Concrete is tough–and not just as a material. It’s tough because it can also be difficult to work with. After it’s laid, your options for adding onto it can be a bit limited unless you plan in advance. Usually, when a concrete porch and railing are done, they’re done together. However, if you find you need to add a railing after the fact, you have a couple options, including a fascia mount and a surface mount.
Fascia mounting is a way of mounting the railing to the side of the porch, while surface mounting is installing the railing posts directly to the surface of your porch. In some cases, it might be possible to do a surface mount on a concrete porch, especially if you’re working with hardware specifically designed for concrete. However, a fascia mount is often the best solution for this type of situation. First, though, you’ll need to start with some specific tools.
The Basics of Installing a Railing on Concrete
Along with the basic hardware you’ll need to put together the railing, such as screws and brackets to attach the rails to the posts, you’ll also need a few extras, including:
- A hammer drill: A hammer drill with a masonry bit is going to give you the power you need to drill holes in concrete without breaking bits left and right. This will be used to drill the holes to secure your fascia mount post brackets.
- A shop vac: After you drill the anchor holes, you need to get rid of the debris in those holes. A shop vac works best for this.
- A standard drill: You’ll want to use a standard electric drill to put the railing system together, as the hammer drill is just for the concrete.
Now you’ll need to make some choices. You’ll of course need to choose the style and type of railing you install, but probably the biggest choice you make will be whether to install the railing using a fascia mount or a surface mount.
When to Use a Fascia Mount for Your Concrete Porch
In a recent job I did on a concrete porch, I chose to use a fascia mount as my surface space on the porch was limited and I wanted to make the most of it. There are a lot of reasons you might choose a fascia mount when working with concrete, like:
- Difficult penetration: Concrete is strong. That’s why we use it for porches. But sometimes, drilling into the surface can present a challenge as the impact of that drill is spread out. It may be easier to drill a hole into the side of the concrete, especially if that concrete is sealed. Generally, side drilling allows for easier penetration than surface drilling.
- Wet or humid climate: If your concrete porch is in a location that’s exposed to a lot of rain or moisture, then surface mounts could collect water, making them corrode more easily and pull away from the ground. In this situation, you may want to consider fascia mounts instead, as they allow for better drainage. A high-quality fascia mount cable railing system is a great corrosion-resistant choice for these types of climates.
- Tight areas: If you’re working on a porch that doesn’t have a lot of space, a surface mount system might take up more space than you want to give up. A fascia mount will allow you to mount on the side of the porch and preserve that space.
- Sealed concrete: If you live in a region that deals with freezing and thawing cycles, then sealing your concrete is a must. However, once you seal that surface, you don’t want to break it up again with holes. In this case, a fascia mount is a better mount as you can mount the railing on the unsealed side of the concrete porch.
In my opinion, fascia mounts generally win out when it comes to concrete porches and decks, but it is possible to use surface mount railings on concrete. Sometimes that might even be the better alternative, and we’ll talk about why in the next section.
When a Surface Mount Is the Best Option for Your Concrete Porch
A surface mount is the most common type of railing mount system and the one most people are comfortable with. Some just think it looks better. You might consider using a surface mount for the following reasons:
- You live in an arid climate: While fascia mounting is good for damp climates, surface mounting tends to work slightly better in dry climates as the connection is under less pressure from leverage. Over time, dry air can cause cracks in concrete. When gravity does its work on the railing, those fascia mounts may come loose. That’s less likely to happen on surface mounting as the tension is driving them downwards already, holding them in place naturally. For these situations, I’d recommend a corrosion-resistant iron railing system, which is durable in arid climates and is easy to mount using a surface mount method.
- You need easier installation: Fascia mounting can be a two-man job, as you’ll need someone to hold up the railing as you drill it into place. Surface mounting offers you the option of working alone.
Often, I see people choose to go with surface mounts because they’re looking for the easiest deck railing to install. However, with the right railing set, fascia mount installation can be just as easy. What makes it even easier are pre-welded railing panel sets, complete with hardware, that can be used to install a railing without a lot of measuring, calculating, or complication.
Getting your railings from Fortress Railings is a good option if you’re working on installing a railing on concrete for the first time, as their products come with a set of easy-to-follow instructions and are designed to be simple to install. They also have a wide variety of materials which can work with concrete, like glass, aluminum, iron, and cable. Over the years I’ve also tried other products from Fortress Building Products, like their fencing, decking, and ornamental hardware, and everything I’ve used has been well-designed, unique, and stylish. So whether you’re installing your railing on the surface or the side of your porch, if you get it from a manufacturer like Fortress, you’ll know it’ll last and look good for years.