We knew we wanted these to match the railings we just put on the porch itself, height-wise, and we'd been talking over the design during our commute, trying to think through it as much as possible before the time actually came. Not that it's a complicated design, but this kind of project always presents some unanticipated problem.
Right after work I painted a couple more samples onto the dining room wall. We're still looking for the right color in there. Getting closer. Is copper too dark? Do we want something more red? Help?
On to the railings! First major task was to install 4x4 posts halfway up the stairs. We did a bunch of math and cut the first post. John also notched out the stair tread so the post could slide in against the stringer. Then he predrilled the post so we could put 5" lag screws through it.
As he was predrilling I thought more about our math. Uh-oh. We forgot something. If we wanted the stair rails to begin at the same height as our porch rails, the entire stair rail would be much lower than we'd figured. John had read that the hand rail should be 36" above the front edge of each tread. Ours was going to be less than 29". We solved this problem by looking in a different book and finding the answer we wanted—that a good height is 30" off the middle of each tread. Great! On with the plan.
Next there was a long frustrating sequence of attempts at getting that post positioned just right (correct height and plumb) and bolted in satisfyingly. The night closed in around us. I imagined that we were completely alone on a dark rocky planet, that just beyond our drop light and house and cars was a vast void in which nothing breathed or stirred, and no light shone. This did not make me feel better. Then we got the post bolted in pretty well and kept going.
Put up the top rail after figuring out an angled cut at top and bottom. John started marking and cutting the lumber for the right side of the stairs before we even got both left-hand rails screwed up, which I still think was kind of a trick to get me to keep working until we finished the entire project, although he denies it. (To be fair, he did ask if I wanted to stop, and we made a deal that we'd quit at 10:30 no matter what, which we did not.) Long story short, thanks to the fact that the second time through anything is always way faster, we did get the right side done too. Can't say it was fun, but it feels good that it's finished. And that working outside, in late evening, in January, is now behind us!
You may now walk up our stairs and stand on our porch in complete safety.