Chances are you've seen and admired homes with distinctive ironwork. Perhaps what stood out was an elegant gate, or maybe it was an interesting porch railing or grillwork.
You, too, could add that touch to your home. Having custom ironwork done is not exactly cheap, but it can pay off in the long run.
Companies charge by the linear foot, sometimes as low as $35 a foot, usually more like $50 to $65, or higher, depending on design. Then, there are additional fees for labor and related expenses.
Creating automated driveway gates is a specialty with Jason Morgan, owner of J&S Welding of White City. These start at about $4,500, but fancier ones can go much higher, he says, even $30,000 or $40,000.
Juan Vega, owner of J V Ironscapes of Medford, estimates that a simple yard gate will start at about $450, while an elegant staircase could run $3,000.
Figure on about $5,600 for a 14-foot entry gate and $1,700 for a 27-foot railing, says Les Rasmusson, owner of D&L Custom Iron Works of White City.
Also expect to make a 35 to 50 percent deposit before works starts, with the balance expected upon completion.
"You can't go wrong doing ornamental iron," says Jason Morgan, owner of J&S Welding of White City. "It's strong, lasts forever, adds value to your home and has great curb appeal. You can be as creative as you want."
"You spend more money, but you get a special result," adds Juan Vega, owner of J V Ironscapes of Medford. "This brings up the value of your home, giving it a unique touch."
So, how does one go about getting a custom gate or fence, or perhaps a unique interior staircase?
You'll find several local craftspeople who specialize in this kind of work, but remember, it's always best to get a referral, if possible.
When a potential client calls, Vega arranges to show the person a book of photos of ironwork he has done, as well as many potential designs to choose from. He examines the job site, takes measurements, checks on what codes might have to be met, then gives a quote. When the bid is accepted, he goes back to measure again. "Everything has to fit like a glove," he explains.
Then the fabrication process begins, which involves cutting out pieces of the metal and welding them together. Next a "dry fit," is scheduled to make sure the piece fits properly. The final finish is then applied, which is a process called powder coating. The ironwork is baked in an oven; the powder melts and bonds to the metal. Once the powder has bonded, the final installation can begin.
Morgan does the majority of his ironwork with contractors, but he also works with homeowners. In many cases, the owner of an older home will want to replace deteriorating wood with durable, long-lasting iron. "And you don't have to paint the iron," he points out. "There is pretty much zero maintenance."
However, some customers do choose to have their ironwork painted, says Les Rasmusson, owner of D&L Custom Iron Works of White City, so he had a spray painter designed to provide that service. White was popular at one time, but has gone out of style. Today, most people are requesting black. D&L specializes in entry gates, balconies, interior railings and wrought-iron fences. He recently added a plasma-cutting table to do metal cutouts and garden artwork.
How long does a custom job take? At least two weeks, maybe closer to a month. "This is not something you can do in four or five days," says Vega. "There's a lot of work involved, because the measurements must be precise. Staircases take more time because of the angle involved."
But chances are, an elegant creation will be worth the wait.