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What are Iron Railings?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2016
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Iron railings are railings which are made from an iron alloy. Historically, wrought iron was commonly used to make iron railings and other iron products, but carbon steel is in more widespread use today. Examples of a wide variety of iron railings can often be seen in upscale neighborhoods, and many hardware and home suppliers stock iron railings or can order them by request for specific customers.

Whether wrought iron or carbon steel, iron railings are characterized by being strong, weather resistant, and corrosion resistant. The iron alloys used to make the railings tend to be soft and easy to work by welding or casting, and wrought iron often has a coarse texture caused by the presence of furnace slag. Over time, the railings usually develop a dark patina, appearing black or dark gray.

Thanks to its malleability, iron can be formed in all sorts of ways. Iron railings may be heavily ornamental lacy designs with elegant curlicues and other decorative features, or they may be more utilitarian, designed for function more than form. They can be used to border stairs, decks, and balconies, and are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor use, depending on the architecture of the structure. Some are left plain, allowing the natural patina to develop, while others may be painted in decorative colors or paints which are designed to resist the formation of a patina.

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Depending on the quality of the alloy used to make iron railings, the railings may be durable and long lasting, or they may have a shorter lifespan. Examples of ironwork which are thousands of years old can be found in many regions of the world, and fine iron railings have the potential to endure just as long. The tendency to make cheaper, less durable alloys has led to a decline in quality of many iron products, with some people preferring to purchase antique iron railings from homes which have been torn down for use in construction projects.

When installing iron railings, people may want to consider how well the railings go with the rest of a structure. Modern designs, for example, tend to benefit from very plain, stripped down iron railings which mimic the lines of the structure, while a Victorian-era home may benefit from railings with a more frivolous and ornamental nature. In both cases, care should be taken to ensure that the railings are high enough to be safe for use; this is a common problem with vintage railings, which can sometimes be shorter than conventional railings.

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