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My townhouse has some outdoor stairs built out of 6" x 8" lumber (i.e., the first step is comprised of two pieces of lumber (with no "nosing")). A couple of the steps are rotten and I need to change the lumber. There is a metal railing along the stairs, which is held down with screws in the lumber. I will need to remove that railing when changing the lumber. When comes time to re-install the railing, will I be able to reuse the same holes for screwing the railing back in place? I don't want to leave some visible holes (in the steps that did not need to be replaced) if I need to use different holes?

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edit: The reason for me saying the railing needs to be removed is that (I believe) there is a nail underneath the railing metal plate on the first stair. I cannot confirm without removing the darn railing. After I asked the question about reusing the same screw holes to one of my neighbors (who is no more handy than I am), he suggested that I cut the step off near the nail and slide out the lumber (instead of taking off the railing). I am not sure how I would cut off the lumber in the first place, let alone cutting it close enough to the nail under the metal railing. Based on the (somewhat comforting!) answers below, am I correct in saying that using the same holes, with possibly longer lag bolts, would maintain a safe railing and be much easier than trying to cut off the lumber near the spikes?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Since this is a railing and safety is involved, these are probably lag bolts.

Water penetrates around fasteners and can cause rot in the wood. Lag bolts are notorious for pulling out because the wood has decomposed in the thread bite area (Antenna mounting experience on mountaintops, in pressure treated timber no less!!). To combat this, usually you can install the next longer lag bolts by two increments and get another 5-7 years out of the mounting...

You don't want somebody to fall against the railing and have it fail, obvious messy lawsuits involved there.

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I don't see why not. Just keep in mind that a fresh screw hole is going to give you a much tighter connection that going into one that has already had threads cut through the wood. If you're worried about the holding strength, just go up one screw size and think of the old one as a pilot hole.

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Also, you want to be careful to find and follow the existing threads when re-using threads in any "soft" substance and a "harder" screw. If you just start screwing in and cut new threads, the threads in the wood eventually become useless as they get cut away. Back-turn the screw in the hole until you feel it "drop" as the threads pass the starting point, then turn in the normal direction to follow the old threads in. – Ecnerwal Apr 27 '14 at 18:06
The screws (actually, lag bolts) are going through the metal railing hole as well -- thus I am not sure if I would be able to use a larger diameter screw -- would just longer (but same diameter) screws be reasonable? – Jimmy May 7 '14 at 13:57

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