Help please with broken screw/handrail - SailNet Community

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Old 04-09-2006
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Help please with broken screw/handrail

The exterior teak handrail is fastened with a screw from the top, through the deck and into the interior cabin handrail below it. A teak bung covers the screw.
My problem is that one of the screws has rusted through, and the forward end of the exterior handrail is now loose, and catches the jib sheet when tacking (not to mention that a loose handrail is not very safe and could also break off altogether).
I think I need to drill through the bung, remove the top half of the screw and try to drill out the broken/rusted screw in the deck. But I am worried that my drill bit will slip on the screw and damage the adjacent gelcoat--ie. I don't think I can drill it out neatly. I don't have access to the underside in the cabin because of the interior handrail and the padded headliner. One other thought I had was to remove some of the gelcoat around the broken off screw, enough so I can grab it with a vice grip to unscrew it, and then refill the gelcoat (most of the area would be covered by the re-attached handrail).
Does anyone have any experience with this problem, or any advice on how I can fix this? Also, would you advise undoing all the screws in the handrail and replacing them because the forward one rusted through--ie. are they all suspect, or if they seem tight, and there is no movement in the handrail, should I only fix the broken off one?
Thanks for any help.

Last edited by FrankLanger; 04-09-2006 at 02:52 PM.
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Old 04-09-2006
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You might be better off trying to use a screw extractor, rather than trying to drill through the broken part.

As for replacing all the screws, it depends on what material they are made of. If they are other than silicon bronze or stainless, replacing them is an excellent idea. I wouldn't use anything by silicon bronze or stainless screws. Through bolting would probably be even better.
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Old 04-09-2006
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I had a similar problem years ago while removing the handrails for rebedding. I used a plug cutter that would just fit over the screw to neatly cut out the handrail around the screw. With the other screws removed the handrail lifted off the bad screw and it's wood post. Vise grips were used to remove the screw after cutting away the wood post. I then used another larger plug cutter to make a plug for the handrail, epoxied it into place then drilled it out for the new screws and plugs.

The problem with rusting fasteners that get wet in such areas is caused by oxygen deprivation. Hence, bedding the area around the screw is essential. Before you reattach the screws, use a countersink bit to camfer the edges of the screw hole. When you apply bedding compound it will form an 'o-ring' around the screw and help to keep the screw dry.

Stainless steel is OK as long as you do a good job of bedding.

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Old 04-09-2006
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Hi Frank

Any chance you have the space to drill another hole beside the failed screw, (to be bunged later) and put a good screw through to the handrail underneath? Or better yet, use a bolt and bung in the overhead handrail as well. Two filled and sanded plugged holes might be less a problem than the potential for damage to the deck from attempts to remove the suspect fastener.

In the long run removing the handrails and replacing all the screws might give you the best peace of mind.....

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