Do-it-yourself cement balustrade accents for the front porch or veranda offer a stylish upgrade at an affordable price. A little practice in working with cement moldings will help you save thousands of dollars on adding a shapely cement railing.
Things You'll Need
- Baluster molds
- Top balustrade rail molds
- Bottom balustrade rail molds
- Balustrade newel post molds
- Balustrade end cap molds
- Portland cement
- White sand
- Large wheelbarrow
- Garden hose
- Spray cooking oil
- Electric drill and diamond bits
- 3/8 inch rebar
- Circular saw and diamond blade
- Cement glue
- Premixed mortar compound
Filling the Cement Molds
Purchase a number of baluster (vertical rails), top rail, bottom rail, newel post (end posts) and end cap molds. The top rail and bottom rail molds are roughly 2 feet wide. To build a complete newel post on each end there will need to be 4 newel post and 1 end cap mold per end. A newel post form can also be attached directly to an existing porch or veranda support beam. In this instance, two newel post without an end cap mold will suffice. Fiberglass molds tend to be cheaper and are available at most home and garden centers.
Mix a batch of 50 percent Portland cement and 50 percent white sand in a large wheelbarrow. Add water with a garden hose and mix with a shovel. The consistency should be similar to a thick pudding. Too much water will inhibit drying, and too little will make the product unworkable.
Separate the baluster molds by unscrewing the wing nuts from the screws that hold the top and bottom molds together. Pull the screws free and set them aside. Spray a light layer of cooking oil on the inner surface of the top and bottom pieces. This will keep the cement from sticking to the molds. Put the molds back together, reinsert the screws and attach the wing nuts tightly.
Drill a 3/8 inch hole in the top and bottom of the mold to fit in a precut piece of rebar. Set the mold with the bottom opening facing up. Trowel in scoops of cement. Stop every three or four scoops and shake the mold from side to side. Hang onto the mold tightly and bounce it slightly to settle the cement and remove as many air pockets as possible. Center the rebar by hand. Fill to the top and set aside in a safe area to dry.
Set out the assortment of rail, newel post and end cap molds. Spray the insides with the cooking oil and fill with cement. Trowel the surface of each mold level and set aside to dry. Allow them to cure for one day.
Carefully remove the wing nuts and screws from the baluster mold and pull off the top. Turn it over and free it from the bottom piece. Turn the rail, newel post and end cap molds over and release the concrete forms. Set all of the concrete pieces in a secure area to finish curing for a week.
Preparation and Installation of the Balustrade
Mix a thin batch of Portland cement in a bucket. Inspect all of the cured pieces of the balustrade for air holes. Dip a soft sponge in the thin cement mixture and wipe any dried air bubbles. Let dry at least two hours.
Drill a small hole in four spots to fasten the newel posts to the side posts. Use a power drill with diamond bits to create a 3/8-inch hole at the top and bottom to fit rebar that will extend from the top and bottom rails. Place an even layer of cement glue to the back of the newel post piece and attach it to the post with the screws.
Use a circular saw with a diamond blade to score the cement that will be the foundation of the balustrade. Pour a layer of cement glue and level it on the foundation. Mix a small amount of cement glue into a premixed mortar compound. Spread the mortar over the glue and place the first bottom rail in position. Add the rest of the bottom rails in the same fashion. Cut the final piece to custom fit with the circular saw. Add a layer of mortar into the rebar channel that runs along the bottom rail. Place a piece of rebar into the newel posthole and run it along the length of the channel and into the opposite newel post.
Find the center point that will host the first baluster. Measure to each end to find out how many balusters it will take. They must be no further apart than 4 inches to meet most building codes. Add the balusters by setting the rebar down into the channel of the bottom rail. Center them and place a layer of mortar over the top. Rest the top rebar over the tops of the balusters, running them from the top newel post rebar hole to the opposite end.
Place the top rail pieces over the baluster by centering the channel over the rebar. Custom fit the last piece by cutting with the circular saw. Trowel the edges neatly to remove excess mortar.
Tips & Warnings
- Wear safety glasses and gloves when working with cement to avoid chemical burns.
- Use a dust mask when cutting or scoring concrete and cement.
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