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Wrought Iron Railing

Railings and Ironwork

 

Unlike most of what you see in the market these days, all of our ironwork is made from solid bar-stock unless otherwise specified. Not only does this make our ironwork stronger and more resistant to corrosion problems, it also helps protect exterior installations from the dangers of ice damage - which is a plus living in the New England. If a hollow post is used, then there is the possibility of moisture becoming trapped inside the post and accumulating over the course of time. Not only will this lead to excessive rusting on the inside of the post, during the winter it can cause damage to the post and masonry as the water freezes and expands. We have seen multiple cases of both new and old railings that failed as a direct result of water trapped inside the posts, in several cases destroying the stairs they were mounted into. Because of this, we never use hollow posts unless specifically requested by the customer, and in these cases we take all possible precautions to minimize the dangers of water damage.

 

Iron Railing

Materials

Most people refer to any forged ironwork as "wrought iron", but this term is sometimes confusing. "Wrought iron" refers both to a specific material (wrought iron is no longer made in volume) and to the items made through the forging process. In actuality, almost all ironwork made since World War II has been made of mild steel rather than wrought iron, but we still refer to it as "wrought iron" because it has been wrought by hand. It would be more proper to refer to modern ironwork as "wrought steel", but this does not have quite the same ring to it. Neither of these should be confused with cast iron, which is another beast entirely.

 

Along with mild steel, we can also forge and fabricate stainless steel, brass, bronze, and copper. Most designs can be executed in any of these materials, although certain designs are better suited to one material or another. Some of the most spectacular designs combine several materials of different colors and/or finishes to highlight certain details and make the design "pop". One of the most rewarding aspects of ironwork is the fact that sculptural elements can be an integral part of the design, allowing a melding of form and function that is not possible in most other media. For example, we recently installed a railing that looked like a grove of oak trees, complete with leaves and acorns.

 

Finishes

There are three basic finish types available today for ironwork. Each has positive and negative aspects, and since the finish often dictates how well your metalwork will hold up over the years, this is a decision that is worth spending some time on.

 

1) Paint

There are many types of paint on the market, the majority of which are not suitable for coating and protecting metalwork. A metalwork paint should look good over time, seal the metalwork against the environment, and preferably have ingredients that actively prevent corrosion of the metalwork. Other helpful attributes are a hard surface to resist abrasion and scratches, ease of re-coating, and availability. The paint we use is a Rustoleum Industrial Acrylic paint specifically formulated for use on metalwork. From the same line of paints we use a zinc phosphate primer that chemically protects the metalwork against corrosion while adding a second layer of sealing against the environment. The paint forms a hard, durable surface, but is not so hard that it chips or cracks easily. It is simple to re-coat, and not only is it widely available, the colors can be matched with any paint in the Rustoleum line-up, many of which are available at hardware stores nationwide.

 

2) Powder Coating

Powder coating is a process in which a plastic powder is electro-statically sprayed onto the ironwork, then the entire piece heated in an oven until the powder melts and fuses into a smooth, solid coating. Powder coating can be an excellent finish when properly applied to suitable designs, but it has a number of weaknesses that limit its utility for ironwork. First, since it is applied electrostatically, it cannot coat into tight corners; if you look at most ironwork, you can see how this would be an issue. Second, it depends entirely on sealing out the environment and provides no chemical protection against corrosion. This means that once the seal is penetrated, corrosion can proceed unchecked. Third, the only way to re-coat or touch-up is with paint, and it is nearly impossible to match the original color and finish perfectly. For these reasons we do not use powder coating on any of our ironwork.

 

 

3) Natural Finishes

This refers to any finish that is either wax/oil based or in which the underlying metal is still visible. These can run the gamut from leaving the metal bare to multiple coats of waxes and oils aimed at achieving a specific finish on the material. It can also include coating with a clear coat of varnish, lacquer, or other clear coat. Generally speaking it is not a good idea to leave steel exposed to the elements whether indoors or outdoors, since it will rust in even the driest environments. Thus, some sort of coating is suggested even for interior work. Stainless steel and the copper alloys can be left exposed in most environments with differing degrees of patina developing over the years.

 

Along with the major groups of finishes, we can also apply various paint and chemical patinas to add extra color and variety to metalwork of all kinds. Browsing through the website you will see a number of examples of this, and these are just a few examples of the wide variety of effects that we can achieve. In most cases, even subtle changes to the finish can have a profound effect on the overall appearance of the ironwork.