It seems that Ornamental Iron and Wrought Iron are terms used almost interchangeably when it comes to fences, but there’s actually significant differences between the two. You might be wondering what those differences are and if one is better than the other. We’ll clear up any confusion and clarify the differences for you.
Wrought iron is an old term referring to a low-carbon metal that is worked by a blacksmith. Each piece is heated until it’s red-hot and worked by hand with a hammer in a process that purifies the metal and reduces carbon impurities resulting in a more durable and very rust-resistant product. Due to the hammer strikes on the metal, wrought iron has a distinctive look with several hammer marks all over. Every piece is unique and one-of-a-kind, while this can be desirable to some, it takes a long time to create – usually a 4-6 week lead time. Because of the amount of time, labor and more costly material, wrought iron is considerably more expensive than ornamental iron. It’s a heavier metal that also costs more to ship.
If you happen to find a true wrought iron manufacturer, you can expect to pay a high price for custom pieces. The more elaborate the project, the more expensive and longer it will take for turnaround. If you really want a wrought iron fence, many use ornamental iron for the larger fence structure and have custom shapes, such as bars, pickets, rings, rosettes, floral designs, spear points for added security and spheres among other decorations made out of wrought iron. This way you’re paying a lesser price for the bulk of the material while the most expensive material is used for the most decorative parts of the fence. Wrought iron is very durable and long-lasting. Some downsides are routine maintenance is critical for a long lasting wrought iron fence they must be painted and sealed regularly to prevent rust and corrosion. This is a very labor intensive process that can be costly every few years. However, with a well maintained wrought iron fence you can see structures still standing and looking beautiful that are centuries old, like the impressive balcony rails in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
The term “ornamental iron” is used repeatedly even though it’s not actually made of iron. It’s made of steel which is an alloy consisting of iron and carbon. The general method of crafting ornamental iron is done by a machine that heats the steel and pours it into a cast.This allows for uniform designs to be produced in mass and in a timely manner. Ornamental iron has a similar appearance to wrought iron, but it is much more uniform and typically has seams running down the length of the fence spindles left from the welds.
Ornamental iron is much lighter, lower cost, and more widely available than wrought iron, thus, it is more common. Beaware there are different grades of ornamental iron fences made. Some such as the Ameristar Brand is made in America of high quality American Steel this is the only product Butler Contracting installs due to the long lasting durability and warranty. There are several big box stores versions on the market made with Chinese and other foreign sources steel products. These products tend to fail and degrade quickly in some cases within the first 2-3 years after install. We have seen the bottoms rust and rot out due to sprinkler systems spraying on them regularly and even string trimming breaking down the coating causing them to rust out. Because of ornamental irons convenience, it’s great to use it for larger projects where more material is needed. Another instance where ornamental iron should be considered is when you’re building a fence on uneven ground. The Ameristar ornamental fence panels Butler Contracting uses can be made with a pivot that allows the fence to easily match the slope that you’re fencing in up to 15° giving your yard that elegant look. You can read more about the life expectancy of fences and their materials in this article titled “How Long Will My Fence Last?”. Ameristar Ornamental iron comes with a 20 year manufacturer warranty. The fences typically last beyond 20 years anyway with minimal maintenance.
We have extensive experience working with Ornamental Iron Fences and would love to help you price out your next fence project. We use premium steel fencing, bolted together and anchored into the ground via driving post when soil conditions allow or with premixed concrete. Our pricing includes color design options and a 4, 5, and 6 foot tall options with standard 3 ft or 5 ft gate options. You can use our Fence Estimator Tool to get the process started.