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Seth
DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
Seth

I have a Victorian home that would look great with an iron fence, but I don't have the $30,000-$60,000 it would cost.

I do, however, live near the Artisans Asylum where they have welding classes, all the equipment I could need, work space, storage, etc. and I have free time. Is this a plausible DIY job?

I have seen the bolt-together hollow steel fences and I was not impressed.

dj1
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
dj1

Quote: " Is this a plausible DIY job?"

That depends on your level of expertise. If there is an instructor in the class who is willing to supervise over your work, then go for it.

Tips:

If your lot is leveled - you're lucky. But if your lot is not leveled you will have to work with angles, so that all your pieces are plumbed when installed.

Put the fence together in sections, so it will be easier to transport. Also, prime and paint before installation.

Send pics.

Jack
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
Jack

Considering the price of material I doubt you would actually save much. The fence manufacturers buy in large quantities at discounts I doubt you will be able to get. You can check with the Artisans Asylum for an estimate of what it would cost you. I would suggest you first try architectural savage yards and antique shops for used fence.

Jack

Mastercarpentry
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
Mastercarpentry

Ditto on looking for used. You can also scrounge many scrap-metal buyers 'piles' or leave them your number to call when what you're looking for comes in (with a 'reward' offered when they find what you're seeking to ensure they will call). But you're not going to find new materials and making your own much cheaper than what the contractors offer.

Most folks see high prices and think they're being ripped off, but the profit margin for all building materials is usually quite small since with most things the investment needed to go into the business is small in comparison to many other businesses. This creates a competitive environment which keeps the seller's prices close to the bottom with only large quantity creating much wealth. I've yet to see a sawmill or lumber-yard owner driving a Rolls or flying their own airplane!

The school may be able to get you discounts on materials. You might even offer your "job" as a training practice environment for the students if the school is willing to go along with that. When you want to save money you've got to make up for the difference with brains or sweat- really good deals don't come any other way.

Phil

dj1
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
dj1

skintigh,

You didn't mention how long fence you need, but I doubt you can find enough material which is uniform and in good condition, used and cheap.

And since you will be putting in your own money and sweat, why settle for throw away scrap? Go with your original plan, buy new material through the school.

There is a house not far from me, the guy did a wrought iron fence using scrap, which he primed and painted - took him over a year to finish. I used to see him on weekend, laboring and struggling to make sense of garbage iron. Not all pieces match and the whole thing looks like s--t.

Imagine trying to sell a house like this and then mention to the potential buyer proudly: "you see that fence? I built it from scrap", just to see the potential buyer split.

Seth
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
Seth

Ok, lots of questions for me to answer.

Price:

I don't know what iron picket stock costs, but the finials are $1 each or so. Or, I can buy tube pickets that already have the finial welded on for $2.58-$2.78 each, I assume picket solid stock is the same or cheaper if I weld my own finial on. A solid 8' punched rail is $20 each, I don't know what a angle iron punched rail costs, but probably cheaper. I don't know what a plain 2" post costs, but a large finial is $2.50-$7+. A decorative cast iron post, which I would use at the gate, ends and yard corner, are $262 each.

So, a fence with 4" spacing would have 24 pickets with finials for about $66, $40 for two rails, $14 for two post finials, and ? for two tube posts, or $120 + posts, cement, and retaining wall, etc. per 8 feet of fence. Then add 3-5 decorative posts, probably a gate...

I stopped in at one local store and the cast iron fence started at $200 per foot (they only did cast iron). I spoke to someone else and they spent tens of thousands on the type of fence I want for a much smaller yard, probably around $100/ft. Even the cheap bolt-together tube steel fence was really expensive, like $50/ft if I hired it out. (My neighbors have this, I didn't like it before the snow made each section sag.)

So, no, I don't think the yard that produces raw iron stock or lumber is getting rich, but I don't have the cash to pay $50+/hr/person in labor.

dj1:

The instructor teaches several 4 week courses and is always around so I could ask him to look at my work or give pointers.

My corner lot is not level. One side is very close, but the other slopes down a hill. One option would be a stepped retaining wall. Otherwise I could build a jig to mimic the slope of each section in the shop.

Used:

My lot is on a corner, so we are talking over 100 feet for just the street-facing sides. (I seem to have lost the exact numbers.)

I have looked into used fences at architectural salvage stores, but those are also insanely expensive around here, and not long enough. I found some ****** that were more reasonable in cost but were halfway across the US.

Fencepost
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
Fencepost

Many "iron" fences are actually steel. Steel tends to be somewhat easier to work with, is more readily available, and probably cheaper. There are different grades and tempers of steel.

You've already done some shopping for the finials. The amount of labor required to produce them yourself at your own forge would probably not be worth the money you'd save.

As for the fence panels, you should be able to design something using stock steel from a steel yard, where it's usually priced per pound. They wouldn't have precut pickets with fancy twists and bends, but you can get long pieces of square stock that you can cut down. I don't know if pre-punched rail would available at a steel yard, but maybe you can design something around that limitation.

You'd probably still end up buying some cast iron ornaments, such as fancy gate posts and rosettes. Welding cast iron is more difficult than welding steel.

Craig
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
Craig
skintigh wrote:

I have a Victorian home that would look great with an iron fence, but I don't have the $30,000-$60,000 it would cost.

I do, however, live near the Artisans Asylum where they have welding classes, all the equipment I could need, work space, storage, etc. and I have free time. Is this a plausible DIY job?

I have seen the bolt-together hollow steel fences and I was not impressed.

Wrought Iron is handsome, durable, and will be unique. The learning curve to design a pattern and perfect your welding technique could take a while. I have experience working at a wrought iron shop in the 70's and know the enduring quality and visibly striking appearance of a well constructed fence. They usually outlast anything that is prefabricated and put together with fasteners. Consider the time to properly paint the completed product. It should be de-rusted, the welds ground smooth, primed, and painted. You may have a whole year into this project, but a lifetime to enjoy it. Best wishes on your adventure.

hans747
Re: DIY iron fence? Is this a good idea?
hans747

Yes, I think you should attempt this project. I took an evening welding class at my local community college last fall, and the second half of the semester was "pick you project." One of my classmates was a fellow in this late 50s, and and the metal railings on the bridge near his house got washed out in a flood. He did a really nice job of replacing them.

I suggest that you sign up for a welding class that meets on a regular basis, not just a one-time, single project class. That way you get more access to the machines.

Metal stock is cheap from a local steel supplier, tubing is cheap, and what you make will be 100 times more satisfying than anything storebought. Might also want to sign up for a balcksmithing class and really take it to the next level!

Go for it, and post pics.

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