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Home > Products > Porches - START HERE! > ONLINE PORCH GUIDE > Installation of Porch Parts > Balustrade Sections > Preparing for Assembly of Balustrade Sections

Preparing for Assembly of Balustrade Sections

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Please Note
The following assumes your Porch Posts have sufficient unturned square portions at their bottoms to accommodate balustrade sections (Rails and Balusters). If you have round Porch Columns please see the Round Columns section at the bottom of this page.

Measuring Rail Lengths
If Porch Posts are already installed, then take careful measurements (steel tape, please) of the length required for Handrails and Bottom Rails. Measure the distance between Posts at approximately the points on the Posts that both the top and bottom rails will be installed.

This distance should, of course, be the same for the top and bottom Rails, but if your Posts are not quite true and not easily moved, here's your chance to compensate with different top and bottom rail lengths.

If Porch Posts are not yet installed, then first determine exact Post positions. It's best to actually mark the porch floor, indicating the full sized "footprint" of each Post. See Post installation section.

Cutting the Rails
Once the exact distance from Post to Post has been determined, you can cut to length the Handrails, Subrails, and both upper and lower pieces of Sloped-top Bottom Rails.

Verify at this time that Subrails fit into the channel (if any) of the Handrails. Trim Subrail width if necessary.

Marking the Rails
Mark the center position of each Baluster on the edges of both the Subrail and the upper section of the the Sloped-top Bottom Rail. To determine this "on center" mark, first recall how far apart you originally intended your Balusters to be when you placed your order.

Cutting the Balusters
The bottoms of your exterior Balusters need to be notched to fit onto the Sloped-top Bottom Rail. See Baluster Bottom Notching.

If you want your Balusters shorter than their standard length, now is the time to do this as well. Normally, equal amounts are removed from both top and bottom when shortening Balusters.

Verification of Baluster Spacing
Now that you have our materials, verify your original spacing ideas by laying several Balusters between Handrail and Bottom Rails. Use Subrail and both sections of Sloped-top Rail to get the full picture! If you decide you'd like closer spacing, and don't have enough Balusters, give us a call at (903) 356-2158. We'll rush some more out to you if you need them quickly! Be sure to tell us if we are to notch them for the Sloped-top Bottom Rail for you.

Beginning and Ending Balusters
Traditionally, the distance from the end of the Railing to the first Baluster center mark is one-half the distance from the center of one Baluster to the center of the next.

Adjusting Baluster Spacing
Typically, your ideal on center spacing will not perfectly fit the length of the Railing. If you are close, the difference can be made up by adjusting the beginning and ending marks slightly. For example, let's say you wanted 6" on-center spacing and 3" from Rail ends to first and last marks. But assume starting at one end of the Rail with this "formula" leaves the last mark 2" from the other end of your Railing.

Since you are only off one inch overall, it will work to start the first mark one half of that distance closer, or at 2-1/2" from the end. Then the last mark will also be 2-1/2" from the other end. Varying your first and last marks by more than 1/2" either way could create problems, however. It may be difficult to match the beginning spacing of the first Baluster on the other side of the Porch Post!

The solution is to slightly change your ideal on center spacing. Typically, a very small increase or decrease in this distance will bring your first and last marks an acceptable distance from the ends of the Rail. A little experimentation will get it. And for you mathematicians, here's a chance for you to put your knowledge to practical use!

Transferring Your Marks
Assuming that Handrail and Bottom Rails are the same length, after marking the first Rail, lay the other one beside it and merely transfer the marks across to the second Rail. This assures both are identical. If there's any difference in the distance of first and last marks to their respective Rail ends, be sure to mark Rail ends #1 and #2. Otherwise, the Balusters will not be truly plumb.

Reviewing Your Layout
Now, and most importantly, pause for a moment and review the marking you've just done. Far better to catch a mistake now than after the Balustrade is completely assembled!

Repeat this layout procedure for each Balustrade Section.

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Round Columns
The above instructions assume your Porch Posts have sufficient unturned square portions at their bottoms to accommodate balustrade sections (Rails and Balusters). If you have round Porch Columns please use the following instructions. We are again assuming you will use Subrail and Sloped-top Bottom Rail.

1. Start with the longest section of balustrade you will need (so you can cut shorter Rails from those if you make a mistake.)

2. Mark desired Handrail height onto Column at location where Rail will be attached. Beneath that, mark the location for the top of the Subrail. Label this second mark #1. (Local building codes may dictate Rail height.)

3. Hold a short piece of thin scrap wood (should be same width as Handrail) in place at mark #1. Scribe curvature of the Column onto this scrap piece. Use a coping saw to cut curvature into this scrap. Test for fit against Column at mark #1. Redo if necessary. When satisfied with the fit, label this piece as template #1. Repeat process where other end of Handrail and Subrail will be installed, creating mark #2 and template #2.

4. Measure the total distance from mark #1 across to mark #2 and note that as balustrade section #1. (Remember to start with the longest balustrade section.)

5. Set your two templates onto Subrail so they are the proper distance apart for balustrade section #1. Trace their curvature onto the top of Subrail.

6. Use a coping saw to cut the curvature into both ends of Subrail. Test fit at marks #1 and #2. Adjust end curvatures if necessary.

7. Repeat step 5 and 6 for top piece of Sloped-top Bottom Rail. Later you will use these same templates for bottom piece of Bottom Rail and for Handrail, but it is best to first complete on balustrade section without those to be sure everything is fitting properly.

8. Because of the curvature at the ends of the Rails, balustrade sections must be built in place between the Columns. Otherwise, the main instructions at the top of this page and in the following sections can now be followed to complete your first balustrade section. You can attach metal "L" brackets (as mentioned at Balustrade Section Installation) to your Columns with toggle bolts by pre-drilling pilot holes in each Column for the toggle bolts.

We are available by phone or email for free personalized consultation.

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