Wrought iron is a timeless style that's been around for hundreds of years-and its popularity continues to grow. I can't tell you how often I meet homeowners who love the look of wrought iron and use it in their railing systems knowing well and good that they're going to have to replace it in a few years. The classic look is worth the time, effort, and expense to them. But, when I tell them there's a more durable alternative with the same much-loved look, they're quick to ask questions.
Thanks to modern technology and recent improvements in coating science, there are a growing number of alternatives to wrought iron balusters to choose from. Wrought iron has a unique look that's been previously difficult to emulate. This has prompted homeowners to choose wrought iron for their yards despite the continued expense of having to replace the products every few years. Fortunately, powder-coating technology has now improved to the point where it can be used to coat iron and protect it from the elements, giving it the time-tested appeal of wrought iron, but the durability and affordability of steel.
Wrought Iron Properties: Outdoor Decor Takes a Hit from the Elements
Wrought iron has an enduringly appealing look that blends well with both a rustic or a classic style of home. Adding some wrought iron accents to your railings may be a great option, but your wallet and free time are probably going to take a hit if you're considering installing a whole fence or railing system out of the finicky metal. Here's why:
- It’s expensive: Wrought iron is harder to manufacture which boosts the cost to produce it. If the product is damaged once installed, it may have to be welded or replaced and shops can charge upwards of $75 an hour for this service—double, if on-site welding is needed.
- It will rust, eventually: Wrought iron can be painted and weatherproofed to prevent rusting, but it will require a lot of effort to maintain it. Even then, rust may be unavoidable, especially in wet climates.
- It requires special tools: Many DIYers and contractors are equipped to work with wood, vinyl, or kitted metal railings. Wrought iron, on the other hand, may call for special metal working tools to be rented or purchased. This can be frustrating if you wind up investing in a tool you may not use again for a long time—or ever.
Alternatives to Wrought Iron Balusters That Mimic the Classic Appeal
I've had clients that loved the look of wrought iron so much that they were willing to spend a nice chunk of change and time replacing and keeping up their hardware around their property. But, they were over the moon when I told them about powder-coated enhanced iron and other wrought iron railing alternatives that would help showcase their stained wood decks with far less effort.
Enhanced iron balusters are powder coated so that they mimic the look and style of wrought iron. The powder coating also protects the metal from rusting and from natural elements. Some railing and baluster companies even go so far as to galvanize the baluster, coat it with an e-coat, and then powder coat it, adding extra layer protection from rust. So, what are the pros and cons of enhanced iron-and how does it stack up to wrought iron?
The Benefits of Powder Coated Enhanced Iron
- It’s less expensive: Enhanced iron is cheaper to produce since many manufacturers are equipped to easily work with steel.
- It’s versatile: Powder-coated balusters are designed to be installed along with other materials like vinyl, wood, composite, and other metal railing options. Replacing wood balusters with metal ones and leaving the existing wooden rails and posts in place is also an easy, and relatively inexpensive deck update.
- It lasts a lot longer: The powder coating is resistant to UV rays and weatherproofs the metal.
- It’s low maintenance: Powder-coating does not need to be maintained over time. You can essentially install it and enjoy it without further efforts such as repainting or sealing.
The Cons of Powder Coated Enhanced Iron
- There are fewer styles available: Wrought iron has been around for hundreds of years, while powder-coated steel is a recent phenomenon. Needless to say, this means that certain types of ornamentation are easier to find in wrought iron currently, but the market continues to grow and expand.
- It’s hard to touch up: This is far less of an issue if you choose to use high-quality products, but it warrants mentioning. Powder coating can’t be professionally touched up in your yard. It’s applied in a giant oven with special equipment—not something that can be done on-site. There are powder coating touch-up kits, however, that are easy to apply.
The main downfalls of wrought iron are its price and its lackluster longevity. Many people are willing to pay for it, initially, then end up spending a lot of time keeping it painted or weatherproofed only to have it rust on them anyway. Enhanced iron addresses both these issues: it's less expensive upfront and the powder coating protects the metal from the elements, ensuring it will look good for years and years to come.
So, when I talk to people about wrought iron baluster alternatives, I usually refer them to enhanced iron or similar products. Gloss black and black sand powder coats give the products a similar classic feel to wrought iron with none of the maintenance headaches.
Fortress Railing has a standard of quality unlike any other manufacturer when it comes to their powder-coated products. Their enhanced iron balusters are hot-dipped galvanized, coated with a zinc pre-coat, e-coated, and powder-coated. That's four layers of protection to keep your wrought iron-esque balusters looking their best.
When you're ready to install your new enhanced iron balusters, get in touch with Fortress Railing through their website contact form. Do you have other projects in mind that you want to add the look of wrought iron to? Swing by Fortress Building Products to see their full selection of decking and fencing. Their products are strong, long-lasting, and incredibly beautiful so you don't have to compromise on curb appeal to get the durability you need.