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Friday, August 11, 2017

Tips for Fixing a Wobbly Deck Railing: DIY Railing Fixes

I’ve always felt that the deck of my home is like this special bonus outdoor room. It’s a place to connect and extend our living space to our own little piece of the outdoors. But just like the rooms in my home, it needs a sturdy frame to ensure that it’s safe for me and my family to spend time there. This is especially true because deck railings are usually the only protective barrier between the deck and the earth below.

That’s why you want to make sure that your patio, balcony, or deck railing is secure, especially if that deck is high off the ground. Over time, old railings can loosen at the joints, posing a potential safety hazard. But with a little know-how, you can fix your railing and get back to enjoying the outdoors worry-free.

Why Your Deck Railing Has Come Loose

There are lots of factors that can contribute to a loose railing on your deck, like windy weather and pressure from people leaning too hard on them. I know my mother always scolded us to stop leaning on the railing because she worried our weight would eventually wear, loosen, or damage the hardware holding the posts to the deck’s surface. And of course, age can also cause railings to weaken. Depending on the type of material your deck is made of, here are some of the major reasons your deck railing might be wobbly:

  • Wooden railings are warped and/or deteriorating: Wood is often chosen as a deck and railing material for its woodsy outdoor look. But wood expands and contracts when exposed to moisture or heat from the sun. This can cause the bolts and screws holding the railing together to loosen over time.
  • Metal joints/masonry anchors are rusting or worn: Metal deck railings are stronger than materials like wood and can generally withstand the elements better. But metals that are exposed to rain and humidity can rust and flake away. If your railing post bases themselves aren’t well protected from moisture, they can corrode and loosen from the deck. And if the hardware that affixes the posts to the deck and to other parts of the railing isn’t high-quality steel or is at the end of its lifespan, it could be corroding and coming loose as well, making the railing wobbly.
  • Weather damage: Regardless of the material a deck is made from, weather can be a major cause of loose railings. Strong winds as well as things like hail can damage railings by loosening joints and sometimes even cracking fasteners that are rusted with age.

How to Fix Your Wobbly Wood Railing

Wood railings have a certain natural aesthetic that makes them a perfect bridge from indoor to outdoor living spaces. Wood is also cheaper than many other materials, so it makes a good choice for a deck railing on a budget. But it has its drawbacks, too, and one major one is its lack of durability compared to metal and plastic styles of railings. Often it has to be repaired and requires consistent upkeep to extend its lifespan. But with a little experience, you can fix a loose wooden railing with relative ease and little expense.

The basic steps to fix a wobbly wood railing are:

  1. Tighten any loose carriage bolts or screws.
  2. Add pressure-treated blocking tightly between rim joists.
  3. Place the blocks snugly behind the post and toe-screw them into the rim joist and the adjacent joist.
  4. Fasten the rest of the blocking in 4-foot intervals along the rim joist.


How to Fix a Loose Metal Railing Post

One of the most popular and durable types of railings are metal railings. I’m a fan of metal because it’s stronger than wood, requires less upkeep, and doesn’t expand or rot. It also comes in all types of designs and a good quality metal railing will have several durable coatings to make it resistant to corrosion and essentially maintenance-free. I’ve always loved the clean modern look of metal railings, too.

But even durable metal railings can loosen with repeated exposure to rain and wind. Rain, especially, can cause metal to rust at joints where there are bolts and screws, which is why it is important to choose high-quality galvanized hardware. But rust doesn’t mean that the railing has to be completely replaced. If you follow a few simple steps, you can repair your metal railing to make it as good as new.

The steps for how to fix a loose metal railing post:

  1. Remove any rust from the loose railing and bolt holes until only metal is visible.
  2. Tighten any loose screws or bolts.
  3. Remove old damaged bolts and widen holes if necessary. 
  4. Replace old bolts with new carriage bolts.
  5. Fill with anchoring cement or metal epoxy.


DIY Deck Railing Repair for Plastic Railings

One of the cheapest and most accessible types of railings for decks are plastic railings. I like this type for its affordability. Like metal, plastic won’t experience the rapid deterioration that wood does, nor does it rust like metal, making it a possible candidate for coastal areas that experience a lot of moisture. But while highly durable, plastic is not as strong a material as metal, meaning the pieces are usually bigger and chunkier in order to compensate for this shortcoming.

Here are the steps for a DIY plastic deck railing repair job:

  1. Remove decorative cover brackets under the rail to expose screws.
  2. Remove the screws with a hand drill from the rail bracket.
  3. Tap the handrail up to release the balusters.
  4. Replace damaged balusters and then reassemble.
  5. Repeat process for other sections where there is damage or loose railing.

With summer just around the corner, you and your family may be anxious to get outside and enjoy the warm weather. But if the winter snow and rain have taken their toll on your deck railing, it may be time to make some repairs. Some repairs may be as easy as replacing a few anchor screws, but if more than a few joints are broken and your railing is showing real signs of aging, it might be time to replace your deck railing. Or maybe it’s just time for an upgrade to a more durable material.

For new railings, I recommend checking out Fortress Building Products, not only for the variety of styles but also for the high quality. I got metal railings from Fortress about a year ago, and their unique protective coating system keeps the metal rust and corrosion-free, so I don’t have to worry about dangerous wobbles. If you’re thinking about replacing your whole deck, or working on other projects this summer, Fortress® also carries uniquely durable decking, fencing, and decorative hardware. Definitely check them out if you’re looking for the best, and best-looking, building products for your home.


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