How to fix my iron railings?


The steps leading up to my front door have iron railings on them, embedded directly into the steps. Over time, the iron has rusted and the railings are all breaking off at ground level. This has been hastened by the ice melter that I've used on the steps the past couple of years, which I've discovered is VERY corrosive to metal (it also ate a screwdriver I had used to break up chunks of the stuff.)
So, here's what state it's in right now:
http://home.comcast.net/~esionder/temp/rail1.jpg
http://home.comcast.net/~esionder/temp/rail2.jpg
I plan to get the railings repaired by having a metal shop weld extensions onto the legs. What's a "proper" or better way to reattach them to the steps?
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Best way to repair them is to cut them off flush with the concrete, then weld pads to the base of the rods...drill holes through the pads and re anchor to the cement using cement anchors or Hilti.. Jim
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It depends on the nature of the extensions. It could be a flange to reattach with concrete fasteners to the top (and cover the ugly break point), or it could be an extension designed to fasten to the side of the steps.
I'd want to cover the blemish.
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Nil wrote: ...

What Jim said except ... can't tell but what shape is the rest of the leg in and how heavy were they to start with? Looks like lots of paint bubbling which is good sign of corrosion on insides and given the obvious length of time (based on stains) they've been rusting away, it's quite possible there's hardly enough material left to make them worth saving. That's a call can't tell from those photo's; you'll probably get a good input from the shop guys. Which, btw, find a shop that does such stuff routinely not just a general purpose weld shop; you'll likely do far better.
--
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Yes, they are quite rusted where they hit the step, but above that they are solid. What I meant by "extensions" is that I'll have the bottom several inches cut off and new material welded on. That way they'll be strong and will retain the original height. I did that to another railing further up the steps and they are quite sturdy.
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On Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:21:26 -0500, Nil

It looks like the pad was cored and epoxy used to set the rails?
If so, I would remove all the old material, clean the core and use new epoxy. The welder can also make a base plate that could be anchored over the preset spot.
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Yes, I think it is epoxy. How would I clean the core? some sort of drill? It has to get the old metal out, too.
The base plate idea would be the best, most long-lasting, solution, and easier to fix if/when it happens again. But if it's a whole lot cheaper to re-use the current holes, I might go for that and let someone else deal with the future.
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On Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:21:26 -0500, Nil

Who is designing these extensions? It sounds a bit like you've already decided what they will look like and only after that are you trying to come up with a way to attach them.

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Let me say this about that. Yes, no, definitely, maybe, and I don't know.
I used to fix just such things, being an ex steel erection contractor. I fixed this type of stuff for 275 apartment complexes.
What has happened is that the water has stood in and around this long enough to rust it out. Not a lot you can do about that unless you want to core drill out the stubs, and then make the Pourstone footer higher to keep it out of the water. But then, you would have to weld additions on, and fill them from the inside, and then, they would probably just rot off at the base again.
What I would do: The metal is probably rusted out up a ways from the broken off base. I'd cut about six inches off of that leg, weld a fresh piece of .120" square tubing on to what's there so as to be close as you can have it fit onto the plates and give you desired height. Then cut the other trash stuff off flush with the deck. Clean the holes out best you can and fill flush with Pourstone. (hydraulic cement) Then put a 4" square 1/4" plate on the deck so as to center it over the hole. These are available at wrought iron supply places, or over the Internet. If you don't know where, Google ornamental metal suppliers. A big one in Houston and LA. Probably one close to you, or cut your own.
Figure your height. If you did it right, you should come pretty close. If you are high, cut some off. Weld the legs to the plate, and leave a weep hole so water going in the inside has a way to seep out. It will look bad, but will lengthen the life of the post. Get it plumb and level. Paint using a cardboard mask.
Optional plate fasteners: Nail-ins (not suggested, as they tend to weaken and pull out), Red Heads, sleeve anchors, or wedge concrete fasteners. Drill holes deeper than you need so you don't have a lot of threads sticking up. When you pound the rod down in the hole, be sure to put washer and nut on it flush to the top so you don't booger up the threads, or remove it if it mushrooms. Get all of them down to tight with light taps from a hammer, then tighten them up.
$200 if I was to do this repair in today's market. Less if you can weld and have RotoHammer and tools.
Steve
There you go.
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Yeah,bolting it to a flange as others have suggested is just all wrong. Ive seen the results too many times. Its a code violation in a lot of places, maybe all. The apt I used to live in had to tear them all out after installing them that way. You can fasten them using brackets if the top rails are secured at each end of the rail. This often isn't the case with steps.
Jimmie
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JIMMIE wrote: ...

...
Not bolt _to_ flange; welded flange mounted.
I'd be _very_ surprised to find anyplace where that is Code violation.
--
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alt.home.repair:

Yes, I'm sure they would rot again. The only reason I might do it this way is the expense of the alternative.

That's my plan. That's what I was calling the "extension" - removing the corroded metal and welding new material on so the leg length is maintained.

I like this suggestion very much. I'd be very happy if it only cost $200 - I was expecting a lot more. I'll have to start calling around to see what it can be done for around here (Boston area.) I actually have two more similarly broken railing, but this one is is a safety issue and the others are only decorative.
Thank you for your great ideas. This has put me on a good path, I think.
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The way they were designed originally obviously is not good enough, so I would suggest doing it better this time. Consult with the shop about their recommendations, but you might consider some stainless steel inserts that the railing could then be attached to so as to prevent a repeat failure.
If you find that it is expensive to do it the right way, consider what it will cost you if on an icy morning you go to grab the rail to keep from falling and the sucker fails on you and you get injured. Lost work and doctor bills are really costly.
--
Roger Shoaf
If you are not part of the solution, you are not dissolved in the solvent.
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alt.home.repair:

That's a good idea. Iron will obviously rust, and I really do need to treat the steps to keep the winter ice at bay. I guess stainless steel would resist corrosion better. I do want to keep the iron railings, though - they match others on the property and it would be too expensive to replace all of them.
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On Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:21:26 -0500, Nil

Why get replacements if they are going to rust too? Aluminum might be longer lasting. Or, consider PT wood posts with large rabbit joints that bolt to the side of the steps. These kinds of posts really need to be secured more than you think due to the sideways forces they need to take. I've know more than one person who broke bones, tore tenons, survived 6 months of painful therapy--all could have been avoided with strong sturdy railings on steps.
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alt.home.repair:

Point taken. I've been thinking that maybe a support piece could be added to some point along the top of the rail. That leg could be angled away from the walkway out into the shrubs where it could be anchored to a small concrete pad. If done right, it wouldn't be unsightly. I don't know if my description is understandable, but I am thinking of ways to make it more sturdy and better able to support the stress of someone grabbing it during a fall. Those stairs do get VERY slippery sometimes - in fact, the reason this broke now is that someone fell against it when they slipped.
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