How To Salvage Old Porch Railing

A porch railing is the finishing touch on an exterior veranda. If you have an older house wth existing railing that needs to be rehabilitated, it is worth salvaging it for continued use.

Iron Porch Railing

One of the materials that is commonly used for porch railing is iron work. However, iron is prone to rusting, particularly in regions with high levels of humidity or moisture due to weather.

To recover iron porch railing, you will be working with caustic and toxic solvents, so wear protective clothing, and air mask and safety goggles.

You can salvage existing iron porch railing by first removing any existing paint with paint remover and a wire brush or steel pads. Once you have all of the paint removed, then carefully examine the iron work for rust or damage. Remove the rust with a rust removal solvent and a wire brush. Use metal putty to repair any damaged sections and let the putty dry. Then use a dremel or polishing tool to smooth out the surface of the repair. Place a new coat of paint on the iron work railing—usually 2 coats of paint are needed, so allow each coat to dry before applying the next layer.

Wood Porch Railing

Often wood railing is damaged and has shattered or splintered slats or rails. To salvage this type of porch rail you will need to not only remove existing paint, but you will also need to repair the wood.

Remove the railing sections from the porch for ease of use. Lay the sections across a set of sawhorses and begin sanding them, removing all of the existing paint. Wipe away and vacuum debris as it accumulates.

If there are damaged slats and sections of rail, remove them and replace with sound wood. If needed, use wood putty to strengthen weakened areas along the wood. Once the putty is dry, then use sand paper to smooth the repair.

With all of the paint removed, repairs made and the railing sanded smooth, apply primer to the rail sections. Make sure that you use the same kind of primer as paint—latex primer/latex paint or oil based primer/oil based paint. You will need to work away from the sun and in a windless but well ventilated area as you apply the primer and paint. Let the primer dry completely and then begin to paint the railing with a clean brush.

Paint the railing, starting with the slats. Apply evenly, so that the paint does not drip or clump. Once all of the slats are painted, paint the rails. If you have several sections of porch railing to restore, then paint each section with one coat of paint and the move on to the next. Once you have all of the sections painted, then return to the first section and begin applying the second layer of paint.
Once the paint has dried, then reattach the railing sections to the porch columns with finish nails.