Bottom Rail: To Slope or Not to Slope?

Whether you have new construction or are remodeling a 100+ year old porch, longevity is a major concern when planning your porch railing.  There are several ways to ensure that your new wood rail will provide decades of easy satisfaction.  First, of course, is choosing high quality materials with grown-in rot resistance such as those offered by Western Spindle.  Second would be to properly finish the millwork such as using a premium primer on all surfaces before installation.  More on these two topics in later articles.

But people often overlook the very shape of the rail itself.  Given that water is the major culprit with mold and rot problems, we’ve designed our railing to shed water and therefore promote longevity.  This can be tricky, given we’ve received comments from customers saying “if it isn’t flat enough to set a beer on the railing, then it isn’t really a railing at all”.  Our top rail has enough crown to give the look and feel of true Victorian architecture and allows water to run off.  And, because of exhaustive research and testing on the subject, I can assure you that it will in fact hold a beer with little danger of tipping.  I’ll go out on a limb and say it will also hold a glass of iced tea, lemonade, hot buttered rum, etc.

Porch Railing System

When purchasing our popular Porch Rail System, you have the option of either using a “flat” bottom rail (with decorative edges), or a “sloped” exterior bottom rail.  The second choice is a simple “V” shape that sheds water very well.  While we often get spindles from customers that have been on a home for 120 years on a flat bottom rail, there is no questions that a sloped bottom rail will help.

Take a look at this restoration as an example.  Most of the time, if a spindle begins to rot it will be at the bottom.  Even though this spindle had been on the home since the late 1800’s, the bottom was not rotted.  This is likely due in part because a sloped bottom rail was used (note the notch on the bottom)
wood porch baluster reproduction

There is no cost difference between the flat and sloped bottom rail systems from Western Spindle, only a small charge to notch the spindle for use with the sloped bottom rail.  This is why so many of our customers have chosen the sloped bottom rail for their porch project.

notched spindles on exterior sloped bottom rail

Stay tuned for more information on the use of premium exterior woods and finishes to help ensure a great outdoor experience on your porch.

We hope you found this information helpful. Western Spindle is a family owned shop dedicated to the timely production and delivery of quality custom porch components, Spindles, Balusters, Newel Posts and Railings. For this and other information about creating beautiful decks please come back often and visit our blog or simply call or email us: (888) 459-9965 Email:[email protected]

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