How to Install a Composite Handrail

Installing a composite handrail can drastically reduce the amount of regular maintenance the deck or porch of your home requires. Because the handrail is often the most difficult part to paint and stain regularly, many homeowners choose to only install a composite handrail, which can greatly reduce the time spent preserving the deck at minimal cost. For further savings, consider installing a composite handrail yourself.

Composite handrails are as easy to work with and install as regular wood handrails with a few exceptions. Be aware that in composite railing systems the large corner posts tend to be hollow. Another consideration is if the handrail can be painted or stained to match your house, recommendations vary depending on the manufacturer. Also, you may want to look for a composite handrail kit that includes a sleeve to go around the corner posts rather than replacing them.

Handrails have particular building codes that regulate the gaps between the balusters, height of the rails, and other requirements. This is to prevent falls or children from injuring themselves by getting stuck between the bars. Check the building code that governs your particular area for more information.

Like any rail installation, successfully installing a composite handrail depends on hanging it securely and making sure it is level while hiding as many fasteners as possible. For this reason choose your fasteners carefully so they are both long enough and strong enough to hold the railing. You should choose galvanized nails or screws to prevent rust. While either nails or screws could be used for this project, screws are often easier to use for the homeowner.

Start the installation by installing the end balusters on the end of the porch or deck column. Take this time to decide how much of a gap should be between the bottom of the deck or porch and the bottom of the rail. Then raise the bottom rail to the height using blocks of wood or masonry. Then you can position the end baluster within the bottom rail and center and screw it into place.

With the end balusters in place, take a look at the rest of the pieces of your composite handrail. You should attach the rest of the balusters between the two rails before attempting to install the entire composite handrail. To do this, mark the spacing on the two rails. Be sure to start in the center when marking so that the balusters are as evenly spaced on the composite handrail as possible.

With the location of each baluster on the composite handrail planned, drill pilot holes in the handrail. The pilot holes should meet the center of each individual baluster. Then screw all of the balusters on the bottom handrail. When they are in place, screw the tops of the balusters to the top of the handrail.

Now you can install the composite handrail onto the end balusters. To secure the handrail, screw through the top and bottom of the handrail into the top and bottom of the end balusters. Repeat this process with all of the sections of the composite handrail you wish to install.

With the main part of the composite handrail installed you can install the rail caps. Rail caps are used to cover the screw heads used to attach the balusters to the rails and give the whole project a more finished appearance. The rail caps should be cut to fit the space and then screwed into place from the underside of the top rail.

Installing a composite handrail requires careful measuring and some expertise with a drill so it is not for everyone. Be sure that you are comfortable working with a cordless drill before attempting to complete this task. If you are not confident in your own skills, consider hiring someone to complete the task for you.

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