Many driveways have an area that require some type of safety guard rail to prevent vehicles from sliding off the driveway in inclement weather or maybe just a driver error. Metal guard rails can be quite expensive and require a pounder (Sterling) truck to set the guardrail posts. With some sweat and a lot of effort you can construct a guardrail for almost no money. Power and telephone companies continually replace their poles on a regular basis. This may be simply an upgrade to a pole to carry new transformers or to raise a section of wires for vehicle traffic and so on.
These companies need to pay to have these old poles disposed of and that’s where you step in. Contact your local power or telephone company and ask where they store the damaged or old poles and tell them you would like to have a few. They will in almost all cases be glad to get rid of them. It saves them money. You of course cannot carry full sized poles so you will need a chain saw with some old worn chains to cut the poles into manageable six foot long sections. Please notice I said old worn chains for your saw. Sharpen them before you cut but be prepared to discard them when your done cutting the poles. Power poles are usually full of hidden nails from your neighbors posting their garage sale signs but are also littered with screws, pins and all kinds of metallic items. Each and every metal piece is death to a chain saw chain. You can or course visually scan for these items before you cut but the concealed ones are the problem. Make sure you wear heavy work gloves when handling these poles as there will be splinters galore and any sharp objects will tend not to cut or stab you as easily. Be careful while you work and always wear eye and ear protection well.
A guardrail will need a post every six or eight feet and of course at any point where the guardrail turns a corner. A straight twenty four foot guardrail with post at six foot centers would need five posts. Also a reminder that power poles are coated with creosote so wear old clothes when handling them. You will also need the longest pieces you can handle for a top rail. A top rail will provide much better protection but just plain posts close enough together can also provide very good protection. With all the pole and rail pieces now at home, lay out the centers of each post. Remember to measure from the starting edge of the first post and not the center line. Intermediate posts are measured to center line and the last post is the far edge away from the first post.
Here’s where you need to decide if you want to dig the holes for the poles yourself or hire someone with a auger truck to do it for you. Your labor is free but very time consuming, the auger truck is quick and easy but costs some cash. If your short on time or help, the auger truck may be a good investment. With the holes dug, set your starting post. Once in the correct position check to assure the post sticks a minimum of two feet above finished grade. Back fill the post tamping the material in place as you go. Now move on to the rest of the posts making sure each one is on the proper center line and height.
A good trick here is if your guardrail is in a straight line, set the first and last posts first. Place a nail in the center of these two posts and string a line between them. You now have a quick guide to both center lines and heights of all the intermediate posts without having to measure each one. Once all the posts are in place let them sit for a few days and hopefully some rainfall will come to further settle the soil around the posts. If you have a water source close by, a good soaking of the back fill soils will hasten the settlement process along nicely. Cleanup around your posts removing all rocks and excess spoils and perhaps toss down some grass seed to restore the area. It is much easier to do this before the top rail is placed. Raking under the rail and climbing back and forth over it wears out really quickly.
Once ready for your top rail, place the top rail alongside the posts on the ground with one end over hanging the first post a few inches. Mark the top tail for both sides of the all the post locations. Once marked, you must carefully notch out a two inch deep slot to receive the post top once the rail is set on top of the posts. Try to be as neat as you can but you are cutting with chainsaw. A half inch wider notch is no big deal. Place the cut top rail onto the posts. I use sixty penny galvanized landscaping spikes to fasten the to rail to the posts. You may want to pre-drill the holes in the top rail and you will need at least a five pound lump hammer. Two spikes in each post should be sufficient. Once all the rail is in place you can either simply let it weather naturally or add a new coat of stain or sealant.