Front Porch Reno, Home improvement
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Adding the Hand Rail to my Front Porch

Where I left off last time: the hand rail posts and lower rail in place.

I wonder what kind of tolerances deck builders find acceptable. The reason for this question is that lumber often isn’t straight and pressure treated lumber seems to be even more unruly. I just don’t see deck builders spending a lot of time fussing with tight joints like I am.

Take the newel posts in the photo above. As the renovation of my front porch progresses, I have found it necessary to replace two such posts. Both of them bow and twist slightly along their length. If I want the hand rail and lower rail to fit well against the posts, the rails will have to be cut with a compound miter.

To do this, I take a scrap piece of wood and keep trimming it until the matching angle is found. If I am going to achieve the tight tolerances I expect, this fitting is necessary, but time consuming. Once the correct angle set-up is determined, I then make the cut on finish piece of wood.

With the lower rail in place, the next step is to add the spindles…

The spindles cut and ready for installation.

I set up a production process at the table saw to cut all the spindles to the same angle and length. In the photo, I use a strip of lattice to act as a base which the spindles are attach to with screws.

Joining two boards.

The old hand rail was a skinny thing; something I though should have been thicker. After searching home center stores, I settle on a two part hand rail system from The Home Depot. Surprisingly, it comes only in six foot lengths. Here I use a spline to join to pieces to achieve the length I need.

Here, I am adding the second part of the hand rail.

Just like with the first layer of the hand rail assembly, the second one is not long enough. In the photo above, you can get an idea of how much beefier the new hand rail will be.

Making a joint look good.

It is not unusual for two pieces of molding from the same supplier to have different profiles. In the case of this hand rail, the second piece is slightly thicker than the first. This causes the profile of the two pieces to be different all the way around. I use a hand plane and cabinet scraper to shape the two pieces so they meet up along the top and sides. The hand rail is attached by driving screws from underneath. My goal is to have as few fasteners visible as possible.

The first section of hand rail complete.

I have some fine tuning to do to this section of hand rail. Plus, I’ll add finials to the top of the posts later.

At present, I have the section of hand rail at the top of the stairs about 80% complete and by tomorrow I hope to have the final section of railing finished. The only remaining task will be to replace the lattice around the base of the porch and we’ll replace the boxwoods which are largely dead at this point.

I hope to have another update in a week or so. Thanks for reading.

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