Help me de-deathtrap this wrought-iron fence/barrier.
December 30, 2017 1:01 AM   Subscribe

We recently purchased a new house which has an amazing verandah/porch featuring a wrought-iron barrier which could decapitate a small person just by looking at it. I'd obviously like to avoid this. What can I affix or adjust to have the desired effect here?

Here is a photo of the torture device in question. There are around 30-40 of these panels around the house in other potential kill zones. We have two little ones running around, and these are at the perfect height so as to do some real damage.

From a financial perspective, it would be ideal not to have to replace them or lay a secondary mesh over it - they are actually lovely to look at. Removing the offending bit in the middle is also not an option, as that would create a gap that one could tall through.

My current best idea is getting lots of black squash balls, and then gluing them on, but I'm wondering if anyone has a less visually offensive idea for how we can child-proof this fence that would currently make the OH&S inspectors of the death star proud. (seriously, why are there no handrails in the Star Wars universe)

posted by LongDrive to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
My immediate thought is to teach your children well... but shit happens and those spikes could cause serious damage. I'd find a ball with a hole that could be slipped on top of the spikes. I think that a black round shape atop the vertical might look quite elegant, but they would have to be sipped over, not glued on top. Perhaps these ball makers could help.
posted by Thella at 1:29 AM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are contractors who specialize in wrought iron fence installations, repairs, and alterations. With a bit of grinding, welding, and painting, you can turn the panels into a number of appealing designs with the addition of a piece or two.
posted by halogen at 1:32 AM on December 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

I recently had a welder fix a toddler head trapping stair rail. He basically removed the partials and replaced them with full length bainsters but then it all had to be re-painted and it was not cheap. Since yours is black cast iron you could remove the spike with a grinder then weld a full length piece of metal that reaches up to the top of the curved area. They still won't be to code though, that is no more than 4" gap.

In short, those are crazy, who designed them and how did it pass inspection? I think covering the entire thing with a lattice is your easiest fix but I'd personally want those spikes GONE if I had small kids.
posted by fshgrl at 1:59 AM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think your squash ball idea is brilliant. It doesn't destroy the railing or mask the view through it. If you wanted to sell the house, it'd be an easy fix to remove them for a future buyer. Likewise, if you ever decided to replace the railings, the squash balls could be removed so you could sell the railings to an architectural salvage business. Having the spike sawn off would take away that option.
posted by essexjan at 3:07 AM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Instead of plain black squash balls you could have a rotating selection of seasonally specific chevaux-de-frise guards. Eggs for easter, pumpkins for halloween, etc. You have a built in gallery for displaying the impaled ephemera of your choice. Something slightly more outsider art like doll heads could serve the double purpose of covering the spikes and scaring children away from the fence, but the cure may be worse than the disease there.
posted by mumblelard at 3:31 AM on December 30, 2017 [39 favorites]

I would use balls larger than a squash ball to fill in the gap more, but that idea is fine! Lattice works, too, because it removes the climbing option.
posted by jbenben at 5:22 AM on December 30, 2017

I would get some bamboo poles thick enough to go over the spike. Cut them to be slightly longer than the distance from spike to the top of the arch so they have to be hammered into place. That should make them difficult to remove. I can't tell how thick/long the spikes are but it might be possible to just enclose the whole spike in bamboo.
You could then add extra bamboo held on with twine, horizontally (or at 45 degrees to discourage climbing) to close the gaps some more.
posted by Lanark at 5:37 AM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you can remove the fence easily, taking it to someone who works in iron and having the spikes drawn out and turned into an outward-facing curve that matches the others might be the most aesthetically pleasing option. (If you're willing to spend significant time on it, you could design and order a 3D printed plastic cap that does the same.)

Or, you could slip a square metal tubing over the spike that extends all the way to the rail and then glue it in place with a couple of spots of epoxy. A few knocks with a hammer will remove it later. Finding material that matches the color of the iron may be challenging, but you paint the whole rail with uniform black paint afterward.
posted by eotvos at 6:25 AM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honestly I’d just get some chicken wire and put it across the inside until your kids are a little older, then remove it and enjoy. Kids don’t stay little very long.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:51 AM on December 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

What are the dimensions of the panel? Are the open areas large enough for a toddler head/body to go through? If so, I'd cover the entire thing with a barrier (chicken wire, lattice, special barrier netting, plexiglass panels, etc.) until they are older.
posted by belladonna at 7:15 AM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tennis balls can be spray-painted and are a little larger, but I think your idea is spot-on.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 AM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Are these wrought-iron features listed on title or on a local historical register? You can get into all sorts of conflicting messes with lenders, zoning and insurance who say that a feature must stay and must go. Ask me about my MIL's house with a rooftop rail-less summer veranda that had been there since the 1860s that suddenly needed to have rails for the insurer 10 years ago and had legal threats from the local historical register for destruction of neighbourhood historic features if the rails went in ...
posted by scruss at 7:38 AM on December 30, 2017

You said new, right. The railings are almost certainly screwed in. You could take them off, turn them upside-down, and re-mount. Hard to say from that picture, but might work.
posted by theora55 at 7:38 AM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you need to be specific about the risk you are trying to diminish here. If it is the risk of a child impaling themselves on a spike, I think the squah ball idea is genius and would go with that. If you are concerned about a child falling through the railing (which seems unlikely to me, but these are not my offspring), I'd go with barrier netting until your children are the height of the railing. Sometimes you can find it second hand as well.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2017

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