For hundreds of years ornamental fencing has enhanced the architectural beauty of homes, buildings and churches. Originally fashioned from wrought iron designed and forged by blacksmiths, today's ornamental fencing is crafted using modern materials and current production techniques. Steel or aluminum components are fabricated into sections using fasteners, locking rods, or welding. Once you determine your requirements, you'll find it's easy to select the appropriate ornamental fence for your application.
Match the design to your security requirements
Ornamental fencing can provide many levels of security for residential, commercial or industrial applications. The right combination of fence height, picket spacing, fence style, and material components can provide the protection you need.
Keeping pets and children in the yard, or out of an attractive hazard such as a pool, are common objectives. Your local building code may specify required fence height or product features to alleviate safety concerns.
- Most residential ornamental fences come in heights ranging from 3' to 6' high.
- All ornamental fences can be designed with pickets above the top rail or with the top rail covering the tops of the pickets.
Commercial & Industrial Applications
Attractive security is the predominate objective for business installations.
- Fence should be at least 6' high.
- Various styles, rail configurations, and picket tops can be added to stop access or egress.
Decide what type of fencing material you need
For the strength and rigidity to withstand weather, climbing children and abuse from vehicles and power equipment, most ornamental fencing is made from welded or assembled steel. While steel is the most widely used material for ornamental fencing, homeowners and commercial property owners are finding aluminum fencing is an increasingly attractive option. While not as rigid as steel, aluminum ornamental offers superior corrosion resistance and low maintenance. The three primary types of ornamental fencing are:
- Welded Steel - Black (non-galvanized) steel components are welded together to form a section. This section is then primed and painted. During installation the sections are welded to the posts at the jobsite, and these welds are then touched up with primer and paint. Welded systems can begin to show rust within a year depending on climate and must be wire brushed and re-painted periodically. If you are considering welded steel panels, I recommend that you insist on a polyester powder coated finish over galvanized steel. I would also review their installation methodology to ensure that jobsite welding is kept to a minimum. Since small weld shops produce much of this type of product, it would also be wise to review the warranty and reputation of the manufacturer for a welded system.
- Assembled Component Systems - Most of the major producers make assembled component systems. Galvanized steel components (using a minimum G-60 zinc coating) are machine punched, then given a polyester powder-coat finish. After coating, the components are assembled into sections using drive rivets or retaining rods. Assembled sections are attached to posts using brackets so the coating isn't compromised. This minimizes potential red rust problems. Some manufacturers assemble the panel before they apply the polyester powder coat finish, which is not my first choice. I feel that coating the parts prior to assembly ensures a more thorough coating and better rust protection by coating all of the edges and surfaces that otherwise are hidden once the panel is assembled.
- Aluminum Ornamental Systems - Manufactured similar to steel assembled components, these special aluminum-alloy components are powder-coated, then joined into sections using screws or pop rivets. Sections attach through brackets or holes punched in the posts. Aluminum ornamental should be considered for harsh coastal environments or when corrosive chemicals are nearby. If corrosion is more of a maintenance concern than strength and rigidity, aluminum may be your best alternative.
Determine your maintenance goals
The time you're willing to invest in maintenance can help determine which ornamental fence material is best for you.
- Welded, Painted Steel - Demands the most maintenance. You'll need to wire brush existing oxidation and re-apply the finish paint every year or two, depending on the color and type of paint you choose.
- Assembled Component Systems - Offer a tough powder-coated finish that adheres to the galvanized steel which minimizes potential red rust problems. Systems typically have a 10-15 year warranty covering the coating and the system from defects in material and workmanship. That means no routine maintenance is required during this time.
- Aluminum Ornamental Systems - A limited lifetime coating warranty is available on most systems.
Consider the opportunities for customizing
Ornamental fencing gives you the unique ability to create an individualized installation that enhances your architectural design. Rings (circles situated between the horizontal rails), finials (pickets tops) or other adornments add interest and style, so your fence becomes an expression of your own distinctive taste.
Don't forget the gate
It's the most important part of your fence and since it's also the only moving part, the gate is susceptible to sagging, sticking, or slipping out of alignment. Properly engineered gates use special gate hardware to help maintain proper operation, and meet security and safety concerns.
- Gates are available to match or contrast your ornamental fencing.
- Many projects showcase the gate as the centerpiece of the property, while other projects require the gate to blend with the ornamental fencing selected.
- An arched gate or gate column can enhance the finished look of your project.
- Electric operators can be added for easy gate operation and improved access control.
- Swimming pool fencing codes require all gates to be self-closing and self-latching to protect small children.
Picket, post and rail sizes are critical
The size and weight of pickets, posts, and rails will determine the strength of your ornamental fence. Any combination of larger pickets, posts, and rails makes a fence more stable and secure. The tradeoff is that increasing the size and weight of these components will also increase the cost. A properly engineered fence system will balance these considerations for the job at hand.