replacing/upgrading balusters in deck railing

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Old 09-24-20, 05:30 AM
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replacing/upgrading balusters in deck railing

I've been cleaning/sealing-staining the deck, and I got a good look at the balusters.

The deck was a rebuild after superstorm Sandy, which annihilated the old one, and rebuilt mainly to how the old one was. A number of the balusters, however, haven't lasted. They're basically this. A good number of them have warped--mostly away from the railing but also to the side.

1) having just sealed/stained the deck, will I have to leave the replacements untreated until spring--both because of the moisture and cooler temps? That is, if I have to wait a month or two, it will probably be too cool to apply the stain.

2) they attached the balusters with a nail gun. I don't have a nail gun (or, for that matter, a compressor) anyway, but I don't think they should have done this with pressure-treated wood. I was thinking I should screw in ALL of the balusters with exterior, ACQ-rated Teks or Spax. There's separation with a number of even the non-warped balusters. Or should I drill out the brads and insert screws in their place? If I use the self-drilling screws, I presume I'd have to avoid the nails. It's just that with the sheer number of balusters, at 4-6 screws per, avoiding the added step of predrilling would be great, if it doesn't compromise what I'm doing. The deck is a lot bigger than the picture shows--that's about 1/3 of the railing, not counting a ramp. 308 balusters total.

3) the upgrade part of the question. As you can see in the attached picture, they only used 2x2s to attach the railing. As time has passed, I've wondered if this was a poor design--I have visions of someone leaning against the rail and it detaching. Should there be 4x4s every certain number of feet (instead of the 2x2), bolted into the outermost joist?

I'm looking to probably replace 30-35 balusters, not counting whatever I do with 4x4s.

 
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Old 09-24-20, 10:01 AM
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I've seen this hundreds of times.
There is no finish nail that can be shot in a gun that will hold or not just rust off in pressure treated wood.
I predrill them and use trim head ACQ approved screws.
It's a whole lot easyer if you drill the hole then insert the screw part way before trying to install so your not trying to hold 3 things at once.
2 X 2's love to twist, curl, and break where there's a big knot, so I just keep an eye on them and go back a month later and replace any that that have failed.
It's not helping that they left that angle cut at the top exposted like that, #1, the pressure treating does not go all the way to the middle of the boards, #2, it's going to cause uneven drying so there far more likely to check and rot at the top.
What I've done many times is install a 2 X 4 to that top rail using 2-1/2 decking screws that will keep it from bowing, then installed 5/4 composite decking boards to the 2 X 4 using constrution adhesive and screws installed from below.
That will act sort of like a roof to protect anything below, and will not rot or split like a 2 X 6 laying flat would.
 
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Old 09-24-20, 10:29 AM
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No, that isn't a proper way to build a railing. Bolting 4x4s onto the rim as depicted in the DCA6 deck guide would be the way I would suggest it be done. The whole railing will need to be replaced.
 
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Old 09-24-20, 10:41 AM
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Installing a 2x4 onto the top edge of a 1x6 will hold? The 1x6 isn't too thin?
 
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Old 09-24-20, 10:47 AM
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No, that isn't a proper way to build a railing. Bolting 4x4s onto the rim as depicted in the DCA6 deck guide would be the way I would suggest it be done. The whole railing will need to be replaced.
The 4x4s can't be added on to the existing railing? (in place of the 2x2s in that location).
 
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Old 09-24-20, 03:50 PM
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I thought those where 2 X 6's not 1X's, and poop I missed there was no 4 X 4's!
I'm with XSleeper, the whole thing needs to be redone!
 
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Old 09-24-20, 04:07 PM
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Just spent a few days sealing/staining the railing! No way to save it? It would just be me doing it; I'm handy but I've never done a job like that.

What is it about the existing setup that won't allow a retrofit of 4x4s?
 
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Old 09-24-20, 04:14 PM
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I wouldn't, but if you want to save the rail and balusters, install the 4x4s flush to the top and lay a 2x6 over the top of the posts and rails. By code your posts should be no farther than 6 feet apart.
 
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Old 09-24-20, 04:53 PM
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I wouldn't, but if you want to save the rail and balusters, install the 4x4s flush to the top and lay a 2x6 over the top of the posts and rails. By code your posts should be no farther than 6 feet apart.
The 2x6/posts would be what supports anyone leaning against them, then? (good thing I never have people on the deck!). How to attach the 2x6 to the posts?

... out of curiosity, would the use of the brads rather than (ACQ-rated) screws be a code issue, or just poor construction?
 
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Old 09-24-20, 06:47 PM
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Brads are not ACQ approved and are too small anyway. You would use ACQ deck screws, and then also attach it to your existing top rail every 16" or so.
 
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Old 09-25-20, 08:08 AM
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Brads are not ACQ approved and are too small anyway. You would use ACQ deck screws, and then also attach it to your existing top rail every 16" or so.
I know, I was just wondering how bad the builder's goof was with the balusters--poor construction, or a code violation on top of it.

Screws into the end of the 4x4? Would that hold? Presumable there isn't much upward stress, but if the board warps a little, would it pull out? And the top rail is a 1x8 (or 6, but IIRC an 8). Enough wood to hold?

Just went to HD today to at least get started on replacing/reattaching the balusters... the deck/exterior construction screw shelves were EMPTY. Went to a second store, almost as bad. Was going to go with #8 x 2 in. Star Flat-Head Polymer Wood Deck Screws for the balusters. I figured that with how many screws I have to put in, I'm less likely to strip the heads with the star heads if I'm going a little quickly.
 
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Old 09-25-20, 10:14 AM
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Screws into the end of the 4x4? Would that hold?
You are the one that doesn't want to replace it all, remember? I would get rid of it all and build it completely differently.

No it won't hold the cap on if you are only using 2" screws. You would want to use 3 1/2" or 4" screws down into the posts. I'm trying to answer based on your wishes to save most of it.

The way it's built is likely a code violation since railings are supposed to be able to withstand a side force of 200 lbs or something like that.
 
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Old 09-25-20, 01:04 PM
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I understand that it's the less-than-ideal route, but if I'm going that way, I want to make it work out as well as possible.
 
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Old 09-26-20, 09:19 AM
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Here's a odd thing I noticed: they used different fasteners for the top vs the bottom of the balusters.
Baluster into rim joist on left; railing face with baluster behind on right:



 
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Old 09-26-20, 10:39 AM
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The way they did it, framing nails would push the top of the baluster away as the nail is being driven. Which is why they used a finish nailer. Crummy slam-bam production method.
 
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