Balcony Trim & Railings

March 18, 2023

The balcony will have a roll-up door that covers the opening in the wall with solid panels covered in wood slats to provide symmetrical reflections and sound diffusion.

I built this model primarily to produce exacting specifications for custom railings to be fabricated.

The ensure symmetry, there will be identical trim and slats on the other side as well.

The roll-up door will be built at a later date, so the design needs to work with and without it.

The unusually wide trim makes it possible covering the tracks and rollers of the door as well as covering the intersection of the trim and the switch plate.

Mitering 1×10 boards can be tricky, as even a modest amount of cupping can make the joint look bad.

Since the trim will be assembled and painted in the live room and then moved up to the loft to be installed I reinforced the miter joints with dowels.

I created some test miters and compared glue only, biscuits, half-depth diagonal splines and dowels and the dowel joints were by far the strongest.

I created some blocks that make it easy to clamp the corners closed while the glue sets.

I looked into a number of clamping products for miters, but none were sized to work with such wide boards.

Due to the angle of the dowels, I had to first glue and clamp the two opposite corners, and then join the two halves together.

I started running out of clamps and had to dig up some older ones just to get it all set.

I planed and sanded the joints to make them disappear, then used some two-part resin-based wood filler to raise the low spots.

I used resin body-filler on the miter joints to smooth out the transitions.

I sprayed on a gray primer and wet sanded it to get it very smooth.

I used an oil-based primer that comes in a spray can which dried especially fast.

And finally I rolled on some urethane alkalyd enamel, which bonds extremely well and cures exceptionally hard.

It was very difficult to get the alkalyd enamel to layout smoothly, as it doesn’t like to be worked.

I also painted some boards to go around the sides of the curb.

I used a 1/8 in. round-over bit to get a smooth and consistent easing on all the edges.

Due to a miscalculation, I had to trim an inch off the bottom of the trim assemblies before attaching them so the bottom of the balcony sill would sit level with the inside of the trim.

After trimming the bottoms down I painted the ends to ensure they were sealed and wouldn’t wick moisture.

I then attached the trim to the walls and curb with a finish nailer.

The curb pieces are mitered on the side facing the room and butt-jointed on the side facing the stairs which will be obscured by the railing.

One complexity was cutting a hole for the switch box to feed through the trim.

I took the opportunity to swap the positions of the middle switches which control the recessed and track lights and always felt unnatural in the initial order I installed them in.

I installed a box extension and used longer screws to secure the switches.

Unfortunately the jigsaw blade caused some visible tear-out that I had to later fill with spackle.

I then directed my attention to some cap pieces that will finish off the tops of the trim assemblies. They needed to be thicker than the trim, so I laminated two thinner pieces together.

The mitered casing trim was 3/4 in. thick, so to produce a 1/8 in. reveal I had to make a 1 in. thick board. I achieved this by laminating two 5/8 in. thick boards together and then trimming them down by 1/4 in. on the table saw.

Then I clamped them and left them to dry overnight.

This is just another example of why you can never have enough wood clamps.

I also prepared the trim for the balcony sills and casing for the other side of the wall.

The casing on the other side of the balcony is 2 in. wide and 3/4 in. thick to match the door frames.

I then attached all the sills without painting them black first, mostly to save time. I would soon be painting another coat on everything anyway.

I was able to make the sills line up so that make a continuous plane wrapping around the balcony.

Before the final paint I attached the baseboard to the back side of the room and filled the nail holes everywhere.

I applied spackle in two passes, as the 15 ga. finish nailer left holes that one pass wouldn’t hide.

Then I masked, caulked and pulled the masking tape while the caulk was still wet, leaving a very clean edge.

This technique seems to work best with caulking, as paint is too thin of a liquid and tends to bleed very easily.

Then I had to mask again for painting.

This inexpensive masking tool makes applying tape against a corner very fast and accurate.

Finally I painted all the trim.

The trim required lots of sanding and multiple coats to hide the nail holes and get a consistent finish.

Once I pulled all the masking and drop-cloths, the space looked very closed to finished.

The symmetrical trim makes the room feel balanced, and eventually adding the roll-up door and sound diffusion material will make it sound balanced too.

Ryan helped me get the landing railings up, and I was excited to get the others in, but found that one of them wasn’t built right.

I used structural screws to attach the railings to the curbs which made them fairly stable. However, I still plan to add additional fasteners at the sides of each railing connecting the to the walls and landing railings.

I had the same company that made the stairs make matching custom railings, but they welded the mounting plates 90ยบ off rotation. I had a local metal shop repair them, which was thankfully very affordable.

Once the metal shop removed the plates and welded them on correctly I had to touch-up the powder coating with satin-black spray paint. I tested flat, satin and semi-gloss paints on a scrap piece of powder coated material and found the satin matched the best.

Once I mounted the final railing, the upstairs is pretty much done.

The loft no longer feels dangerous with the railings in place.