Curved Porch Railing: the Ultimate in Exterior Architectural Millwork
Curved porch railing, rounded railing, radius rail. By whatever name, there’s no better accent for a your rounded porch, deck, or veranda.
Railings for rounded porches are made on a custom, made-to-order basis. This is because there is rarely two rounded porches or decks with the same radius (which is also part of the appeal: a one-of-a-kind porch!).
There are several ways to make curved railing. With rails made of synthetic materials, like our Polyurethane line, the mold is made to your specific radius and dimensions. For those looking for authentic wood rail, there are a few different options that range from great to terrible.
The most common is to take very wide boards and cut the curve out of the board. There are several problems to this method. First, because the length and radius is limited by the width of the board, the builder will need to splice several pieces together creating weak spots and unsightly joints. The second problem is that when a curve it cut from a straight-grained board, it exposes the end grain on what is now the side of the railing. End grain is more susceptible to moisture and is more difficult to mill to a smooth finish.
Another method is to steam bend the wood. This method is sometimes used in furniture making. Because of the size and mass of the railings this type of architecture requires, this method is unpractical.
We feel the very best method for this application is what we call the “bent lamination” method. First, we make a “form” or “template” according to your specific measurements and porch radius. Then the wood is cut into strips thin enough to bend around that radiused form. An exterior wood epoxy is applied to all the strips before they are bound to the form and allowed to cure. After milling with special equipment made for curved molding, the result is a rail that is very strong, has no joints, has no exposed end grain, and is identical in size and shape to the straight rail portions of your railings. While this method is a little more labor intensive, we think it will be worth it for our customers in the decades to come.
So how do you go about ordering curved porch railing? It’s easier than you think!
You only need two measurements: the width of the curve and the height. From these two numbers, we can determine the other figures mathematically (radius, arc length, angle subtended, etc.). Note: make sure you measure to the same point on the curve for both measurements. For example: if you measure the length to the OUTSIDE of the rail, make sure to also measure the height to the OUTSIDE of the rail.
Some customers feel more comfortable if they also send us a template with the curve drawn on it, made of construction paper, etc. This certainly doesn’t hurt, however unless it is a rigid template, there are room for errors on a paper template. We have made many rails by using the math only, and have never had a problem with this method.
Measuring for curved stair railing works the same way. We just need the rise/run of your stairs in addition to the width/height of the curve. See this illustration. If you’d like to download a PDF of this drawing to print and take to the project site, click How to Measure Curved STAIR Rail.
Curved stair rail is a little more involved for us to make because the rail not only curves, but also twists as it comes down the steps. This is why we need the rise over run as well. Note that we only do curved stair railing in our Polyurethane line of railing.
If your stair rail is elliptical, meaning it is not a constant radius, we can do that as well. Just email or call and we’ll talk it through.
So whether you prefer wood or synthetic, just take those measurements and give us a call. We’ll get you started with strikingly beautiful curved railing.