some screws.

KATHY MUELLER:    Mmm hmm.

RON HAZELTON:    Over here, a little stop block.  So all you have to do is to set the piece of wood in here put this end up against the block and go ahead and cut.  And then, regardless of whether you’re cutting one or two or a thousand of these, they’re all going to be exactly the same length.


RON HAZELTON:    Okay?  Give it a whirl.  Here you go.


RON HAZELTON:    Beautiful.  We get ready to start the next phase of the project while Kathy continues to cut those 103 ballisters.  What we’re going to do right now is we’re going to assemble the railing -- first by screwing the bottom rail into the end of... one end of the ballister.  And we’ll do all of those.  And then we’re going to stand it up on end and we’re going to nail on the top rail.  Okay?  Put this on now.


RON HAZELTON:    Hold all those ballisters in place.  Kathy, line up those, and there should be a mark under there.  You see it?


RON HAZELTON:    Okay.  Just line it up.


RON HAZELTON:    Okay.  Then we have to... we have to tweak these a little bit to get them to... to set there.  Okay.  Okay.  We’re up there, aren’t we?  Now what we’re going to have to do to keep these from shriveling... we’re going to need two nails in each one because we’ve only got one screw in the bottom.

RAY MUELLER:    Right.

RON HAZELTON:    So we’ll put two... two nails in the top.  

KATHY MUELLER:    Boy, Ray...

RON HAZELTON:    Come on, Ray.  Come on, Ray.

RAY MUELLER:    It’s the bifocals.

KATHY MUELLER:    Bifocals... (laughs)

RAY MUELLER:    Actually, it’s the trifocals.  There we go.


RAY MUELLER:    Looking great, huh?

RON HAZELTON:    There you go.  


RON HAZELTON:    Our first completed section of railing going in place here.

KATHY MUELLER:    Oh, how exciting!

RON HAZELTON:    You guys can put it in together.


RON HAZELTON:    Both... uh, you know...

RAY MUELLER:    Is that good and...

RON HAZELTON:    You have to sort of go in at the same time so it doesn’t bind.  There you go.

RAY MUELLER:    Okay.  Hey!

RON HAZELTON:    All right.

RAY MUELLER:    What a fit!

RON HAZELTON:    So what do you think so far?

KATHY MUELLER:    Wow!  Oh, this is wonderful.

RAY MUELLER:    Great!

RON HAZELTON:    Instead of nails, we’re using a square head driver bit in our drill and finish head screws to attach the railings to the post.  (TALKING IN BACKGROUND - INAUDIBLE)  I drilled a small pilot hole here.  These are just easier.  You know, anything on an angle like this is not the easiest thing for a lot of us, so this goes in a lot easier.

RAY MUELLER:    Oh, man, yeah.

KATHY MUELLER:    Oh, wow!

RON HAZELTON:    No danger of splitting the wood.


RON HAZELTON:    From here on, it’s painting and then finishing touches.  You know what painters call those spots that you missed there?  It’s...


RON HAZELTON:    It’s holi... it’s holiday spots.  Because you were on holiday, taking a vacation.  So what should we do now?

RAY MUELLER:    Just what we’re doing -- sitting and having some lemonade.

KATHY MUELLER:    Having some lemonade.

RON HAZELTON:    I’ll drink to that!  


RON HAZELTON:    Hey guys...

KATHY MUELLER:    Thank you so much.

How to Build a Wooden Porch Railing using Stock Rails and Balusters. Rails and Balusters are Cut to Length On Site.

Build custom porch railing to add character and safety to your porch with a straightforward DIY project that starts with purchased upper and lower rail and baluster stock. If necessary, add a new railing post to help span long distances, decorating the post with a cap and finial and applying coats of fresh white paint to the whole project.

Mark Cutlines on the Porch Floor for a New Post
Step 1

Mark Cutlines on the Porch Floor for a New Post

Measure the distance between existing porch roof supports/posts to determine if the porch railing stock will span the distance. If wooden railings are not long enough, center cutlines dimensioned for a new post halfway between the porch supports.

Saw the Opening for the New Post with a Jigsaw
Step 2

Saw the Opening for the New Post with a Jigsaw

Drill a starter hole for a jigsaw blade within cutlines marked for the new railing post. Cut precisely along the rectangular cutlines with a jigsaw. Insert the post into the hole, resting it on a leveled paver on the ground.

Attach the Railing Post to Porch Framing with Lag Screws
Step 3

Attach the Railing Post to Porch Framing with Lag Screws

Bore pilot holes into the framing with a right-angled drill, working from a position beneath the porch. Insert lag screws to attach the new post to the porch floor joists. Snug the lag screws with a socket wrench.

Cut Balusters to Length with a Saw and Cutting Jig
Step 4

Cut Balusters to Length with a Saw and Cutting Jig

Cut ready-made balusters to length using a power miter saw or chop saw. Temporarily screw the base to a plywood work surface and set up a stop block as a cutting jig to ensure railing balusters are of identical length.

Attach Balusters and Bottom Porch Railing with Screws
Step 5

Attach Balusters and Bottom Porch Railing with Screws

Space balusters according to building code along the bottom porch railing. Lay out the pieces on a flat surface and screw through the underside of the bottom wooden railing into the center of the positioned balusters.

Nail Top Porch Railing onto the Bottom Rail Assembly
Step 6

Nail Top Porch Railing onto the Bottom Rail Assembly

Set the bottom railing and baluster assembly upright and position the top railing after marking baluster positions. Adjust the balusters as necessary on the marks and drive two nails through the railing into each baluster to stop it from rotating.

Screw Assembled Porch Railing Units to Posts
Step 7

Screw Assembled Porch Railing Units to Posts

Secure porch railing units to posts with finish-head screws. First, position the piece of railing between posts, ensuring that it is level and doesn't bind. Drill angled pilot holes from each side of the rails and drive in screws.

Saw off the New Railing Post to the Correct Length
Step 8

Saw off the New Railing Post to the Correct Length

Remove excess length from the new post top with a handsaw. Add a decorative cap and finial to top the new post and match any existing stair railing posts. Prime and paint the porch railings and the new post.