Indianapolis wrought iron expert describes his trade
"I've been in this business my entire life," says Schouten, a second-generation metalsmith whose father immigrated to the United States from Holland in the late 1950s.
"It was only natural for me to follow in my dad's footsteps. I enjoy getting my hands dirty and love the challenge of designing and fabricating something unique."
We talked to Ron Schouten, owner of Schouten Metalcraft Inc., to get the solid facts about wrought-iron fencing and railings.
Q: What services does your company offer?
A: We're a custom designer and fabricator of wrought-iron railings, gates, panels and decorator items. We work with architects and designers to fabricate a piece they've designed. We also do renovations, restorations and repairs.
Q: Why should people consider wrought iron?
A: Well-designed and fabricated wrought-iron fences or railings aren't only beautiful, but also strong. The cost is going to be higher than other materials, but wrought iron is an investment in your property. It serves more of a purpose than just being a barrier - it's an architectural element.
Q: Does wrought iron require a lot of maintenance?
A: Iron does rust, but with correct preparation and application of quality primers and finish coats, it shouldn't be an issue.
With the proper maintenance, a wrought-iron fence should last a lifetime. If it's painted, it will weather and deteriorate over time and may get a crack or scratch. It requires some basic touch-ups just like anything else. We leave a sample of the color with our customers and give them instructions on how to clean and prep the iron so they can do the touch-ups when needed. It can also be powder coated, which lasts considerably longer than regular paint.
Q: How do you charge for your pieces?
A: We give free estimates and typically provide a price for the entire project - the cost of installation is included in the quote. A 100-foot straight railing is going to be a lot different [in price] than a 100-foot railing that goes up a couple flights of stairs with two curved balconies. Most people ask for a per-foot price, but I'm reluctant to do that since there are so many factors involved. Our standard railing is $60 a linear foot - with a minimum of 5 feet - plus installation.
Q: Have you seen an increase in business lately?
A: The popularity of mass-produced steel and aluminum panels that look like wrought iron has increased - whereas the interest in traditionally manufactured wrought-iron fencing has decreased. On the other hand - the use of traditional wrought iron inside the home has increased tremendously. There's an overall feeling that wrought-iron railings, furniture and other decorative items add a sense of quality and richness to a space.
Q: What's the most memorable project you've done?
A: It was a custom-designed interior railing that included curved stair railings, well railings and balcony railings. The homeowner came to us with a magazine picture of a railing from a hotel lobby. We started by drawing a full-scale version on drywall and then fabricated the parts. The customer would come in every week to review the work, and I'm proud to say they never asked me to change a thing.