Title:
System and apparatus for reinforcing fence components
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is a system and apparatus for reinforcing a fence structure for example, to resist the potentially detrimental forces caused by wind and other environmental factors. An elongate stiffening insert for reinforcing a fence structure is configured to appear in cross section to generally resemble a Z-shape. The stiffening insert fits inside a fence post to reinforce the fence structure. The stiffening insert generally extends below the ground to provide support.



Inventors:
Keefe, James P. (Lemont, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/861202
Publication Date:
12/08/2005
Filing Date:
06/04/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/14; E04H17/20; (IPC1-7): E04H17/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
AMIRI, NAHID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
James P. Keefe (Lemont, IL, US)
Claims:
1. An elongate stiffening insert for reinforcing a fence structure comprising: an elongate first portion having a first end and a second end; an elongate second portion having a first end and a second end; and an elongate third portion, the third portion generally longitudinally intersecting at the second end of the first portion and at the first end of the second portion.

2. The stiffening insert of claim 1, wherein the third portion is generally vertical to the first and the second portions.

3. The stiffening insert of claim 1, wherein the first end of the first portion and the second end of the second portion have beveled edges.

4. The stiffening insert of claim 1, wherein the third portion has at least one opening.

5. A reinforced fence post structure comprising: an elongate shell having an upper end and lower end defining a cavity; and a stiffening insert positioned within the cavity of the shell having an elongate first portion having a first end and a second end, an elongate second portion having a first end and a second end, an elongate third portion, the third portion generally longitudinally intersecting at the second end of the first portion and the first end of the second portion.

6. The reinforced fence post structure of claim 5, wherein the shell and the stiffening insert have at least one opening, aligned sufficiently to receive horizontal fence components.

7. The reinforced fence post structure of claim 5, wherein the stiffening insert extends partially inside the cavity of the shell.

8. The reinforced fence post structure of claim 5, wherein the first and the second portions of the stiffening insert have beveled edges.

9. A reinforced fence structure comprising: a plurality of elongate shells, each shell having an upper end and lower end defining a cavity and a plurality of openings positioned generally longitudinally; a plurality of stiffening inserts positioned within the plurality of shells, each insert having an elongate first portion comprising a first end and a second end; an elongate second portion comprising a first end and a second end; an elongate third portion, the third portion generally longitudinally intersecting at the second end of the first portion and at the first end of the second portion and having a plurality of openings capable of being aligned with the plurality of openings in the shell; and a plurality of railings in association with the shell and the stiffening inserts through the plurality of openings.

10. The reinforced fence structure of claim 9, wherein the first and the second portions of the stiffening insert have beveled edges.

11. A method for reinforcing a fence structure includes the steps of: providing an elongate shell having an upper end and lower end and a plurality of shell openings; providing a stiffening insert having an elongate first portion comprising a first end and a second end; an elongate second portion comprising a first end and a second end; an elongate third portion, the third portion generally longitudinally intersecting at the second end of the first portion and at the first end of the second portion and having a plurality of insert openings capable of being aligned with the plurality of shell openings in the shell; providing a plurality of rails; positioning the stiffening insert inside the shell such that the plurality of shell openings align with corresponding insert openings; and connecting the plurality of rails with corresponding openings in the shell and the insert to form a fence structure.

12. A method for reinforcing a fence structure includes the steps of: providing a stiffening insert having an elongate first portion comprising a first end and a second end; an elongate second portion comprising a first end and a second end; an elongate third portion, the third portion generally longitudinally intersecting at the second end of the first portion and at the first end of the second portion and having a plurality of insert openings; and manufacturing an elongate shell having an upper end and lower end defining a cavity, the elongate shell enclosing the stiffening insert.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein the shell and the stiffening insert have a plurality of openings aligned along a central axis to receive horizontal fence elements.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein the shell is made of a plastic material and the stiffening insert is made of a metal.

15. The method of claim 12, wherein the stiffening insert is made of a composite material.

16. The method of claim 12, wherein the stiffening insert extends partially inside the shell.

17. The method of claim 12 comprising mounting the shell on a mounting surface, the stiffening insert extending below the mounting surface.

Description:

BACKGROUND

This disclosure generally relates to a post insert for reinforcing hollow-fence components. This disclosure also relates to reinforced fence structures and methods for reinforcing fence structures.

Fence structures or railings made of wood or plastic such as, for example, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are well-known in the art. PVC fencing systems are susceptible to warping, flexing, sagging, or swaying due to environmental conditions such as high winds because, PVC material in elongate, hollow fencing structures, may not withstand strong forces.

Some fence installers pour concrete into the fence post to prevent sway. However, the concrete-spill on the outside of the post, causes discoloring and scratching. Further, such concrete-filled posts are subject to cracking and splitting of the fence material due to dissimilar expansion or contraction and other damages to the post and the cosmetic surface. Some installers use wood inserts, but wood is relatively expensive.

SUMMARY

The current disclosure, relates to a system and apparatus for reinforcing hollow-fence components. In one embodiment, a stiffening insert for reinforcing fence components includes an elongate portion that resembles a “Z-shape” and fits inside a hollow cavity defined by the fence component, for example, a fence post. The hollow fence components are formed of a plastic or a resin material, such as PVC or other vinyl fencing materials. The angled design of the “Z-shaped” portion enables simpler manufacturing in an economical way and, yet offers substantial resistance to vertical fence post structures against forces, general wear and tear or any other stress.

In one embodiment, the stiffening insert is formed with openings through which horizontally attached rails can be inserted. The openings may be configured sufficiently elongated along the central axis of the structure to accommodate a range of positions relative to corresponding openings in the hollow fence post structure to allow for horizontal rails to secured to the insert. In one embodiment, the insert is solid without any openings.

A method to reinforce preexisting fence components includes installing the stiffening component inside the post while mounting the post in the ground. A portion of the stiffening component can extend from the buried end of the post. The extending component may interface with soil, sand, stone, gravel, cement or any other material in which the post is mounted.

In one embodiment, the stiffening component may not extend the entire length of the vertical post and may extend only a partial distance, for example, three feet in a six-foot post. The stiffening component can be formed of any number of materials, including but not limited to rolled steel. Suitable metal material may be roll formed into the desired shape that resembles a “Z-shape”. The ends of the stiffening component, along the length of the edges, can be beveled so as to engage an internal surface of the post for retaining it in position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings are provided to illustrate some of the embodiments of the disclosure. It is envisioned that alternate configurations of the embodiments of the present disclosure maybe adopted without deviating from the disclosure as illustrated in these drawings.

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a fence structure having two fence posts with stiffening inserts and three rails. The inserts buried below the surface are shown in phantom.

FIG. 2 shows a partial fragmentary perspective view of an elongate stiffening insert having a plurality of openings inside the stiffening insert corresponding to openings in the post.

FIG. 3 shows a top plan view of a stiffening insert and a fence post.

FIG. 4 shows a top plan view of a stiffening insert with beveled edges and a fence post.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

While the present disclosure may be susceptible to embodiment in different forms, there is shown in the drawings, and herein will be described in detail, embodiments with the understanding that the present description is to be considered an example of the principles of the disclosure and is not intended to be exhaustive, restrictive in character, or to limit the disclosure to the details of construction, the arrangements of components and methods set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings, and that all changes and modifications are incorporated herein.

FIG. 1 shows a fence structure 10. The fence structure 10 has a fence post 12 with an upper end 14 and a lower end 16. The post is generally hollow having a wall 13 defining a cavity 15. The fence post 12 has a stiffening insert 20 positioned inside the cavity 15. The upper end 14 of the fence post 12 may be capped or removably covered to allow access for reinforcement. Rails 38 may be associated with the fence post 12 and the stiffening insert 20 through the openings 28 in the fence post 12. The fence structure 10 is mounted on a surface 40. The fence post 12 may be a corner post or an end post or an intermediary post in the fence structure 10. The fence structure 10 may be by way of example, but not limitation, any form of vinyl fence, a picket fence, ornamental fence, and privacy fence.

As shown in FIG. 2, the fence post 12 includes the hollow shell 13 defining the cavity 15. The stiffening insert 20 has a first portion 22 having a first end 24 and a second end 26. The second portion 30 of the stiffening insert 20 also has a first end 32 and a second end 34. The first portion 22 and the second portion 30 are generally parallel to each other. The third portion 36 of the stiffening insert 20 intersects the first portion 22 at its second end 26 and the second portion 30 at its first end 32. The third portion 36 need not be at right-angle to the first portion 22 and the second portion 30. For example, the third portion 36 may intersect the first portion 22 at its second end 26 and the second portion 30 at its second end 32, at an acute angle that is less than 90° (e.g., 75° as in a “Z-shape”) or at an obtuse angle that is slightly more than 90° (e.g., 100°) with respect to generally parallel surfaces.

The stiffening insert 20 may be formed or configured to provide a snug-fit against an inside surface 17 of the fence post 12 defining the cavity 15. Alternatively, stiffening insert 20 may be retained inside the fence post 12 with a securing device including, but not limited to latch, brace, nut and bolt, screw, pin, flange, sleeve, collar, adhesive, and adhesive tape. The securing device may be installed externally or can be designed into the fence post 12 or the stiffening insert 20 during manufacturing.

In an embodiment shown in FIG. 3, in an embodiment, the first end 24 of the first portion 22 and the second end 34 of the second portion 30 are beveled 46 and 50 respectively, to generally engage the stiffening insert 20 inside the corners 44 and 48 of the shell 13 defining a cavity 15. The angled edges 46 and 50 are beveled such that they fit inside the corners 44 and 48 to provide at least some degree of interference or gripping and to at least help retain the stiffening insert 20 in the post 12 and generally prevent or at least resist movement within the cavity 15. Generally, the beveled edges 46 and 50 can be configured to fit the contours of standard fence posts. Such designs can be integrated into the stiffening inserts 20 during manufacture or can be implemented externally through post-manufacture tooling and designing. Additionally, the insert 20 may be configured with some degree of flexion between the members 22, 30, 36 so as to provide some degree of adjustment. Such adjustability allows the insert 20 to be used with posts having different internal dimensions or shapes. As such, one configuration of insert 20 may be used with a range of post dimensions and/or configurations. This feature also allows the insert to adjust to irregularities in the post as well as variations in manufacturing tolerances in the post.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 4, the stiffening insert 20 may be provided with multiple openings 54 positioned along a central axis 19 of the third portion 36. These openings 54 can be aligned with the openings 28 present in the fence post 12 to engage rails 38 positioned horizontally as shown in FIG. 1. The openings 54 are of sufficient dimension to allow a range of access for engaging the rails 38. Instead of multiple openings 54 on the stiffening insert 20, a single opening that extends longitudinally along the central axis 19 and is large enough to engage multiple rails 38 can also be designed in to the stiffening insert 20. This configuration is tolerant of variations in the placement and dimensions of the openings 28 in the post such that the elongated openings 54 along the central axis 19 will be able to align with at least one of the openings 28 in the shell 13.

The plurality of openings 54 in the insert 20 may enable securing the insert into a mounting surface 40 such as concrete. The openings 54 may also prevent damages to the insert 20 and/or the shell 13 due to expansion and contraction or any other impediments due to temperature fluctuations. An insert 20 without any openings 54 or a single opening may also withstand expansion and contraction issues due to temperature fluctuations.

The fence post 12 having a hollow shell 13 defining a cavity 15 may be made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and may be manufactured by extrusion molding or by any other standard manufacturing techniques for PVC fence components. Manufacturing of PVC and other plastic components for fence structures are well known in the art. Other suitable fence materials include but are not limited to plastic, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), acrylic, vinyl polymers, and polyethylene. The fence post 12 may have a length and width that generally conform to industry standards for fence components.

As shown in FIG. 1, the insert 20 may be provided with a formed leading end 21. The leading end 21 is the end which will be imbedded in the construction material, as shown, the ground 40. The leading end 21 as shown is formed with tapered sides so as to form a point which will help facilitate imbedding the insert 20 into the ground 40. Other variations of the leading end 21 are envisioned and fully within the scope of this application.

The stiffening insert 20 may be made of steel. Other suitable materials include but are not limited to galvanized steel, iron, cast iron, aluminum, or an alloy thereof. The stiffening insert of suitable thickness can be manufactured by casting, rolling, or by any other standard metal manufacturing processes. Other suitable materials include for example, reinforced polymer resin, composite material, or any other material that provides resistance to forces. The multiple openings 54 can be provided in the material that is formed into the insert or may be formed into the stiffening insert 20 during the manufacturing. The dimensions of the openings 54 and the spacing of the openings 54 conform to industry standard for fence components or can be determined depending upon the number of horizontal rails 38 desired and their dimensions. The stiffening insert 20 may also be coated with a protective layer such as, for example but not limited to, paint, powder coating, galvanizing, rubber, vinyl coating, or any other protective coating, treatment or layer to prevent corrosion or rust formation.

A method for reinforcing the fence structure 10 includes the steps of providing fence post 12 having an elongate shell 13 having an upper end 14 and lower end 16 with a plurality of openings 28. The method further includes providing a stiffening insert 20 having a plurality of openings 54 in the third portion 36 and providing a plurality of rails 38. The stiffening insert 20 is positioned inside the shell 13 of the post 12, such that the plurality of openings 28 of the fence post 12 and the plurality of openings 54 of the stiffening insert 20 align. The plurality of rails 38, through the plurality of openings 28 and 54 in the shell 13 and in the stiffening insert 20 respectively, are engaged to form a reinforced fence structure 10.

In an embodiment, the stiffening insert 20 can extend below the mounting surface 40 to provide additional support as shown in phantom in FIG. 1. The depth of extension below the ground may depend upon the total height of the fence post 12, the dimensions of the stiffening insert 20, the prevailing environmental conditions, and the nature of the mounting surface 40. For example, in high-wind environments and in a soil-laden back yard, the stiffening insert 20 can extend below ground up to one-third of the height of the fence post 12 that is exposed above the surface. In a paved mounting surface such as, for example, asphalt, the depth of extension may be less. The mounting surface 40 may be soil, gravel, cement, concrete, asphalt, wood, brick, or any other composite material. The fence post 12 along with the stiffening insert 20 can be mounted using standard techniques such as, for example, by burying the post, using a spiked support, using a foundation socket, or a socket with a base plate.

In an embodiment, the stiffening insert 20 may not extend to the full length of the fence post 12. For example, the stiffening insert 20 may extend up to three feet in a six-feet long fence post 12. The length of extension may depend upon the total height of the fence post 12, the dimensions of the stiffening insert 20, the prevailing environmental conditions, and the nature of the mounting surface 40. The length of extension may also depend upon the alignment of openings 54 with the openings of the fence post 28 for engaging horizontal rails 38.

Another method for reinforcing a fence structure includes the steps of providing the stiffening insert 20 and manufacturing the shell 13 of fence post 12, such that the shell 13 encloses the stiffening insert 20. For example, the first portion 22 and the second portion 30 of the stiffening insert 20 may be molded into the shell 13.

In an embodiment, the stiffening insert 20 may also be used to reinforce other fence components such as, for example, rails 38. As disclosed herein for the fence post 12, the stiffening insert 20 can be installed inside the rails 38.

While embodiments have been illustrated and described in the drawings and foregoing description, such illustrations and descriptions are considered to be exemplary and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only illustrative embodiments have been shown and described and that all changes and modifications that come within the spirit of the disclosure are desired to be protected. The applicant has provided description and figures which are intended as illustrations of embodiments of the disclosure, and are not intended to be construed as containing or implying limitation of the disclosure to those embodiments. There are a plurality of advantages of the present disclosure arising from various features set forth in the description. It will be noted that alternative embodiments of the disclosure may not include all of the features described yet still benefit from at least some of the advantages of such features. Those of ordinary skill in the art may readily devise their own implementations of the disclosure and associated methods, without undue experimentation, that incorporate one or more of the features and/or steps of the disclosure and fall within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure and the appended claims.