General contractor Tom Silva shows host Kevin O’Connor a quick, cheap, and accurate way to space balusters during a railing project. This simple trick involves a trip to the fabric store for an elastic band, a tape measure, and some careful alignment to perfectly place balusters without complicated math and fractions.
Don’t Overthink Baluster Spacing
Most porch or deck projects require baluster installation, and this can be a challenging step. The balusters require even spacing that meets code (typically 4 inches or less between balusters). And, the space between rails rarely ends up being perfectly divisible with whole numbers. This can lead to askew spacing and eye-catching mistakes. Guess what? It’s avoidable.
Head to the Fabric Store
If you want to space your balusters perfectly, evenly, and quickly, the first step is heading to the fabric store and buying a piece of elastic band (approximately 60 inches long). Grab a permanent marker while you’re there, as this project will require both.
Make a Measuring Guide
When elastic is pulled, it stretches evenly across its length. That makes it the perfect guide for spacing balusters (with some prep work, of course).
Lay the elastic band out on a flat work surface. Place a weight such as a coffee mug or book on either end of the band to remove the wrinkles, but do not stretch it yet. Using a ruler or tape measure, use the permanent marker to mark the band with a single line across the width of the band spaced every 4 inches.
Use the Guide
Using the guide to space balusters between posts is simple. Place a piece of scrap baluster flush with the inside edge of one of the posts. Holding the band so that one of the marks aligns with the inside edge of the other post, stretch the band until a mark aligns with the far outside edge of the scrap baluster. Place a baluster along each of the marks for perfect spacing.
Note: Place the balusters to the side of the marks in the same orientation as the scrap baluster against the post. For example, if the scrap baluster is to the left of the mark, each baluster should also be to the left of the corresponding mark.
Tom used a length of fabric elastic to measure out the railing and placed a dot every 4 inches across the band. He then stretched the band across the length of the railing starting at the front of the first post and ending about a couple inches into the end post to account for the thickness of the baluster. He then places the balusters to the left of each marked dot on the elastic which are now equally distanced all the way across.
Fabric elastic can be found at local fabric stores.