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I'm building an exterior railing for my front porch & stairs. I will be using pressure treated lumber. My balusters will be turned like these:

(source: elyriafence.com)

To secure the baluster to the bottom rail I was planning on nailing straight up into the baluster from the bottom.

I am unsure how to attach the balusters to the top railing. My handrail will be plowed on the bottom to provide side-to-side stability. I was thinking about using a finishing nail gun to toenail in the baluster to the bottom of the handrail. Is this sufficient? What size nail should I use? The top of the handrail will be routed decoratively, and I do not want to have the profile marred by a nail.

Edit:

I just saw the question on using dowel pins in railings. Would 1 dowel pin at the top and another on the bottom of the balusters hold securely?

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Toenailing through the baluster on the uphill side with a finishing nail gun should be quite sufficient. The plowed channel holds them laterally. If you wanted extra strength, you could add glue just before nailing.

16 or 18 gauge nails about 1 inch to 1 1/4 long should suffice. The hole will likely be nearly invisible.

Additionally, plowed railings usually come with a filler strip that is angle cut to sit between the balusters after they are attached. If you use the nailing gun (and glue if you wish) to attach those as well, they would further lock in the baluster.

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Bolts and studs ... if this is a safety hand rail nailing will not be enough. Drill and use 1/2 x 12 or similar studs. Stainless is best. Galvanized is ok. cadium plated is a no no,. use washers lock washer and nut. places a block between the upper part of the baluster and through bolt or use dowels and gorilla glue.

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