How to Install a DIY Freestanding Handrail

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We all have loved ones who want to visit our homes yet may not be as vertically stable as they used to be. Maybe they have hip problems or issues with vision or equilibrium; whatever the case, your guests may need handrails to be able to stand and walk from one location to another safely. Handrails are easy and cheap to build; you can put together sturdy and economical handrails with little more than a trip to a home improvement retailer and a free weekend.

Things You'll Need

  • 2- 2" pipe "L" connectors
  • 2" pipe "T" connector
  • Large bag of quick set concrete
  • 3 lengths of steel pipe (2" diameter by 56" long) threaded
  • 2 lengths of steel pipe (2" diameter by 5 feet long) threaded
  • Post hole digger
  • Length of 4 X 4 about 5 feet long
  • Heavy gloves
  • Liquid steel compound
  • Heavy duty thread sealing compound
  • Can of rust inhibitor/joint sealer spray

Measure and Gather Supplies

  • Measure the height from the ground to where you want the handrail to come up to on the deck. This is usually mid-stomach on a grown man about 6 feet tall. The example handrail is 34 inches high.

  • Measure the length of what you want the handrail to be. The example railing is 5 feet long.

  • Add 2 feet to the height and divide the length by half then remove 1" from the length of each half to accommodate the T-joint. The measurement for the example railing is 56 inches.

  • Visit your local home improvement retailer. Inform the associate that you would like high strength steel pipe 2 inches in diameter, three pieces for the uprights and two pieces for the rail itself in the measurements you have figured out. The store will usually cut and thread the pipes for you at no additional charge. Have each of the pipes threaded on one end only. Also pick up the other needed supplies while there.

Prepare the Area for Installation

  • Measure the area where you will be placing the handrail and mark where the ends will be and the center. Clear the area of any loose debris.

  • Use a post hole digger to place three holes about 6 inches wide and 2 feet deep. Place one at the start of the handrail, one at the middle and one at the end.

  • Using a 4 by 4 piece of wood about 5 feet high, pack the inside of the new holes well by ramming the wood into the bottom of the holes a few dozen times each. Use gloves to avoid injury.

Assemble the Handrail

  • Mix the concrete according to package directions and pour the mixture into the three holes. Stop about 6 inches from the top.

  • Place the non-threaded ends of the uprights into the mixture after it has set for half of the time stated for curing on the bag.

  • Fill the top 6 inches of the holes with dirt once the concrete has set and pack them down with the 4 by 4 wood ram.

  • Coat the threads at the top of the uprights with thread sealant and screw the L-joints to the uprights on each of the end posts.

  • Coat the threads at the top of the upright in the middle with thread sealant and screw the T-joint to the center post.

  • Mix up the liquid steel compound according to package directions.

  • Coat the non-threaded end of the handrail piece with the liquid steel compound and slide the non-threaded end into the T-joint and then screw it into the L-joint of the end upright. Repeat for the other side.

  • Wait for everything to cure completely.

  • Spray the handrail with rust inhibitor and joint sealer.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can paint the handrail, but you might find it helpful to apply a coating of a slip-resistant texturing product to the top half of the handrails, after painting, to provide a little extra security for those who might not be vertically stable.

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