From Boring to WOW: Changing Your Porch Railing to Add Character and Charm


The new and improved front porch railing.

Changing out Porch Railing

POMP Rating: 🌵🌵🌵🌵🌴

Factors Influencing Rating: This is an incredibly tedious process, requiring lots of hand carving and skill. 🌵 When you first ask for help with this, there could be a long, long silent period from your partner. 🌵 This project will not get done quickly at all.🌵 The end result is so dramatic and pretty, everyone will be happy that they did it, AND that it is finished. You🌴 will admire it every time you see it, and you will think, “wow, look what I did.” 🌴 You can compliment your husband/partner every single time you see it, which will be great for your marriage/relationship. 🌴


Why Do This?

I like to be different, I just do. I don’t want my house to look exactly like the one next door, or the one across the street. I love customizing a plain house with little details to make it unique, and I admire older homes for their craftsmanship and attention to detail. Porch railings are something I notice on older homes. There are so many different designs ranging from super intricate to very simple. If you want to get a good idea of what I’m describing, just take a drive or walk through an older neighborhood nearby and you’ll see what I mean. The newer homes all have the same railings, which to me, is boring. Our house was built in the 80’s, and the railings reminded me of tooth pics. They were just straight pickets on a straight railing spaced very close together. At first, I just ripped the whole railing off and left it without anything for about 5 years or more. Then, I realized it could be a safety issue, so we started talking about design.


I can get into trouble in salvage places like this.

Where The Inspiration Came From

There are a few antique shops in Savannah and in Texas that I frequent for inspiration. My husband and I were in our very favorite shop in Texas called Walnut Street Market, when I saw a beautiful piece of porch railing, but there was only one piece. 🌵🌵 It was just a flat picket, tapered from the top to the bottom, with what looked like a raindrop carved near the top. I grabbed it out of the bin and found my husband chatting with the store owner. When he saw my face (I was really excited!!), he just shook his head and looked down as the store owner laughed. The good thing was, my husband was half-smiling, so I knew I could persuade him to jump in to this project with me, even before I started in on all my ideas for how this would make our front porch so much prettier. This situation would have KILLED my former relationship, but with Marty - not a chance. 🌴🌴


He had to re-create the antique piece and make the pickets longer to meet current building code.

How He Did It

Well, the store owner would not let me pay for the one picket that I needed for the template, because I think he felt sorry for Marty and the tedious job ahead of him. But that is how we got started. We used the one vintage picket as a template for the over 200 pickets my husband had to hand make for the project to be finished. Since the process of carving the pickets was so tedious and lengthy, we didn’t get in a hurry to build railing. He built each picket first, stacking them neatly in his man shed as he worked. He used a jigsaw to carve the raindrop, and his table saw to taper each piece of wood to make it look exactly like the template. The biggest difference in the two should be noted: we made ours longer to meet today’s building code, which is 36 inches.


Designing the Top and Bottom Railing

Once all the pickets were made, we needed to design the top and bottom railing to build the sections of porch railing to be installed between the columns on our front porch. I wanted a wider railing on the top, because I think it looks dressier, and our porch is so wide that it was more to scale with our house. He also sanded the edges of the top railing so that it was a smoother, softer finish. I wanted the bottom railing to be higher off the porch floor than it was before to keep dirt and debris from getting caught, and for ease of sweeping the front porch. I’m really glad I did this because it is so much easier to sweep the porch now without stuff getting lodged up under the railing.


I love this detail he added to keep the wider railings from sagging over time.

My Husband Is a True Craftsman

I’m not just saying this because he’s my husband. He actually really got into this project towards the end. Once we started to install the sections of finished railing, he started adding even more little special touches, without being asked to do so. One thing he did-which I absolutely love- is he built supports for the middle of each section of railing so they wouldn’t sag over time. When he built the supports, he carved the same raindrop design into each one to match the pickets. It’s really very beautiful, and I love him for doing this. 🌴🌴🌴🌴


I mean, this is gorgeous but it would have wrecked my marriage.

Consider Design, Consider Your Marriage/Relationship

Unless you have a super small porch, I would shy away from extremely intricate designs. For one thing, if your porch is large like mine, this could end up looking very “busy” stretched out over a wide area, but on a small porch, an intricate design might give it the custom touch that will set it off. In addition to these practicalities, think about your marriage. How frustrating will it be for your partner (or you) to actually complete a project like this? What is your skill level? Where is your frustration level? Consider all of this before deciding on a design you can live with. You might need to reach a compromise in order to feasibly get it done.


Helpful Tips

Once each section of railing was put together, we opted to use our paint sprayer to paint the railing sections before installing. I highly suggest doing this to avoid even more frustration with having to hand paint intricate railing with a brush. This step saves a ton of time and frustration. If you are the one carving the pickets, you will need breaks and lots of encouragement along the way, unless your project is very small. If your partner is the craftsman, give out lots of compliments and don’t rush the process! Don’t remove your existing porch railing until you are ready to install the new one. Make sure you know your local building code for proper length/height so that you aren’t having to rip it out later on. Also, don’t forget that you probably have steps leading up to your porch. The railings on stairs are slanted, adding an extra level of difficulty to the project.


Is It Worth The Effort?

Yes! I say, definitely it is well worth the effort. Marty would agree with me, now that it is over. It added so much character to our porch, and gave our house a custom look. We use our porch even more than we did before, and we admire it every time we see it. I’m glad I chose the design (the raindrop) that I did. It fits my house well. My husband says it’s not a raindrop, but a teardrop to represent the agony he went through in the construction process. Oh, Marty! 😊 I would love to see pictures of your new porch railing when you are finished, and if it caused you to feel prickly 🌵🌵, or if it was all a little slice of paradise.🌴🌴 Let me hear from you and post your pictures!

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