You’ve scoured Craigslist or eBay for weeks and have finally found an antique fence for your yard that you want to purchase. Before you act, there are 5 things you should know about buying antique or salvage fence that may make you change your mind and want to look for something new instead.
1. Being Able to Get the Exact Quantity You Need
Antique and salvage fence always fall into two categories: ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’. On large quantities, the seller often wants to make an ‘all or nothing’ sale. If you only need 40ft of fence and they have 200ft worth, that leaves you with a lot of extra fence or walking away from that as an option.
The one we see more often is ‘not enough’. You may need 150ft of fence with a gate and they only have 25ft of fence panels. You buy the fence thinking you can have more made to match. However, replicating old fence is often harder than you think. Many component sizes and castings are ‘one-off’ unique jobs that cannot be replicated. If you are lucky enough to find a place that can replicate the fence, the cost is often way more than what you purchased the initial fence for. We get asked to replicate fence all the time and I would say 9.9 times out of 10 we can’t do it because the materials, castings and sizes of components used are no longer readily available.
2. Finding Hardware and Misc Parts for the Iron Fence or Gates
The number two question we get after ‘can you replicate this fence?’ is ‘can you provide hardware for this fence or gate?’. Again, the answer is often ‘no’. As I mentioned in bullet point #1, many of these fences and gates were one-time jobs using components not often or no longer used. When fences are salvaged, they are often cut into pieces and the hardware is left behind. This leaves you no way to hang the panels without welding them to new posts and gates with only partial hinge and latch hardware.
Trying to find hardware that fits an antique or salvage fence is often impossible. As time has gone on, component changes have changed the hardware with it. While you may find a pretty fence or gate, you may have no way to mount it once you get home.
3. Refinishing Costs on Antique or Salvage Iron Fence
To properly refinish and antique or iron fence, you need to have it media blasted, coated with some type of galvanizing primer and then powder coated. When you factor in the cost of transporting the pieces and having that work done, the deal you got on the fence starts looking less appealing.
Even if you don’t want to coat the panels and prefer to leave them with a natural patina, there are often rotted out spots or bent pieces that need to be repaired before you can install them. While the patina look can be good looking, its also guaranteed to shorten the life of the fence. Bare iron and steel exposed to air and moisture will continue to break down and degrade at a faster rate.
4. Ability to Replace Damaged Pieces
One thing often not taken into consideration is the resilience to damage on older pieces. Older fully cast pieces often have smaller diameter and brittle pickets that break much easier. This is especially true on pieces that were not properly coated or kept up with. Time will have slowly eaten away at the piece making breaks and cracks much more common.
The other issue is trying to replace a piece in the event of an accident or storm. You would be surprised how often we get calls on folks that had a driver go up on the curb and take out a section of fencing. Another common occurrence is falling trees or tornado and hurricane damage. On a normal fence that can be found today, replacements can be done. But on older fences, getting a replacement piece made can be impossible. We have seen folks have to replace all 200ft of their fence with a new one because they could not find or have a replacement 15ft section made where the damage occurred.
5. The Overall Cost of Using Antique or Salvage Iron Fence
While we can appreciate those that want to save a vintage piece of fence, there are many more that look at antique and salvage fence as a way to save a buck. This is almost never the case. Before you even factor in the complexities mentioned in the 4 items above, the fact is most sellers of salvage and antique fence sell it at a much higher price than new fence. This is due more to it being rarer and exclusive than it being better. Modern fences beat the finish, durability and construction of older fences in many ways. So you are often paying more for a fence that doesn’t perform as well and is in worse shape with a lot of work needed before its ready for installation.
We can understand the allure of wanting to save and use an older fence. However, when you really get into the details of what it will take, the cost and amount of legwork needed to make it happen is more than what most folks want to contend with.
Think of it in terms of modern and older cars. Need a headlight bulb for a 2012 Honda? No problem. $10 at AutoZone. Need a headlight for a 1920’s Ford Model A? Once you are able to find it, you can guarantee it will cost way more than $10. Old vs newer iron fencing is much the same. While the antique and salvage iron fence has a certain appeal to it, working with a newer iron fence will always be easier and often net a more durable and lasting fence.
Still have questions? Give us a call or shoot us an email and we would be happy to answer any questions you have! 800-261-2729 or [email protected]