• In this video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shares some tricks of the trade for accurately cutting and assembling railing supports.

    1. Remove the old balusters from between the lower and upper horizontal rails.
    2. Use a sliding T-bevel square to determine the angle between the lower rail and the deck post.
    3. Transfer the angle to the miter saw by rotating the saw blade to match the angle of the T-bevel square.
    4. Rip two -inch-thick x 1½-inch-wide strips from a pressure-treated 2x4. These nailing strips will be attached to the new balusters.
    5. Miter-cut two nailing strips to fit between the first two posts. Set one strip into place atop the lower rail.
    6. Determine the on-center dimension of the balusters. In this case, it's 5 inches.
    7. Clamp a 2x2 cedar baluster to the post at the bottom of the staircase.
    8. Stretch a tape measure from the baluster to the next post. Raise or lower the tape until the reading at the second post is easily divisible by 5. Here, we held the tape at 50 inches.
    9. With a helper holding the 50-inch graduation against the post, use a level to mark the nailing strip every 5 inches.
    10. Remove the lower nailing strip and hold it against the upper nailing strip. Transfer the 5-inch baluster locations onto the upper strip.
    11. Miter-cut the bottom ends of all the 2x2 cedar balusters to the same angle as the nailing strips.
    12. Set both nailing strips on top of the lower rail.
    13. Stand the balusters on top of the nailing strips, then draw a line along the underside of the upper rail and onto the balusters.
    14. Miter-cut the balusters to length using the miter saw.
    15. Prime and paint all surfaces and ends of all the balusters.
    16. Use a layout square and utility knife to cut score lines into the nailing strips, indicating where to position the balusters.
    17. Prime and paint all surfaces and ends of the nailing strips.
    18. Nail each baluster to the upper and lower nailing strips with a cordless brad nailer and 1½-inch brads.
    19. Secure each end of the balusters to the strips with two 2-inch-long stainless steel screws.
    20. Slide the pre-assembled balusters in between the upper and lower rails.
    21. Fasten the balusters in place by driving 1½-inch stainless steel screws through the nailing strips and into the rails.
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      Requires mid-level carpentry skills
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      Video Directory

      Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • bevel square
        Sliding T-bevel square
      • miter saw
        Miter saw
      • bar clamp
        One-hand bar clamp
      • two-foot level
        24-inch level
      • utility knife
        Utility knife
      • speed square
        Layout square
      • paintbrush
      • brad nailer
        Cordless brad nailer
      • drill

      Shopping List

      Cedar 2x2s

      Pressure-treated 2x4, for ripping nailing strips

      Primer and paint

      2-inch-long stainless steel screws

      1½-inch stainless steel screws