The Right and Wrong Way to Anchor Railing to Concrete

Friday, October 11 2019 2:01 PM

When adding railing to concrete features like sidewalks, patios or balconies, it’s important to know the best way to install it. Following the proper guidelines can save you from costly repairs and backbreaking work later.

Railing that is improperly installed can lead to costly, labor-intensive repairs that could involve having to tear out and replace the concrete completely. Let’s take a look at both the wrong way and the correct way to anchor railing to concrete. 

Embedding Rails Into Concrete Can Lead to Big Problems

One way to attach railing to concrete is to embed it directly into the concrete. The thought behind this is that it will make the railing stronger if it is actually mounted in the concrete. 

However, the fact that the metal railing is embedded can create a huge problem. The problem with such an installation method comes down to moisture transfer. Concrete is porous and easily absorbs and retains water. The water that is absorbed by the porous concrete can then be transferred to the wrought iron or metal that is embedded in it causing rust to form. This corrosion can reach a pretty advanced stage before you even see the damage. 

But that’s only part of the problem. Once you discover the rust, the only way to repair it is to cut or drill out the concrete that is holding the railing and replace it. This approach is time consuming, costly and labor intensive, often leading to damage in both your concrete and your railing.

Bolt Railing Into Concrete to Avoid Costly Issues

A much simpler and more cost-effective approach involves using concrete bolts or fasteners to anchor railing on top of concrete rather than embed it. When properly installed, you will get railing that is stable and able to support large amounts of weight. The railing will be just as sturdy as if it had been sunk into the concrete, without all of the hassle and maintenance problems that come with embedding it.

Anchoring railing to concrete also makes it easier to change out its components as soon as you see signs of corrosion. PowderTech always recommends stainless fasteners when completing a powder coated project, they match the aesthetic quality of powder long-term and allow for reliable replacement 5, 10 and even 20 years down the road.

Below is a brief outline of how we recommend you mount your railing to concrete. This is only a simple outline and you should consult with a concrete professional before you begin installation.

How to Attach Railing to Concrete

For this task, you’ll need a hammer drill, hammer, tape measure, hack saw, vacuum, extension cord, and a sharpie marker. You will need additional tools for your railing kit, but as that will vary, we will not be covering it in this particular article.

  1. Measure Your Location - Make sure your location is a suitable place for the railing. Clean the area thoroughly and measure to get the sizes of railing you will need.
  2. Test the Railing - You’ll need a few people to hold the railing in the intended location. Make sure the railing fits properly and troubleshoot any possible problems or impediments before drilling any holes.
  3. Drill - Using the base flange of the railing as a guide, use a marker to mark the holes on the concrete. Then use a hammer drill to drill into the concrete where you want the anchors to go. Afterward, use a shop vac to vacuum all of the debris out of the holes.
  4. Attach Anchors to Concrete - Once the holes have been drilled and all debris removed, fit anchors into the holes and use a hammer to drive them in.
  5. Attach Flange to Anchor Bolts - Place the flange on the bolts and hand tighten the bolts onto the flange.
  6. Tighten Bolts - Use a wrench to finish tightening the nuts onto the bolts and then use a hacksaw to trim off any anchor bolt that is left sticking up above the nut.
  7. Attach Railing to the Flange Base - Once the flange is mounted, insert the railing and tighten with appropriate hardware. Again, this will vary based on the railing you use.

Properly Installed Railing Gives You Peace of Mind

As you can see, when properly installed, rails bolted to concrete instead of embedded can give you a firm, strong railing while also negating the costly problems associated with sinking the railing into the concrete. This will save you a lot of time, money and hassle in the long run and make sure you don’t have to deal with costly, difficult repairs.

In addition to bolting your railing rather than sinking it into concrete, using railing materials that have been powder coated is a great way to further ensure that you won’t see signs of rust damage. Our team of experts at PowderTech can help you determine the best coating for your architectural finishing project whether it is installing a new rail outside of your building or you need an entire outdoor structure powder coated. Contact us today at (316) 832-9210 or request a quote.

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