You probably know someone like my aunt. She’s the sort of person who has to have everything high class and properly done. In other words, she’s the type who keeps two living rooms–one is reserved for receiving guests and is kept immaculate and the other is for family…and is also kept immaculately clean. Now that I think about it, it’s a mystery where her family actually sits and relaxes.
Outdoors everything is also kept perfectly in place. The grass is always green and no matter what time of year it is there is always something pretty to look at in the yard. This yard was the biggest reason my aunt was part of the protest about a new K-8th-grade school opening in her previously rural neighborhood. Having lost that fight she decided to protect her yard from shortcut-seeking children with a fence, but only one that was suitably upscale would do. A few bids later and she’d managed to offend every fence installer in town, leaving her with little choice but to do it herself. There are many metal fences out there that are simple to install yourself–one could call them DIY wrought iron fences. It’s just that there aren’t many that fit my aunt’s definition of a worthy fence.
The Traditional Ornamental Wrought Iron Fence
What my aunt—and most people—think of when they think of wrought iron is metal with a lot of ornamentation like decorative scrollwork and knuckles on the pickets. More artistic types might think of things like sculptures of vines with leaves and berries worked into the design of the fence. They may even be thinking of a monogram of the owner’s initials. In short, they’re thinking of the sort of fences that surround the estates of the nobility and other very wealthy people. Wrought iron is synonymous with history and wealth in many people’s minds. Unfortunately, even the name is a misnomer as most wrought iron fences are actually made of steel, and while these types of fences do exist, getting that level of ornamentation isn’t affordable for most people.
It takes a lot of thought to design those patterns, and each section of the fence has to be designed to fit its section of the yard. Then each individual piece has to be worked, cut to fit, and welded together. The whole process requires custom work by skilled labor and it comes with a premium price tag, one that most people, including my aunt, would have trouble affording. However, there are alternatives to this sort of wrought iron.
Standard Wrought Iron-Look Fences
The standard wrought iron-type fence that DIYers and even most contractors turn to is a steel panel fence. It’s simply a section of fence with the pickets and the rails already put together. Since it’s a standardized design, these panels and their assorted posts and other fittings can be produced in quantity. The mass production makes these steel fence panels much more affordable than the painstakingly-built custom equivalent, and modular fence panels also make installation much easier.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that even in panel fencing there are different levels of quality.
- Basic quality panels have pickets that are attached to the face of the rails with self-tapping screws. This is a really simple and inexpensive production method, but one that makes for a flimsy fence. The lowest tier of wrought iron-look fences will actually just come as a box of parts which you must put together yourself.
- Middle-tier panel fences will at least arrive assembled. A picket that goes through the middle of the rail is a sturdier construction technique than screwing the picket to the face of the rail, and it’s a sign that at least some thought was given to the quality of the construction. However, mid-level panel fences will still be held together by screws or other fasteners.
- High-end panel fencing is pre-welded. Fully-welded steel panels are effectively single pieces of steel. This is the strongest and most durable type of panel fence you can buy. If you’re looking for a high-quality fence this is the feature you want, and it will make the fence look, feel, and act solid and sturdy.
Welding makes for a much stronger fence, and when it’s combined with quality coatings to protect the steel from the elements, these fences are the closest thing to hurricane-proof fencing on the market. However, they’re generally not the fanciest fences available. Most steel panel fences seem a little plain compared to the gloriously wrought ironwork of yesteryear. If you’re someone like my aunt who demands the highest class appearance in everything, this can be a disappointment. However, there are DIY wrought iron-style fences out there that do have some classic ornamentation available.
DIY Wrought Iron Fences with Ornaments and the Classic Look
They’re fairly rare, but there are fence systems out there that combine the best of both worlds. They’re solidly welded and reasonably priced, but also have decorative touches. These include pickets with finials like fleur-de-lis, three-pointed spears, and even simple flat spears. Ornamental top rails with a pattern of rings or scrollwork can be integrated into the fence, and knuckles can create a pattern on the fence by attaching to the pickets themselves. These types of fence panel systems are somewhat rare, and take some looking for.
One that I’ve found is the classic residential fence from Fortress Fence. It has scrollwork, knuckles, and choice of finials. It also has a fully welded construction and layers of coatings–a zinc pre-coat, an e-coat, and a powder coat–to resist rust. This fencing system has a combination of the practical and the beautiful that I haven’t seen in other DIY wrought iron-style fences. Contact Fortress Fence to find out more, or find an installer near you. For other high-quality products like wrought iron-style railing, take a look at Fortress Building Products’ other offerings.