Repair Deck Railing and Stairs
Welcome to the south! From May to September we are graced by full sun and heat from about 6:00 a.m.- 7:30 p.m. Our deck faces east and has taken a BEATING! We had no idea how expensive decks were to build and that maintenance and repair of our deck was so important. We never sealed our deck and if we power washed it, that only happened a handful of times, I know, rookie move! Current standards suggest once per year as well as sealing the wood with a waterproofer at least. Last year we noticed some rot on the stair railing and loose spindles and in a blink of an eye the spindles could be pulled off with one hand and the guard rail was about half of it’s original size. The stair treads were lifting and warping, had nails protruding out, they were a hazard! It was a given we would replace the guard rail, but we actually considered salvaging some of the 2×4’s that were still straight. Ultimately we replaced the railing/baluster/guard rail and stair treads. Plus we added a 1×4 appearance board to help keep the spindles from twisting and to give a more finished look. Great idea suggested by my brother in law who builds amazing decks and fences. Since I had no desire to replace the 4×4 posts and stringers that hold up the deck stairs, so I opted to cover the post with appearance boards to cover the cracks and misshapen posts. We secured the stringers with connection straps and joist hangers rather than a scrap of 2×4 that had been used by the original contractor.
Deconstruction of damaged stair treads and deck railing.
My husband helped with a lot of the demolition of the deck, actually it was more like a deconstruction because we were saving the posts and stringers so we had to be careful removing the stair treads, railing, etc. I have a few tips on the subject if you plan to do the same in a short video here: DIY Deck Deconstruction
With 15 stair treads to cut and attach I thought it would look better and more efficient if the replacement stair treads were wider, like the full depth leaving me to cut and attach 15 rather than 30 boards if we had stayed with the 6″ deck boards. Of course I didn’t want to assume that was o.k. so I asked around and what I learned was that it’s very common now to use a 2×12 for stair treads. When considering the length of the board to purchase, I opted to get the 8 foot boards, our existing stair treads measure 42″ wide, so I could yield two stairs per board, only needing 8 total. That was doable, easier to transport plus much easier for me to move and cut, the 2x12x8 boards weigh almost as much as me! Tip: I love the look of deck stairs with a riser, but sadly I didn’t think of it until I had already attached all of the stair treads. If you want a riser, add those before the treads :-) I attached the stair treads with 3″ deck screws from Home Depot, there are several brands we used these: Deck Mate
Stair treads complete, moving on to stair railing and spindles. This was our original railing.
For the new railing I added a 2×4 to the inside of the posts rather than the center of the 4×4 post. The guardrail and/or handrail would normally be added right after this but I was still deciding whether to keep the 4×4 posts at the top of our stairs and the posts around the deck railing. Additionally, when building a new deck, “code” recommends/requires a handrail separate from the guardrail so be sure to check for your specific location.
We opted to leave the design the way it was, a simple guardrail since this is a repair job and not a brand new deck.
This sounds easy but it was anything but when you’re doing it alone. Measuring, cutting, attaching 8 2×4’s and 8 1×4’s wore me out! Hopefully you’ll have a helper to make it a little easier, measuring and hanging.
If you have an overstock warehouse nearby, check them out for spindles and various wood, I found a bunch for .60 each but you can buy these at any Home Depot or Lowe’s for a about $1.00 each. It was lucky for me to find them so discounted since we had about 100 spindles to replace! I was very anxious about replacing the spindles, I knew that I would obsess over attaching them evenly and straight without taking forever. So again my awesome brother in law shared his process to ease my anxiety and now I’ll share with you.
- Cut the spindles to the length needed to reach from the top 2×4 to the bottom 2×4, they don’t need to be perfect but somewhat even so your screw placement is even. I didn’t want mine sticking out of the bottom so I cut mine just short of that distance. I cut several spindles at one time on my miter saw, first I mitered the ends but then realized that was wasted material and they won’t be seen so did the rest with straight cuts.
- Predrill holes in all of the spindles first. Starting about 1/2″ down from the top and 3/4″ from the bottom. Line them up straight against a board or wall and start drilling, I had about 200 holes to drill.
- Screw in the screws part way so you can grab a spindle and just attach to your 2×4 quickly.
- Use a 2×4 spacer to make sure the spindles stay consistant and are no more than the required 4″ apart. I used a short scrap of 2×4 at first but that proved difficult to hold it in place while holding the spindle and the electric screwdriver! So I changed to a long 2×4 that could rest on the stair trend then used a clamp to keep in place so I could have both hands available to screw the spindle into the 2×4. I used a level every so often to check that the boards were still straight.
- Lastly, use 2 1/2″ deck screws to attach your 2×2 spindles, the 3″ screws you used for the 2×4’s will go straight through and poke out the other side, I found out the hard way and had to remove those screws and replace. Yes I have built and rebuilt this railing several times.
I made a quick minute and half video which demonstrates this so much better than I can explain, watch it here:
- The guard rail was an event all on it’s own, so I’ll go over that in more detail later.
- With a sagging middle stringer we decided to give it a little help by adding an additional 4x4x8 post. My husband dug a hole, placed the post in the hole, filled with Quikrete and added water, gave it a stir with a stick or something and I held the post in place trying to keep it level. He added a carriage bolt to the post to attach to the stringer adding much needed strength.
- Adding appearance boards to the posts~I wish I had not bothered with this part, but once I started I couldn’t really stop, it would look odd. So even though it makes the posts look like new and pretty it really wasn’t worth the time and added expense.
- Tighten the existing lag screws~using a clamp and a channel lock pliers, I synched any spreading boards back together.
This was an exhausting project but with a few extra hands it really would have been a much easier task. So be sure to get the whole family involved, there’s something for every level of experience.
That space under the stairs was a total eyesore, see how I made it useful! Project under deck stairs
Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate you visiting!