Wrought Iron

What is wrought iron?

Wrought iron, a very old form of malleable iron, was extensively used in centuries past to create a variety of durable installations and implements. Most items currently referred to as “wrought iron,” such as fencing, railing, staircases and furniture, are now constructed from mild steel rather than actual iron.

The pieces are usually “wrought,” or worked, by individual craftsmen in the fabrication process, hence the name. This differentiates the pieces from metal cast, or poured, at a foundry.

Wrought iron is a common fencing material, as it provides durable, long-lasting fences with a distinctive look. It can be more expensive than other fencing materials, but it’s a visually beautiful choice. Wrought iron fences protect and define your boundaries but still allow you to maintain a view of the area beyond your property. They can also enhance your home’s curb appeal, so wrought iron is a good investment in your home.

Wrought iron can also be used for distinctive and visually pedestrian or driveway gates. It creates a “wow factor” that’s hard to replicate with any other material. It is frequently used for front step and deck railings, as well as other decorative landscaping uses. Interior wrought iron railing is making a comeback in staircases in new homes and remodels as well.

Because wrought iron pieces are custom-made, they can be adapted to a wide variety of specialized purposes, including spiral staircases, security screens, window guards, wall ornamentation, bed headboards, fireplace guards, flower boxes, room dividers, wood racks and furniture.

In recent years, mass-produced steel and aluminum panels that look like wrought iron have become more popular, but they can’t beat the resilience and design versatility of traditional wrought iron. A well-designed, custom-fabricated wrought iron project can add a rich decorative sense to a home. 

wrought iron fence

Fences are often made of wrought iron because of its durability and design flexibility. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Wrought iron fabrication

When you hire a wrought iron contractor, they can provide you with a variety of design ideas and samples. The service provider will be familiar with a variety classic and modern ideas, and in most cases, if you can describe for them exactly what you want, they’ll be able to design and fabricate a custom wrought iron piece to fit your needs.

The contractor will take extensive measurements to manufacture components that best fit your home’s layout. In most cases, the craftsmen will fabricate, shape, weld and paint or powder coat your project in their shop, then deliver the finished pieces for installation on site in your home. 

Pros and cons of wrought iron

Advantages:

Wrought iron provides a timeless aesthetic: Because ironwork has been used for centuries, it fits into many different styles without seeming out of place.

Homeowners have a wide variety of options to fit the design into the style of their home. It’s more than just a barrier, but an architectural and design element for your home. Depending on the design you select, you may end up with a one-of-a-kind piece.

It’s very durable: In addition to being beautiful, wrought iron is very strong. A well-designed wrought iron installation can survive for decades.

It’s low maintenance: In most cases, the only work you’ll ever need to do on a wrought iron fence or other project is paint touch-ups.

Disadvantages:

Wrought iron costs more: Wrought iron does cost more than many other common fencing and railing materials, because it involved a specialized craftsman fabricating a custom piece rather than something straight off the shelf.

Cost varies depending on the size of the job. A short section of yard fencing might cost a few hundred dollars, while a wrought iron fence veering an entire yard could cost a few thousand dollars.

It can rust easily: Since wrought iron is usually mild steel, it can quickly rust when exposed to the elements. However, as long as high quality paints and finish coats are applied and maintained, rust shouldn’t pose a problem. You can also consider powder coating the project, which will last much longer than regular paint.

It holds in extremes of temperature: Because wrought iron is a good conductor of heat or cold, it will hold in extremes of temperature in summer and winter. You’ll want to be careful sitting on a wrought iron chair in summer, and in the winter, don’t stick your tongue on it. 

Hiring a wrought iron contractor

Because wrought iron is a specialized trade that involved a lot of custom work, it’s important to do your research before hiring someone to install wrought iron for you, especially if it’s a big and expensive job.

Ask for their references, and check them. The best indicator of their work quality is something that’s been installed for a while. Have them show you their portfolio and samples of their work. Ask your installer how long they’ve been working with wrought iron and how they were trained.

Find out if they do any necessary repairs and adjustments down the line. A quality fence contractor should also provide a written warranty. Ask if they’re able to leave you with a supply of the paint they used, so you can do your own touch-ups or minor repair work in later years.

In most cases, wrought iron work does not require a specific license, but some municipalities may require a home repair license or a license for the specific task, such as fence installation.

Check your local regulations and make sure your company is holds the appropriate licensing. And as always, anyone you hire to work on your home should be bonded and insured.

If you’re installing a fence, make sure you know all the necessary information about your property, including verifying your property lines, making sure your homeowners association or local regulations allow it, and checking for buried utility lines. Your contractor should also be familiar with local building codes for specific jobs – for instance, most locales distance a maximum allowable distance between each stair baluster for safety reasons.

As with any contracted service, make sure you get a written estimate ahead of time with all expected charges broken down. Get at least three written estimates and make sure you understand the contract thoroughly.

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