How to Measure and Cut Iron Porch Railing

What You'll Need
New metal rail material
Snap cutter

Whether you're replacing an old wooden porch railing, vinyl porch railing, aluminum porch railing or other popular porch rail, the steps involved can be done by a homeowner with a minimal amount of effort. Basic knowledge and use of simple tools can have you cutting and installing a new porch rail in no time. For this do it yourself project, we'll be measuring and cutting an iron porch railing in four steps.

Step 1: Purchase the Metal

Determine the type of railing that you want for the job, based on of the needs of your project. You can purchase iron porch railing from most hardware stores, or you can special order custom materials online. Take the measurements with you, since many stores can cut the material for you at little or no cost.

Step 2: Measure

You will need to measure both the rise and the run of the railing. If it's not a stepped style railing, the process is quick. Measure the full length of the porch, from wall to post, where you will install the railing. For stairs or other areas that may have steps, you might need to measure for the rise as well. This is where each section of the railing 'steps' up. Measuring for this will give you an even railing all around.

Step 3: Mark the Spot

With either a pencil or some chalk, mark a line on the railing at the exact place where you plan to cut it, to correspond with the size of the piece that you will later be installing into the deck. Avoid using a permanent marker, a scratch or any other permanent indicator. This will ensure that when you secure your new iron porch railing, you won't have any blemishes or marks that detract from its appeal.  

Step 4: Cut the Railing

Use the snap cutter for this step. These come in varying sizes, from a handheld version used to cut small portions like wire and filament, to larger two-handed versions that are used to cut wider pieces of iron porch railing. For this project it is recommended that you buy the type that is suitable for the job; if it’s a thin railing, you may be able to find a one-handed version that will work.

If you have a standard size railing, it's better to use a two-handed pair. Open the snap cutters and align the top and bottom of the cutters with the line marking your measurement. You will need to apply equal amounts of pressure on both handles of the snap cutter. In some cases the iron may be too thick for this to be a one person job. Two people can use the snap cutters and help to apply the needed force to snap the iron at the correct point.

Now you have your first section measured and cut, you can easily go around and replace the remaining porch railing sections to match the new railing.