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chrisv2 09-03-2012 08:35 PM

Getting deck railing posts plumb S-L-O-W-L-Y (!)
I have 35 railing posts on my deck project. I am using blocking around the posts and bolting them into the adjoining joist with 1/2" carriage bolts.

My problem is that I am spending what seems like an inordinate amount of time getting the posts to be plumb. The joists are not always exactly vertical, or they might be cupped a little -- so I find myself adjusting and shimming -- then as the PT lumber dries out everything moves around a little -- and I am back to adjusting again.

How do the pros do this? I was thinking of leaving all the carriage bolts a little loose, then once the railing system is in place (composite railing with post sleeves), making sure the railing is aligned correctly then going back and tightening everything up.

Or is there something else I should be doing? I'm spending something like 30 minutes cumulative on each railing post to get them plumb, which seems really slow and inefficient.

hand drive 09-03-2012 08:51 PM

install bolts last and tighten it all down. temporary bracing will help during the process :)

robertcdf 09-03-2012 10:22 PM

I use steel for railing posts (bomb proof, never warps or changes) and steel for my framework, everything is flat and perfect, and it's all way stronger than wood frames.

Not real practical in your case since you're already 1/2 way done, but you asked how pros did it :)

Another option it to just install 1 bolt into each post, then install the rails (making sure to pull everything to plumb and level) and then come back later and put the 2nd bolt in, it works out pretty good.

allthumbsdiy 09-03-2012 10:29 PM

I am not a pro and I feel your pain. I made a mistake of hurrying when selecting my 4x4 lumber and I paid dearly in lost time when they twisted, cupped, etc. as they dried.

Not sure what you have purchased so far, but you may want consider these:

1. Long pieces tend to twist/cup more so buy only in lengths you need. For example, if your post height requirement is 38 inches, buy the 4ft piece.

2. Make sure to have couple of multi position levels (i.e. Swanson Post level) and a roll of black electrical tape to secure the level to a post. Rubber bands that come with these levels break after couple of uses but electrical tape can be re-used multiple times.

3. Use composite shims (they don't shrink, do not compress easily, do not rot and are easy to snap off)

4. Install scrap pieces of wood on the bottom where your posts will sit. That way all you have to do is simply insert posts between blocking, drill and install bolts/screws.

5. Run a string between two furthest posts so that as you can easily line up in-between posts.

Lastly, I just had to let go of my burning desire to get those posts perfectly plumb. When I connected guard posts with guard rails, I found out that I could influence the "plumbness" by adding or subtracting 1/8" or so from the guard rail.

Besides, don't hurry like I did and make mistakes that will compound your problems later. Take your time enjoy the process!

chrisv2 09-04-2012 06:55 AM

Thanks for the replies; much appreciated!

Yeah, steel would have been good but the deck is 95% framed out so I missed that chance.

The post lumber is actually not too bad. It's the combination of the joist lumber and stuff moving around as it dries that seems to be causing my grief.

I will try the route of getting it "close" then dialing it in and tightening the bolts during/after railing installation.

Hammer450R 09-04-2012 07:02 AM

I temp hang it with a couple of gun nails, plumb it left to right and drill holes and install bolts. snug bolts and check in/out for plumb, shim and tighten bolts.
Holes will have wiggle room so snug the bolts and adjust post before sending bolts home.

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