The rails on our front porch were original from 1942. Wood had rotted out, and they were flimsy and unsafe. Not to mention ugly. A few weekends ago, finally decided to rip them out and rebuild. Miles and I went after them with crowbar and saws and they were gone in 15 minutes flat. Took three weekends to rebuild completely.
Good amount of time wire brushing, sanding, puttying, sanding again, and painting. New 2x4s and vertical 4×4, this time with supporting L-brackets, and the new wood was solid as a rock. More puttying and painting (we were lucky to find paint that matched the old paint exactly).
We had seen porch rails made of stainless steel cable on a house in the neighborhood, and were going to buy their system, when we realized how expensive their connectors were. Would have cost nearly $900 in parts to do the whole project! Recalibrated and decided to DIY it with stainless cable and annules from Ace Hardware, combined with a pile of turnbuckles I had inherited from the J-School years ago – they had been used to hang one of Ken Light‘s photo installations.
Installation went pretty smoothly once I got into the rhythm of it. Install eyehook, attach one end of turnbuckle, create cable loop with annule on other end of turnbuckle, measure cable length by eyeball and attach eyehook to other end with another annule. Three hours later I was done (except for one eyehook, which hit a rotted portion of the vertical we hadn’t replaced (because it’s part of the porch structure).
Not perfect, but close enough for jazz, and spent less than $150 in parts for the whole job.