Replace an ugly metal railing
I want (my husband) to replace the ugly metal railing on the concrete steps in front of our house with a nice wooden one. He says that it’s impossible, but I suspect otherwise. Can you help?
Tinsley Morrison, Torrington, CT
Tim Jones, a carpenter in Oakland, California, replies: Tell your husband nothing is impossible if you have enough back issues of Fine Homebuilding (and I suspect he does). In your situation, I would do one of two things. If the iron railing is anchored securely to the concrete, he can cut away all the iron except for the vertical pieces using a hacksaw or a Sawzall. The vertical iron rod then can be used to anchor a wooden post. To make the wooden post, dado two pieces of dry 2×4 stock (oak, redwood, or cedar) down the center lengthwise so that when joined, they make a 4×4 with a hole down the middle. Cut the correct handrail angle at the top with a chopsaw before you assemble the pieces (many chopsaws can’t handle the width of 4x4s). Glue together the wood pieces, and then glue the wood post to the vertical iron rod using construction adhesive, shims, and clamps.
The second approach (shown in the photos) is used only if the old iron is too loose or corroded. This process involves epoxying threaded rod into the concrete and wrapping it with the 2x4s and glue. A countersunk washer and nut at the top add even more strength. Both approaches require that the new post sit tight and plumb against the concrete. Shave off some wood, or grind the concrete as needed, checking with a level. Once the glue has set, lots of different handrail designs can be attached to the new posts. Here, we show a straightforward approach using a 2×6 running full length.