------------------------------------ August 12, 2016
When is Fence a Railing and Railing a Fence?
recent conversation went as follows:
"Hi, we have a pool in our complex that doesn't have a fence around it. We
thought about erecting a block wall but decided that this would be overkill, so
can you give us information on a fence?"
Products: "Absolutely. We are a railing manufacturer but can also supply
fence if needed."
"Yes. that's what I need, a fence, you know, a railing around the
necessitated a more detailed explanation of the difference between
"fencing" and "railing". Most people have little reason to
consider those differences and in truth, there are areas, the so-called
"gray area", where both can accomplish the same purpose.
best understand where the two products are not compatible requires a brief
review of the purpose for each. An analogy to an industry we all know may help.
Let's look at transportation for a moment. Transportation in our mobile society
is a necessity. For your own protection and assurance of always safely arriving
at a given destination, would
you consider a military tank as your primary means of travel? Hardly!
Our automobiles perform that task very nicely, and a tank would be massive
overkill, yet both offer a means of transportation.
may be an over exaggeration of the issue, yet it drives home the point. A tank
is designed for different purposes than a car. As we are all aware of the
purpose of a tank versus a car, this knowledge allows us the ability to
logically decide where and when one would be used in place of the other. Knowledge
of the design criteria of fencing and railing can allow us the same ability. This
is very important if you are sharing in a decision to buy a fence or guard
railing for your project.
necessity and for our benefit, safety and building codes have been established
to control the use and application of products within the buildings we occupy. Few
would question the fact that these codes have greatly improved the quality,
comfort and safety of our homes, offices, commercial and public buildings.
Practicality dictates when these codes are established.
entry door, for example, is engineered to resist unwanted access by intruders.
It must also keep the elements of rain, wind, heat and cold from easily
entering. Would you expect the same criteria for the doors that close off
interior closets and other rooms? Typically, no! Herein
lies the point between the proper use and specification of railing or fencing.
Never would you consent to fencing on your balcony and it would be unnecessary
to invest in guardrail to close in your yard or playground.
regardless of style or the material it is made from, typically is used to
restrict access to an area, such as a pool. It
can be used as a barrier or simply for privacy-or both. Railing,
on the other hand, is required to meet additional engineering and design
criteria. The strength
of a product at ground level where access, not strength, is the main requirement
is considerably different than where falling would be extremely detrimental to
your well-being and possibly your life.
most of the country, a simultaneous vertical loading of 200 pounds per linear
foot and horizontal uniform loading of 100 pounds per linear foot has been
established as a minimum requirement for a product to be used as railing.
Fencing, however, does not need to meet any of these values. Consideration needs
to be given also to the rails' ability to maintain those code requirements over
time as the effects of the elements begin to work on it, to say nothing of the
cosmetic appearance of the product.
designing a Railing
System, these points and more are considered:
mandated engineering/design criteria of local, state and national building
codes such as:
maximums between independent members
handrail "grasp ability" for ADA compliance
connection and mounting pull out values
the acidity of a salt laden atmosphere negate the load values of the
in strength due to rust, oxidation or other corrosion, electrolysis
caused by ultra violet sunlight
has no such stringent restrictions when being designed. Fencing must only exist
and meet your appearance requirements. So when seriously evaluating your needs,
consider closely whether a fence product or a true railing system is
should do the research necessary to ensure that you receive the full benefits of
the boundless technological advancements that have occurred in the past two
decades. Educate yourself on which materials offer all the requirements and
assurances necessary, while taking into consideration the long term advantages
and disadvantages of each material type. Bottom line: Get
the best value and the product you need.
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