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How to Make Deck Railing and Stair Repairs

Oct 10, 2007
Deck stairs and railings are often the first part of a deck that requires some kind of attention becaue they receive almost constant use. Since their fasteners are hidden deck railings and stairs can definitely prove to be challenging to repair. However, deck railing and stair repairs must be made to protect the safety of everyone using the deck.

Repairing railings is best done while the problem is still just a quick fix type. Ignoring the problem is a huge mistake since railings are a safety measure meant to protect those individuals who use it. A minor or serious fall brought on by some defect in the railing system can lead to a hospital visit and/or a lawsuit.

Railing posts absorb a great deal of abuse and as a result often come loose because they are generally anchored only at the bottom. Some railing posts are anchored to a header or end joist. Stairs are often tied only to the stringer and stair tread.

To repair a post first try tightening the existing fastener. If that does not resolve the problem then more extreme measures will have to be employed. Drill pilot holes in the base of the post and counterbore or countersink the holes. Drive heavy screws into the stringer and tread. In order to provide additional strength use several of these screws at different angles. If it is at all possible crawl under the stairway and drive one or more screws through the stringer into the post in order to add additional stabilization to it.

Loose balusters can present problems that again are best met head on and repaired quickly before becoming more serious in nature. If the baluster can be twisted by hand it needs to be reinforced in some way. Chisel a 1/4 inch sliver in the base of the baluster. Drill a pilot hole angled up into the rail or down into the tread. Then drive a screw to stabilize the baluster.

Hide the evidence of this minor repair by gluing the sliver back into place. In the event that the recess is filled with putty or a wood filler it will still be visible unless paint or stain is used to cover it.

In order to avoid making a chisel recess, tighten the rail with shims and glue. Use shims as wide or wider than the baluster or cut thin wedges out of the same kind of wood as the baluster. Apply glue on both sides of the shim and let it soak in for 1 or 2 minutes. Tap the shim into place using a block of wood to avoid marring the surrounding area. Allow the glue to set.

Then use a chisel to trim the edges flush. If the baluster seems loose only on top, squeeze more glue into the gap and predrill the baluster at an angle into the rail. Drive a 1.5 inch screw into the hole making sure to slightly countersink it.

Replacing a baluster means first sawing it in half and twisting it loose with a vise grip or prying it loose with a pry bar. The difficulty is obtaining a baluster to match if the deck was built a considerable time ago. In that case it may be necessary to visit local lumber outlets to find a match. As a final resort it may be necessary to retain the services of a woodworker to duplicate the baluster.

Treads and risers are a vital part of the stairs. In order to assess their condition have someone walk on them. As this is done, watch closely to see if any of the treads flex noticeably. If this is the case steps need to be taken to prevent the problem from becoming more severe.

Squeaking deck stairs can be a sign of future problems occuring. If the squeak originates from the front of the tread drill pilot holes and drive screws down through the tread and into the riser. If the rear of the tread squeaks work from underneath the stairway and drive screws up through the tread and into the riser.

To fix from above tap glue coated shims into the joint between the tread and riser. Trim the shims flush when the glue has set. If the treads are very loose stringer damamge may be a problem or the stringer may have moved outward so that it no longer supports the tread in an adequate manner. Repairing the problem is possible by having access to the under part of the stairs.

If the area beneath the stairs is covered remove 2 or more treads and risers. For a more extensive repair it may be necessary and less trouble to cut out any sheathing or covering to provide access.

A sagging or cracked stringer can be reinforced by attaching 2x4s running vertically up from the decking or by attaching a strip of 3/4 inch plywood to the side of the stringer with screws. Treads on a closed stringer whose treads are fastened in dadoes are often secured in the dadoes with vertical and horizontal wedges. In some cases just hammering the wedges back into place can solve the problem.

If the treads and risers are pulling out of the stringer, pieces of 3/4 inch plywood can be used to provide additional support. Drill pilot holes for all screws in order not to crack the stringer. To support sagging treads, install a carriage brace made from 2x6s installed along the length of the stairway in the middle.

Replacing a tread or riser involves removing the tread or riser carefully to avoid splitting any adjacent boards. Remove any trim first. Use a flat pry bar to pry in several directions. If it is possible to get underneath it the piece loose may be tapped loose.

It is necessary often to pry up the tread and then hammer it back down in order to pop the nails holding it up. If the pieces do not respond to prying saw a riser in half lengthwise. Replace the treads with the same wood. Use the old tread or riser as a template for cutting the new one. Install the new tread or riser with screws.

Deck railing and stair repairs are an essential part of maintaining a deck so that it will not only function well on a day to day basis but provide years of service for its owners.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Railings and Stairs and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
http://www.DeckBuildingRevealed.com
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