How to buy and install iron railings

Embellishing stairs, porches, and walkways. With the bolt-together parts available at hardware stores and home centers, you can easily assemble sturdy iron railings that look almost like craftsmen-wrought installations. In addition to the railings-which come preassembled in sections, including slanted versions for stairs-you’ll need posts and compatible fittings.

How you install a railing depends on whether you are attaching the support posts to a wooden or masonry surface. On a plank porch or indoor stair, simply screw a base plate to the wood’s surface and secure the post to the base plate with the fasteners provided. Then, with a hacksaw, trim the railings to fit, cutting equal amounts from both ends for balance. Slot them into the posts and secure them.

On a concrete carport or on brick steps, you can also use base plates to install the posts; just fasten the plates with masonry bolts and anchors. For a more permanent installation, cement the posts into holes. To make a hole, first draw a square slightly larger around than the post. Wearing goggles, use a carbide-tipped bit to drill a 3-inch-deep hole at each corner of the square. Then clear out the hole with a cold chisel and a heavy hammer. Wedge the posts in place and assemble the railing fully before filling the holes with fast-setting hydraulic cement.

Throughout, make sure that railings are level, posts plumb, and fittings tight. On stair railings, adjust the slant to match your steps’ pitch and cut the rail ends at the correct angle to join them to the posts. End with a couple of coats of enamel over the factory finish.