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My parents' front porch is surrounded by old medal posts that have undergone a lot of rust over the years, and this spring we noticed that at least one of the posts is no longer connected to the ground.

Here are some photos of the posts, as well as the rust damage and their current connection to the house at the top. They're currently attached to the solid concrete porch with bolts at the bottom and screwed into wood above. The screws are somewhat rusty, but holding on. The wood seems to be in very good condition, although it could use sanding & fresh paint.

They don't have a lot of money to spend on repairs, so I've offered to do all the labor for them. I'm willing to put in as much work as necessary to make sure their house is safe and stable for the rest of their lives. I just need to make sure I'm tackling it the right way.

I have several questions about how I should approach this, so I hope you'll all be able to give me some guidance.

Materials

The first concern is what to actually replace the posts with. Would a 4x4 treated post be adequate to replace each one of these? I'm not certain what type of metal the existing posts are, or how much weight they're carrying.

Most wood posts I'm finding specify they can carry 1500-2000 pounds, and my intention would be to replace them 1-for-1. (Currently there are 8 or 9 posts, depending on how you want to count the front corner.)

I've been thinking about something along the lines of these posts. Would that be adequate to replace the metal supports?

Update: Based on discussion in the comments, as well as taking a closer look at the pictures I took in the spring, I don't believe the existing posts are structural. So my concerns are really about technique, more than material. Any answers/advice to the thoughts below would be greatly appreciated.

Technique

The actual mechanics of replacing the posts are also a concern.

First, what's my best option to support the upper railing while I remove the old post and set the new one? I have access to post jacks via my father-in-law's work. Would that be ideal?

Also, how do I need to tie into the concrete? It seems to me that I'd be better off having some sort of rust-resistant metal bracket underneath the post, rather than have the wood sit directly on the concrete. What would that bracket be called? Is there another option that would be better?

At the top, I anticipate the wood posts (assuming we go that route) would sit directly between the solid blocks, which are a bit smaller than a 4x4. Can I just drive screws through the rail at an angle, or should I try to tie them directly into the 3x3 blocks? I do have a pocket hole jig, if that's the best way to go.

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    Are you sure these are structural? They look decorative. – Harper Aug 29 '16 at 17:10
  • Well, there's an attic above them, which is used as an apartment. If they're not holding that up, I'm not sure what is. – Ben Wyatt Aug 29 '16 at 17:12
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    I agree with @Harper those are decorative. If you show a picture of both stories and the roofline we could get a better idea of what's supporting what. Those wrought iron trellis's won't support much weight. – Tyson Aug 29 '16 at 17:17
  • I added another photo to the album that's zoomed out a bit. Unfortunately, their house is 2 hours from mine, so I can't just pop over and get more. Hopefully this one helps. – Ben Wyatt Aug 29 '16 at 17:23
  • The more I look at the latest photo, the more I think they're not structural. Yes, they're carrying a bit of roof, but it looks like the attic just sits on top of the room below & doesn't overhang the porch. The main structure doesn't seem to depend on them at all. – Ben Wyatt Aug 29 '16 at 17:45
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Depends on what you mean by non-structural. I think it's very unlikely that the overhanging roof is self supporting as it seems to be a large span. More likely that the posts are holding some of the weight.

Rather than replace the whole posts with something else (and altering the 'feel/look' of the place), what's your welding like? I only ask as the vast majority of the metal posts are fine. Cutting the 'feet' off each post and welding in new metal is not terribly time consuming and could be done one at a time negating the need for additional supports (handy since they are in pairs!).

I can't quite tell if the posts go into the concrete (hopefully not) or sit on top in some kind of foot. Maybe it's possible to make up some new 'feet' that can be welded/bolted into place with a little flair and ingenuity (after cutting away the bottom part of the post). Just a thought....

  • As best I can tell, they're bolted to the concrete, not embedded in it. Although I hadn't considered that particular possibility, and I'll need to look more closely the next time I'm there (in about a month). I'm a woodworker, not a welder, but I do know a couple. Might ask them to take a look before I do anything drastic. Thanks for your thoughts. – Ben Wyatt Aug 31 '16 at 14:09

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