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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Los Angeles
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    234

    Default Wrought-iron-style fence as first project?

    I live in Los Angeles, where lawn space is a pretty scarce commodity. My wife and I have a new kid and a tiny patch of grass in our front lawn that would be great for him to crawl and stumble around on -- if it weren't for the steep drop-off of our front retaining wall.

    Here's a look at the front of the house:



    We were all out walking the other day and we noticed a neighbor with a wrought-iron-style fence on top of their retaining wall. I recently got a welder for myself, and the wife suggested that a similar fence might be a good use for it. 'Could I do something like that?' she asked.



    Well, of course the answer is no. At least, not without the advice of some guys who know how to do this kind of thing.

    The neighbor's fence is made in a kind of rudimentary way. It doesn't use punched channel. It's just a set of 9' rectangles made of 1-1/4" square tube with 3/4" square tube pickets and standard finials.



    We looked at some other fences and agreed that we'd prefer slightly-less-thick dimensions for our fence. I'm thinking 1" square tube for the frame and 5/8" for the pickets. She wants the same type of construction -- no punched channel.

    Here's another look at the wall. The idea is to pull out some of the landscaping, put in some more grass. The fence will be about 32" high. (I'm pretty sure I'm okay with that, relative to local zoning.)



    My questions:

    1) Is this going to be a nightmare with my HH140 Mig welder? It seems pretty straightforward -- but then, a lot of things look easy when you've never done them.

    2) Is 16 gauge tubing the right way to go? I could go thicker on the 1" frame pieces, but if 16 is good all around I'll go that way.

    3) I'd like to leave the wall as it is, assuming the whole thing will come down when the kid is big enough. To this end, I was thinking of capping the wall with a 1-inch thick piece of wood (the feet for each section could bolt to the wood), with buttress pieces coming up from behind the wall that would be seated in concrete post holes.

    4) Is there anything I'm missing? I've got the welder, a steel-cutting band saw, the normal set of other tools (hammer, grinder, clamps, magnets) and safety gear. I'm prepared to do a lot of practice welds before I jump into the real thing.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    southwestern ohio
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    272

    Default

    other than the fact that you better be ready for a lot of work I think your plans are pretty good

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    878

    Default

    I can't tell from the picture, but it looks like the wall may be high enough to require a protective railing at the top. Now your locality may dictate 32" for height of fences, but protective railings are generally 36" high in residential applications and 42" high in commercial applications (including multi family residential buildings). A 32" railing is dangerous because it's right at the height where a 6' tall person can flip over it and land headfirst on the other side, should they run into it for some reason. Accidents do happen.

    Tell your building official that you consider this a protective railing, not a fence, and you want it to be approved as a standard residential protective railing 36" high with 4" spacing between verticals capable of resisting 200lb of force applied at any point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    My questions:

    1) Is this going to be a nightmare with my HH140 Mig welder? It seems pretty straightforward -- but then, a lot of things look easy when you've never done them.
    Not at all. This is an adequate welder for the job. I'd recommend .035" NR211MP innershield flux core wire. You can get a 10lb roll at Lowe's or Home Depot for about $40-$50. I'd also STRONGLY recommend that you build a 10' long jig made from 2x4's that allows you to assemble the verticals at the proper, uniform spacing providing no more than 4" wide opening between them. Then, you can lay the horizontals in and weld away. Plan for a 4" gap between the top of the wall and the bottom horizontal. Allow a few of the verticals to extend 4" below the bottom horizontal so they rest on the concrete wall, otherwise, the railing will sag.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    2) Is 16 gauge tubing the right way to go? I could go thicker on the 1" frame pieces, but if 16 is good all around I'll go that way.
    Yes. 16 is good. But you should probably install 1.5" or 2" square 16ga newel posts every 8 to 10 feet with 1/8 to 3/16" thick baseplates. Drill 2 holes in the baseplate in line with the centerline of the railing (as seen from above), and drill matching holes in the concrete wall using a hammerdrill. Do not drill within 3" of the edge of the wall. Then, pound in 1/2" thread wedge anchor bolts. Apply grouting mortar, such as Quikrete Precision Grout and install the newels making sure they are plumb as you tighten the bolts. Clean off the excess mortar that squeezes out. After the mortar sets, you can weld in the fence in sections (sections you have already made).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    3) I'd like to leave the wall as it is, assuming the whole thing will come down when the kid is big enough. To this end, I was thinking of capping the wall with a 1-inch thick piece of wood (the feet for each section could bolt to the wood), with buttress pieces coming up from behind the wall that would be seated in concrete post holes.
    I would not use a wood cap. It looks tacky and limits you to using very short screws to hold the railing posts in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    4) Is there anything I'm missing? I've got the welder, a steel-cutting band saw, the normal set of other tools (hammer, grinder, clamps, magnets) and safety gear. I'm prepared to do a lot of practice welds before I jump into the real thing.
    Prep. The steel you get will be covered in a sooty grease. Remove it with paint thinner before handling.

    Paint. You will need to paint the thing. I recommend spraying it with cans of black Rust-Oleum polyurethane based paint.

    Make a jig.

    Tools. You will need to rent a hammer drill when it comes time to set the posts.

    That's all I can think of right now!

    80% of failures are from 20% of causes
    Never compromise your principles today in the name of furthering them in the future.
    "All I ever wanted was an honest week's pay for an honest day's work." -Sgt. Bilko
    "We are generally better persuaded by reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others." -Pascal
    "Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything." -Pascal

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    alabama
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    The biggest problem you will have is when you weld all them pickets on one side and then stand it up to look at it. Now if your walls had a slight curve around your yard you might have come out well.
    If you plan to take them back out in the future,I would suggest you set your posts on the inside of the wall and into the dirt.No drilling required.
    Last edited by fabricator; 04-05-2009 at 04:30 PM. Reason: Because I wanted to
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  5. #5
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    Mar 2009
    Location
    Los Angeles
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    Default

    Thanks for the responses. I'm doing some digging on local zoning rules. It turns out I won't need a permit. But the height limits are something I've still got to get a definite answer on.

    I'm re-thinking a couple of my initial design ideas. The section of the retaining wall that faces the street is 40' long. I'm considering five 8' panels with an upper and a lower horizontal of punched channel and with uprights in between. Something like this image I found in a search, but with only two horizontal pieces:



    The channel I'm hoping I could source would be 1" wide with 4" centers for the 5/8" pickets. King Metal's website only lists channel with 1/2" holes. But maybe I missed it.



    I'm also thinking about sinking in anchors (I think there's an adhesive made for this) into the wall. The fact that the fence will wrap around 20' on each side (in a C-shape) will add some rigidity to it. I'm dropping the idea of a wood cap between the retaining wall and the fence.

    Some questions:

    1) I've changed from four 10' panels to five 8' panels to reduce the possibility of sag. Would it be smarter to go to eight 5' panels? It looks to me like the punched channel would be less stout than box tubing, but I might be wrong.

    2) Since the uprights would only be supporting 34" of height, do you think it would be viable to make them on the small side -- like 1"x5/8" rectangular tubing so that they would visually match the width of the vertical pickets? My guess would be that this size would have a similar resistance to being tilted out toward the sidewalk or in toward the yard as 1" square tubing, and the overall C-shape of this fence makes me think I won't need very substantial upright posts for this fence.

    3) I'm assuming the punched channel would be less prone to warping than welding all of the pickets to one side of a length of aquare tubing. But here's a total newbie question: if I didn't take steps to counter the warpage, would the square tubing bow out to the heated side, or in? (In other words, would my fence bow out to the street or in toward the yard?)

    And I will definitely make a jig. That's a great idea.

  6. #6
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    Dec 2007
    Location
    alabama
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    Default

    1) I would go with 5 foot spans.

    2) 1" x 5/8" rectangle tubing? Where you finding that?

    3) weld opposite sides equal to keep it from drawing,just a small tack under the channel is all thats needed.4 tacks per picket,you will be fine.
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  7. #7
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    Thumbs up Fence Construction

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    Great Information, as Usual !!

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    Some questions:

    1) I've changed from four 10' panels to five 8' panels to reduce the possibility of sag. Would it be smarter to go to eight 5' panels? It looks to me like the punched channel would be less stout than box tubing, but I might be wrong.
    Think of what gives your structure its horizontal rigidity (ie resistance to sagging)... the two horizontal pieces, that's all. The verticals don't add any stiffness. Take a piece of punched channel and span whatever length you want... 10', 8', 5', 4', whatever, and see how much it sags. This is due to the dead weight of the horizontal member. Now, add the dead weight of 3 pickets per foot and see how much more it sags. It may be objectionable or it may not be. But if you run one picket through in the middle of the span with 4" extra on the bottom, this picket reasts on the wall and the span has been cut in half. You may think this cuts your sag in half. Think again. The formula for maximum sag is (5*uniform load*L^3)/(384EI). So by cutting the span in half, you actually reduce sag by 2^3, or a factor of 8. Three support pickets reduce the span by a factor of 4, thus reduce sag by a factor of 4^3 or 64! So if 10' sagged 6 inches (quite objectionable if you ask me), then adding 3 support pickets would reduce this to .093" which you certainly wouldn't see and probably could not measure without surveying equipment.

    If you knew the actual EI of the punched channel section and the weight of the pickets, I could tell you how much sag to expect for any given span.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    2) Since the uprights would only be supporting 34" of height, do you think it would be viable to make them on the small side -- like 1"x5/8" rectangular tubing so that they would visually match the width of the vertical pickets? My guess would be that this size would have a similar resistance to being tilted out toward the sidewalk or in toward the yard as 1" square tubing, and the overall C-shape of this fence makes me think I won't need very substantial upright posts for this fence.
    No. Don't skimp on posts. This is where your fence gets its strength from being pushed over. Building codes generally specify that railings need to be able to resist a 200lb point load applied at any place on the fence in any direction (downward, outward, upward, inward). Think... if someone falls, they will grab the fence. There's your 200lb point load inward.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Olsen View Post
    3) I'm assuming the punched channel would be less prone to warping than welding all of the pickets to one side of a length of aquare tubing. But here's a total newbie question: if I didn't take steps to counter the warpage, would the square tubing bow out to the heated side, or in? (In other words, would my fence bow out to the street or in toward the yard?)

    And I will definitely make a jig. That's a great idea.
    The side you weld will shrink. Therefore if you weld the outside, it will bow INWARD. And vice versa. However, this can be counteracted by placing an equal length of weld on the opposite side. One sure way to bow it good is to get carried away and lay down excessively heavy and long beads. You are welding material that is 1/16" thick - a bead with a throat of 1/16" will suffice.

    80% of failures are from 20% of causes
    Never compromise your principles today in the name of furthering them in the future.
    "All I ever wanted was an honest week's pay for an honest day's work." -Sgt. Bilko
    "We are generally better persuaded by reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others." -Pascal
    "Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything." -Pascal

  9. #9
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