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What is Wrought Iron Fencing?

Wrought iron fencing is metal fence, constructed from solid iron components. Sometimes mispronounced as “rod iron“. Every part of a wrought iron fencing is custom. Crafted by master craftsmen, then welded together. Wrought iron fencing is not commercially manufactured. It isn’t sold by the section. You can’t find it in a catalogue or brochure. True wrought iron fence is custom made for a specific application. Because of this, costs associated with building wrought iron fencing are costly. If you are looking for the longest lasting, one of a kind fence, then a wrought iron fence is for you. If you are looking for a fence that looks like wrought iron, made from steel, and is readily available, then you are looking for an ornamental steel fence.

ornate wrought iron fence
Iron Fence with Finials and Scrolls

What is Ornamental Steel Fence?

Ornamental steel is a fence that looks like wrought iron fencing. However, made from steel not iron. What’s the difference? Iron comes straight from the earth. Steel is a combination of iron and other manmade components. Unlike wrought iron fence, ornamental steel fence uses hollow steel tubes, manufactured by a machine. As a result, making ornamental steel fence more affordable and more readily available.

steel ornamental black fence
Commercial Grade Ornamental Steel Fence

What Are The Advantages of Each Style?

Each style of fence does have individual advantages the other doesn’t have. Let’s take a quick look at the advantages of each style.

Wrought Iron Fencing

  • Ultimate life expectancy. Many times lasting multiple decades or more
  • Ultimate in strength and security
  • One of a kind. Nobody else will have your fence
  • Considered works of art.

Ornamental Steel Fence

  • Less expensive than wrought iron
  • Readily available if repairs are needed
  • Can be racked to accommodate changes in grade
  • Can be installed by Do-it-yourselfers

Wrought Iron and Ornamental Steel Fence Uses

The uses for both styles of fences are similar. Everyday applications are prevalent if you know where to look. Both are stronger than ornamental aluminum fence. So the places you’ll find them usually require a strong, solid, and secure fences.

Sports Complexes and Arenas

Sports complexes are popular places to find wrought iron fences. The extra strength keeps fans from entering without a ticket. Sports complexes are one of a kind. So it’s no coincidence the fences that surround them are too. Some complexes do have ornamental steel fences. But the professional stadiums and arenas almost always have wrought iron.

Amusement Parks

Amusement parks need strong fences. Both styles work well for amusement parks. Perimeter fence that will rarely ever change will be wrought iron. However, fences for rides and attractions that change over time will probably be the more affordable ornamental steel. Having the advantage of being reusable or rerouted is and advantage of ornamental steel fence. I’ve personally reused ornamental steel fence at my local Six Flags.

Pools and Water Parks

Public pools and water parks will have wrought iron fencing or ornamental steel fencing. Both rely on admissions to operate. So both will have fences. Either style will suffice. The budget and location of the city may determine which.

Factories and Corporate Offices

Large factories and corporate headquarters with high security protocols require strong fences. We know wrought iron is the strongest fence. But, a more affordable solution is necessary when fencing in large parcels of land. Ornamental steel is perfect for larger jobs with more linear footage.

Home Stores and Garden Centers

Home and garden centers use ornamental steel fences for their outdoor garden sections. Drive by your local Home Depot or Walmart and you will see ornamental steel fence protecting inventory.

What About Residential Applications?

wrought iron gate
Residential Wrought Iron Gate and Fence

Unless you have an unlimited budget for your fencing needs, wrought iron fencing is probably going to be out. Some people do choose ornamental steel for residential applications. However, aluminum fence is far more popular. The added strength ornamental steel fence provides is overkill for most residential projects. Not to mention it costs more. Therefore people tend to stay with aluminum. However, manufacturers do make ornamental steel fence in residential grades. Because steel is stronger than aluminum the sections are wider. The sections are 8′ long for ornamental steel fence. Aluminum fence has 6′ wide sections. Ornamental steel fence sections attach to the posts with a post strap or bracket. Therefore, they are removable. The 8′ wide section provides enough room for a bobcat or small excavator to gain access. Eliminating the need to add a costly double gate you may never use.

Fence Styles

Wrought Iron Fencing Styles

As we already discussed, wrought iron fences are one of a kind works of art. Therefore, built to whatever style you want. A simple design may only have 2 horizontal rails welded to the tops and bottoms of square pickets. On the other hand, a complex design may have 4 rails with turned pickets, including scrolls and finials. The point is, there are no standard styles. As result, you get to design what you want.

Ornamental Steel Fence Styles

Ornamental steel manufactures do have 2 primary styles. However, variations of each style vary slightly between manufacturers. Every manufacture has a style with a flat top. And every manufacture has one with spear points. Options on total number of rails per section and configuration of the spear points are available. Add-ons like finials, rings, and scrolls are also available. Let’s take a look at the flat top and spear point styles of ornamental steel fence.

Flat Top Style

Contemporary Wrought Iron Fence Section
Contemporary Flat Top Wrought Iron Fence

Flat top style ornamental steel section have a rail installed at the very top of the section. Sometimes there are only 2 total rails and sometimes there are 3 or 4 depending on the overall height of the fence. Flat top style are very safe because they don”t have any points. This style of fence popular for swimming pools, day cares, parks and anywhere else there might be children playing around or climbing them.

Spear Point Style

2 rail pointed wrought iron fence
Wrought Iron Fence with Spear Points

Used to discourage climbing, some ornamental steel fence styles have exposed spear points. Because of this, they make for great security fences. There are two style of spear point fences. Straight and alternating. The straight style of spear point ornamental steel fence has all of the pickets at the same height. The alternating style has pickets that stagger from high to low, alternating every other picket. In short, both do a good job of preventing climbing.

Finials, Rings, and Scrolls

fleur de lis finial
Fleur De Lis Finials on Wrought Iron Fence

To further customize your fence, manufactures make add-ons that you can install on most styles. Finials are accessories that fit on top of spear point picket styles. They are 3 primary shapes or styles. A quad flare finial looks like a four side arrowhead with a small ball at the point. A triad finial has 3 offshoots. One goes straight up to a point and the other two turn outwards away from each other. A Fleur-Di-Lis finial is the most ornate. Similar to the triad finial, it can have more of a floral look.

rings in iron fence
Rings Between Rails of Wrought Iron Fence

Rings are an option for both flat top and spear point styles of ornamental steel fence. However, the section must have 3 rails, two of them spaced at the diameter of the ring. Most rings get installed after the fence is up. They simply screw to the pickets. Although some manufactures manufacture the rings directly into the fence section. One drawback to adding rings however, is that they take away the ability to rack each section of fence.

scrolls on a wrought iron fence
Scrolls Welded to Wrought Iron Fence

Scrolls also screw onto the fence. They straddle the pickets and have a floral or curling pattern extending to either side. Scrolls normally match the color of the fence. But sometimes they are gold in color. This makes them stand out more. Don’t over use scrolls. They should not be on every picket.

Wrought Iron and Ornamental Steel Gates

Universally across the fencing industry gates fall into two main categories. There are walk gates and double gates. Sometimes walk gates are referred to as man gates. A walk gate is a single panel, called a gate leaf. Double gates will have two gate leafs however. Estate gates are another category. Homes and businesses use estate gates for fencing over driveways.

Wrought Iron and Ornamental Steel Walk Gates

iron man gate
Single Wrought Iron Man Gate

Any fence that fully encloses something will need a gate to gain access to what it is enclosing. Walk gates allow that access. Standard sizes of walk gate are 36″,42″, 48″ and 60″ wide. Great for pedestrian access. A walk gate that measures 4′ wide is wide enough to accommodate most household items that enter a backyard. A wheelbarrow, patio furniture, BBQ grill and most lawn mowers will fit through a 4′ wide gate. Smaller riding lawn tractors however, may require a 60″ wide gate.

Wrought Iron and Ornamental Steel Double Gates

double drive wrought iron gate
Wrought Iron Double Drive Gate with Finials

Use a double gate for larger openings in a fence. A double gate is really just two walk gates that meet in the middle. However, there is no need to have a center post. Common widths are 6′, 7′, 8′ and 10′ wide. One of the gate leafs is held stationary with a metal rod, called a drop rod or cane bolt. This allows you to use half of the double gate just like a typical walk gate. When you need access to the larger opening, the drop rod is pulled up allowing the second gate leaf to swing freely. Double gates allow access to large lawnmowers, vehicles, or excavating equipment.

Wrought Iron and Ornamental Steel Estate Gates

very ornate wrought iron estate gate
Ornate Wrought Iron Estate Gate

Estate gates a larger gates that cover driveways and front entrances to a businesses. Wrought iron and ornamental steel are great for estate gates because of their structural integrity. But the extra weight of these wider gates requires a stable foundation to hang from. As a result, sometimes brick or stone columns or piers are used to support such large gates. Estate gates may be fabricated as a single leaf or two leafs depending on the span they need to cover. Wrought iron fabricators really shine here. Often the focal point of a property, wrought iron estate gates can be one of a kind works of art. Ornamental steel estate gates have more basic designs but still make a statement.

Gate Add-ons and Extras

Most gates match the style of fence installed. But what if you want your gate to stand out? Much like the add-ons for fence sections, customizing gates is also an option. Arches and scallops are popular additions to make gates stand out. Finials, rings and scrolls will also give your gate a custom look. Having the first letter of your last name is popular on estate gates.

What Are My Color Choices?

green iron fence
Green Colored Wrought Iron Fence

When thinking of a wrought iron fencing, you probably see the color black. There is no doubt black is the most common color. However, both wrought iron and ornamental steel fence come in different colors. The common theme for wrought iron fencing is that it is custom. Built just for you. So you control the color. Black, white, grey, green, I’ve seen it all. If you want a particular color, you can certainly have it. Ornamental steel fence is a little different. Mass produced in a factory with paint booths, only certain colors are available. Black and Bronze are the two standard colors. White is available on some product lines. That’s it. Any other color would result in custom setup charges.

What Heights do Wrought Iron and Ornamental Steel Come In?

You guessed it when dealing with wrought iron fencing, any height you want. I’ve seen 12″ tall wrought iron fencing attached to the top of a brick wall and I’ve seen 20′ tall wrought iron fencing outside of a baseball stadium. Ornamental steel fence manufactures do have standard heights. Certain grades will stop at certain heights. However, ornamental steel fence heights start at 3′ tall, with some manufacturers offering up to 12′ tall as a standard height. The purpose of your fence will determine its height. Residential fence heights fall between 4′ and 6′ tall. Security fences around businesses are normally 6′ to 8′ tall.

What About Maintenance?

A fence sits outside exposed to the elements. Moisture can cause rust. Rust can destroy of metal fence faster than you think. However, wrought iron fence will last for years with a good primer and paint job. How clean the iron is before painting will determine how well the primer and paint will stick. Check wrought iron fences periodically for rust. If rust is present, address it before it spreads even more. Brush or grind rust down to bare metal to prevent it from spreading further. Then apply good primer and paint. Wrought iron fencing will last for decades as a result of general maintenance.

Ornamental steel fence manufactures use multiple coatings to protect their product. Some of the coatings help to repel moisture and prevent rust. A 10 – 25 year warranty is common for ornamental steel products. As a result, leaving them relatively maintenance free. An inspection once a year is a good idea. Primer and exact paint matches are available from the manufacture. Used for touchups on small scratches or dings the fence may endure over time.

Installation Methods

Wrought Iron Fencing Installation

There are a couple ways to install wrought iron fencing. The first method has the fence sections hanging between posts. First, a hole is dug into the ground. Next, a post is set in a concrete footer, then allowed time to dry. Last, the wrought iron fence section is either welded or bolted to the post. The second method requires a poured concrete footer or wall. During fabrication, the fence sections have angled supports welded to them. The supports are bolted down to the concrete wall or footer. Supports could be a little heavier dimension then the rest of the fence. However, in this method, posts are not used. Brick piers or columns incorporated into the fence line are common. Ends and corners are popular place to find them. Sometimes, the wrought iron sections will be bolted to the pier with a bracket or wall mount.

Ornamental Steel Fence Installation

Posts are set first for ornamental steel fence. The manufacture will specify at what distance. Concrete should be allowed time to dry before installing the sections. Once dry, the sections will hang between the posts. This is done using a post strap or fence bracket. For high security fences, a tamperproof bracket is available. This prevents a section of fence from being removed. The ability to rack a section is an advantage ornamental steel has over wrought iron fencing. This allows the height of the fence to follow uneven grades better. Ornamental steel fence is easy to assemble and install. As a result, many homeowners tackle installation without any problems.

Conclusion

Who would of thought that two fences that look the same could be so different? Wrought iron fencing is classic, elegant and beautiful. But let’s face it, not very practical for the average consumer. Ornamental steel fence will provide you with years of trouble free security and containment. However, the choice is yours. You now certainly have the knowledge to make an informed decision on what style of fence would better suit your needs.

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