How to Replace Wood Porch Railings With Vinyl Railings

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Wooden porch railings provide a safe barrier for the perimeter of a porch or deck. Unfortunately, even the best-kept wood eventually needs to be replaced. The wood can be replaced with maintenance-free vinyl railings that can give your outdoor space a face lift. In most cases, you can install vinyl railings to existing posts that you cover with a vinyl sleeve. Before you start, find out if the building ordinances in your community require a minimum height for rails. Typically, it’s 36 inches for low level decks and 42 inches for balcony railing.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Post covers
  • Circular saw
  • Post skirts
  • PVC glue
  • Bottom and top rails
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Fence panel brackets
  • Pickets or balusters
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Screwdriver
  • Remove the existing wood railing.

  • Measure the length of each existing wooden post. Cut each vinyl post cover to that length using a circular saw.

  • Slide the new vinyl post cover down over the top of the post. Set it securely on the deck or patio floor. Slide a post skirt down over the top of the post to the floor to add a decorative element at the base. Use the applicator in the PVC glue container to apply glue to the inside top opening of the skirt. This will hold the post skirt in place.

  • Repeat Step 2 for all the posts on the deck or patio as well as the posts on the stair rails. Set a cap on each post. Hold each cap in place with PVC glue.

  • Measure the distance between two posts. If necessary, use a circular saw to cut equal amounts off the top and bottom railing to get the railing to fit between the posts. For example, if the distance between posts is 6 inches shorter than the rails, cut 3 inches off the ends of the top and bottom railing. This maintains the even spacing of pickets or balusters on the railing.

  • Hold the bottom rail at the desired height from the floor. Level it with the assistance of a carpenter’s level. Mark its position on the posts. Pre-drill holes for the fence panel brackets at those marks. Secure the brackets to the posts with screws from their assembly kit. Set the bottom rail in the brackets with the pre-bored holes for the pickets facing up. Secure it with screws.

  • Set vertical pickets into the pre-bored holes in the bottom rail. As you set the pickets, cover them to hold them in place with the pre-bored holes in the top rail. Check that the top rail is level and that the uprights are straight up and down with the carpenter’s level.

  • Place the top brackets over the top rail to mark their location. Pre-drill holes into the vinyl posts. Secure the brackets to the posts and the top rail with screws from the assembly kit.

  • Repeat Steps 5 through 8 for the remaining railings. Cut the ends of the top and bottom railings for the stairs at an angle. The degree of the angle depends on the steepness of the stairs.

Tips & Warnings

  • While you can complete this project on your own, it helps to have someone assist you with leveling and installing the rails and pickets. If you don’t have a helper, set one end of the bottom rail on a block of wood that’s the same height you want to install the rails from the floor. This enables you to balance the rail on one end while you install it on the other.
  • If the original wood isn’t in bad shape, you may be able to reuse it for another project.

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