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Thread: OT - Replacing Deck Stairs Handrail Post

  1. #1
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    Default OT - Replacing Deck Stairs Handrail Post

    The pressure treated (PT) 4X4 post at the bottom of my deck stairs has rotted away right at ground level. I've just finished digging the stump out, and was pleasantly surprised: it wasn't set in concrete as I had expected, which made the chore easier ...not easy, but easier.

    Now I'm trying to decide on the replacement procedures. I'm thinking about putting another PT 4x4 in, set in concrete, but first coating it with tar or roofing cement, or something like that to hopefully prevent future decay. But having always used old used motor oil as a release agent on concrete forms, I'm wondering if that would be a good idea, since the concrete would likely not adhere to the post. And possibly the tar coating might just hold in moisture, hastening decay. Anyone have firsthand experience or educated thoughts or advice about that?

    Of course another possibility is to use something like a steel 2x3x1/8 or 3/16" rectangular tube. But even that will eventually be susceptible to rust. And the wooden PT 4x4 will be easier to implement.

    That original post has been there close to 30 years, though it's probably been in a decaying state for several years. So for my own personal use, considering my age, it's probably not going to matter much, but nevertheless I'd still like to do a good job of it.

  2. #2
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    I would just replace it with a ground contact rated 4x4 and forget about it. I don't know about coating it with tar as when the water gets in, it will never dry out and promote decay, just like undercoating on vehicles.

  3. #3
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    You say it was pressure treated and it rotted right at ground level. That brings up some questions in my mind. Pressure treated is not a perfect way of preserving lumber, it just retards the deterioration. But I wonder if it was really PRESSURE treated or perhaps just dipped. And was it pressure treated after being fully cut or was it cut after the treatment. The pressure treatment process does not penetrate all the way to the middle of a 4" piece of lumber and may not even reach the center of a 2" piece. Also cracks that develop after it is in the ground.

    I would not cut the post after the pressure treatment or if you do, you can purchase the treatment chemical to apply to the cut area. Setting it in concrete should be an excellent way of protecting it in the future. I would not add any additional treatment which would interfere with the concrete bonding to the wood. I would also "mound" the concrete in an inverted cone shape ABOVE the ground, around the base of the post. That should prevent water from pooling around the post and seeping into it or any crack between the post and the concrete. Make it so that the water will run off, into the lawn. And be sure there is at least 2" of concrete all around the post, including UNDER it. That's the best you can do and it will probably outlast both you and me.

    Of course, after you make that concrete cone above the level of the lawn, DON'T go and fill the lawn another inch or two.
    Paul A.

    Make it fit.
    You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!

  4. #4

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    Having put many posts in the ground, I would suggest that you put 12" of clear stone in the hole first. This will allow water to drain away from the post bottom. I would then suggest that you raise the concrete around the ground line of the post. This way water can not just sit on the concrete at the ground line. I have not problem with the tar use because water can transfer through the concrete. Good luck, and nothing wrong with trying to make it better!

  5. #5
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    I did intend to put some gravel/stone in the bottom of the hole for drainage, though the heavy clay soil underneath will likely still impede adequate drainage during times of heavy, prolonged rain.

    As to the pressure treatment(s), I bought the house new just after construction was complete, so really don't know just what was used. It looked just like all the other PT 4bys that I see. I don't think I've ever come across any that specifically said "for ground contact." I have seen labels say NOT for ground contact.

    I wouldn't hold out a lot of long-term hope for any surface treatments I might apply as a wood preservative for in-ground use. I have seen (and used) a recipe of Propylene Glycol and Boric acid. The idea is that the glycol carries the boric acid, which is toxic to the little microscopic decay organisms (fungi I think) into the wood fibers. As I say, I've used that, but it was not for ground contact. And I don't have any anecdotal evidence that it did any good. ...it was just a "might as well try it" venture. (I do, however, have anecdotal evidence that it'll kill a spot on your grass if you dump the leftovers on the lawn!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnl View Post
    I did intend to put some gravel/stone in the bottom of the hole for drainage, though the heavy clay soil underneath will likely still impede adequate drainage during times of heavy, prolonged rain.

    As to the pressure treatment(s), I bought the house new just after construction was complete, so really don't know just what was used. It looked just like all the other PT 4bys that I see. I don't think I've ever come across any that specifically said "for ground contact." I have seen labels say NOT for ground contact.
    Here you go:
    https://www.menards.com/main/buildin...4422036847.htm

    HD and Lowes also list it but say "unavailable". Shrug. Any real lumber yard will have it.

    If you cut it, don't bury the cut end.

    Telephone poles have been pressure treated for 50-60 years (older ones were creosoted). The old ones are probably all gone now, or nearly. I've climbed some of the old ones that were probably held up only by the cable attached to them. Didn't like it one bit.

    -js
    There are no stupid questions. But there are lots of stupid answers. This is the internet.

  7. #7
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    This newer pressure treated lumber really is not all that great in comparison to yesteryears (arsenic?)

    I put down a deck board just a couple years ago and it's already rotted out - it was touching the ground and slightly under in spots but im in semi-arid conditions and the normal non-pressure treated boards actually seemed to do better in this situation...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Stewart View Post
    Telephone poles have been pressure treated for 50-60 years (older ones were creosoted). The old ones are probably all gone now, or nearly. I've climbed some of the old ones that were probably held up only by the cable attached to them. Didn't like it one bit.

    -js
    Unfortunately, we don't have Menards around here, that I know of.

    Yeah I thought about creosoted. Don't remember when I last saw some, but there used to be creosoted fence posts available. They were usually (always maybe?) round, about 4" in diameter. Is that something now banned by the EPA?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnl View Post
    I don't think I've ever come across any that specifically said "for ground contact."
    My local HD lists 286 in stock.

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/4-in-x-4...4354/205220341

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynnl View Post
    Unfortunately, we don't have Menards around here, that I know of.

    Yeah I thought about creosoted. Don't remember when I last saw some, but there used to be creosoted fence posts available. They were usually (always maybe?) round, about 4" in diameter. Is that something now banned by the EPA?
    Dunno. I do know that the phone company (AT%T and regional subsidiaries) switched to pressure treated because it lasted much longer than creosote on poles.

    As I mentioned, any real lumberyard will have them.

    -js
    There are no stupid questions. But there are lots of stupid answers. This is the internet.

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