We reconfigure the newel post
attachment point, drill some holes, and install some bolts
and lag screws for serious structural strength.
Bruce W. Maki,
||This is the deck framing during construction.
The tall 4x4 posts at the edges of the photo were deliberately
made too long.
When we installed these 4x4 posts, we deliberately placed them
from the planned newel posts. It might seem logical to make the
treated support posts line up perfectly with the cedar newel posts,
but that can create more work than is necessary . In the above
picture, the cedar newel posts were mounted on the inside of
the rectangle formed by the framing lumber.
|We cut off the extra length with a reciprocating
saw and a long blade.
The flat section on the new post (on right) was much higher
than the century-old porch post. The red arrow shows the
point where the handrail attaches. We had to so something
about the height of the new newel post so the handrail would
Note that building codes dictate handrail heights. But when this
house was built there almost certainly was no building code. The
original handrails on the house are about 30 inches high. Today's
codes require higher handrails. But since we are restoring this old
house, we are compelled to stick with the original height. Besides,
making the replacement handrail to modern code requirements would be
an onerous task, requiring extensive modification or replacement of
the structural corner post.
But a handrail on a new house would have to comply with modern
codes, so the following steps on shortening the newel posts would
Shortening The Newel Posts:
|The newel post came with a notch, which makes it
easy to attach to 2x dimension lumber (such as a deck joist).
||We laid out the same notch size and shape, but 6
inches further upstream. We cut one edge with a circular saw.
|The first cut was just a simple kerf.
||Then we cut the second edge. Since the saw blade
can only reach about 2-1/2" deep, we had to cut from both sides.
|We finished the last bit of cutting with a hand
||The shortened newel posts were test-fitted.
The photo at right shows how the post looked before
Installing The Newel Post:
Before installing the newel posts we did two things:
- 1. We dipped the cedar posts in our
home-made water repellent, and let them dry.
- 2. We gave the posts a coat of oil-based exterior
primer on all sides and ends.
|We used some 3" deck screws to install the newel
post to the deck front joist.
But this is just the beginning of the attachment procedure.
||We clamped this small block of treated 2x4 to
the back side of the newel.
Why? First of all, the flooring needs support here. But
more important, we wanted to try a different approach to
making an extremely sturdy post-to-joist connection.
|On the face of the front joist we drilled a pair
of 1-inch diameter holes with a spade bit. These holes are just
deep enough to submerge a 5/16" bolt head with a washer.
The deciding factor in the diameter of the counterbore is
often the width of the socket that will be needed to
tighten the bolt.
Before you pick a drill bit, locate the socket that
will be used to tighten the bolt and make sure the spade
drill bit has a bigger diameter.
||Then we drilled the holes all the way through
(the joist, the newel and the block of treated wood) for the
|We inserted the 5/16" x 6" long hex head bolts
through the three layers of wood.
We installed large washers followed by smaller washers. The
big washers (for 3/4" bolts I believe) distribute the
compression forces and prevent the wood fibers from being
Then we tightened the nuts firmly with a 1/2" wrench (with
a socket on the bolt head).
But Wait, There's More...
||To make this post ultra-secure in two directions
of motion, we added lag screws to clamp the small 2x4 block to
the adjacent beam.
Here we drilled a 5/16" hole through the 2x4 block.
|This long (about 12") 1/4" diameter drill bit
came in handy to drill the pilot hole (the hole that the lag
screw threads actually bite into).
||We used 5/16" x 6" long lag screws with washers.
(Always use washers with lag screws.)
|We used a 1/2" socket and ratchet to drive in
the lag screws.
||The newel post after fastening.
|On the face of the front joist, the bolt heads
are buried below the surface. This wood will get covered with
But... How Secure Was The Post?
I have made numerous post-to-beam attachments over the years, but
this double-bolted approach really impressed me. I can grab the
newel post and push or pull with all my strength, and all I can feel
is the post flexing. I can detect no motion between the post and the
floor structure. I'm sure I could break the cedar post before the
connection would come loose.
I figured that the lags screws and bolts would work their way
loose after a couple of months of wood shrinkage. But these newel
posts have been in place for 18 months and they are still as sturdy
as the day we installed them. (Update: 5 years after installation in
1999 these posts are as tight as the day we installed them)
||The newel post after painting.
We carefully caulked the bottom gaps to prevent water from
getting under the flooring.
Back To Top
- Cordless Drill/Driver
- Quick-Grip Clamps
- 2-Foot Level
- Circular Saw
- Reciprocating Saw
- Hand Saw
- 1" Spade Drill Bit
- ½" Wrench,
- ½" Socket, Ratchet
- Turned Newel Posts
- 5/16" x 6" Lag Screws
- 5/16" x 6" Bolts with Nuts
- Large Washers: ½", ¾"
- Misc. 2x4 Blocks