Title:
Unitary rail mounting bracket
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A mounting bracket for connecting a fence rail to a fence post. The bracket includes a housing which defines a rail-receiving cavity into which an end of the rail is inserted. A pair of flange members is integrally formed with the housing and extend outwardly away from the side walls of the housing. The flange members have a top wall disposed inwardly of the top wall of the housing; and a front wall disposed inwardly of the front end of the housing. The flange members each have an aperture in the front wall and a second aperture in the side wall thereof A fastener is inserted through the front wall aperture of each flange member and is screwed into the post. The flange members are configured so that the head of each fastener is disposed inwardly of the front wall of the flange member when the fastener is fully screwed into the post. A second fastener is inserted through each second aperture in the side walls of the flange members and is screwed into the rail. The flange members are configured so that the head of each second fastener is disposed inwardly of the side wall thereof when the second fastener is fully screwed into the rail. Plugs are inserted into the first and second apertures to completely hide the fasteners that are disposed within the interior cavities of the flange members and to thereby give the mounting bracket a finished appearance.



Inventors:
Platt, Robert E. (Mineral Ridge, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/353398
Publication Date:
08/16/2007
Filing Date:
02/14/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
DUCKWORTH, BRADLEY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SAND, SEBOLT & WERNOW CO., LPA (CANTON, OH, US)
Claims:
1. A mounting bracket for connecting a fence rail to a fence post; comprising: a housing having an upper wall, a lower wall, and opposing sides walls; said housing defining an interior cavity adapted to receive an end of the fence rail therein; a flange member extending outwardly away from each side wall of the housing; said flange members each having a front wall; a top wall, a bottom wall and a side wall; a first aperture formed in the front wall of each flange member; and a second aperture formed in the side wall of each flange member.

2. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the top wall of each flange member is disposed a distance inwardly from the upper wall of the housing.

3. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the front wall of each flange member is disposed a distance inwardly from a front end of the housing.

4. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the housing has a rear end and the flange members each have a rear end and the rear ends of the housing and flange members are substantially coplanar.

5. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the upper and lower walls of the housing are substantially equal in length.

6. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the upper and lower walls of the housing are of different lengths.

7. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, further comprising a pair of first plugs, complementary sized and shaped to be received in the apertures in the front walls of the flange members.

8. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, further comprising a pair of second plugs, complementary sized and shaped to be received in the apertures in the side walls of the flange members.

9. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the flange members each define an interior cavity adapted to retain a plurality of fasteners therein, which fasteners secure the housing to the fence post and fence rail.

10. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the housing is substantially rectangular in cross-sectional shape and is adapted to receive a substantially rectangular rail therein.

11. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the housing is substantially T-shaped in cross-sectional shape and is adapted to receive a substantially T-shaped rail therein.

12. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 11, wherein the side wall of the T-shaped housing includes a substantially vertical lower portion and a substantially horizontal upper portion; and wherein the side wall of each of the flange members lies inwardly of the upper portion of the associated side wall of the housing.

13. The mounting bracket as defined in claim 1, wherein the housing and flange members are integrally formed with each other.

14. In combination, a fence rail; a fence post; a mounting bracket comprising: a housing having an upper wall, a lower wall, and opposing sides walls; said housing defining an interior cavity adapted to receive an end of the fence rail therein; a flange member extending outwardly away from each side wall of the housing; said flange members each having a front wall; a top wall, a bottom wall and a side wall; a first aperture formed in the front wall of each flange member; a second aperture formed in the side wall of each flange member. a pair of first fasteners, each first fastener being received through the first aperture in one of the flange members and being secured to the fence post; and a pair of second fasteners, each second fastener being received through the second aperture in one of the flange members and being secured to the fence rail.

15. The combination as defined in claim 14, wherein each of the flange members defines at least one interior cavity therein and at least one of the first fasteners and second fasteners are completely received with the at least one interior cavity when the first and second fasteners secure the bracket to the post and rail.

16. The combination as defined in claim 15, further comprising a pair of first plugs, each first plug being complementary shaped and sized to be received within one of the first apertures.

17. The combination as defined in claim 16, further comprising a pair of second plugs, each second plug being complementary shaped and sized to be received within one of the second apertures in the side walls of the flange members.

18. The combination as defined in claim 14, wherein the upper wall of the housing and the lower wall of the housing are of a substantially equal length.

19. The combination as defined in claim 14, wherein the upper wall and lower walls of the housing are of different lengths.

20. The combination as defined in claim 14, wherein the housing is one of rectangular shaped and T-shaped in cross-section; and the interior cavity defined in the housing has substantially the same cross-sectional shape as the housing.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

This invention generally relates generally to fencing. More particularly, the invention relates to rail mounting brackets for use in vinyl fencing systems. Specifically, the invention relates to a mounting bracket including integral flange members for retaining and hiding the fasteners that are used to secure the bracket to the fence post and rail.

2. Background Information

In recent years, vinyl fencing has become a popular fencing option because of the material's durability and low maintenance requirements. Furthermore, vinyl fencing maintains its original color and clean, finished appearance as the years pass. The aesthetic appeal of the fencing can, however, be totally ruined if an installer simply screws the vinyl rail and posts together. The screws and cut edges of the rails can tend to stand out in stark contrast to the neat appearance of the rails and posts themselves.

There is therefore a need in the art for a device to connect fence rails and posts together which gives the joint a finished and aesthetically pleasing appearance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The device of the present invention comprises a mounting bracket for connecting a fence rail and post. The bracket comprises a housing which defines a rail-receiving cavity into which an end of the rail is inserted. A pair of flange members are integrally formed with housing and extend outwardly away from the side walls thereof. The flange members include a top wall that is disposed inwardly of the top wall of the housing; and a front wall that is disposed inwardly of the front end of the housing. An aperture is provided in the front wall of each flange member and a second aperture is provided in the side wall thereof. A fastener is inserted through the aperture in each of the front walls of the flange members and is screwed into the post. The flange members are configured so that the head of each fastener is disposed inwardly of the front wall of the flange member when the fastener is fully screwed into the post. A second fastener is inserted through each of the second apertures in the side walls of the flange member. The second fasteners are then screwed into the rail. The flange members are configured so that the head of each second fastener is disposed inwardly of the side wall of the flange member when the second fastener is fully screwed into the rail. Plugs are inserted into the first and second apertures in the flange members to completely hide the fasteners within the interior cavities thereof and to thereby give the mounting bracket a smooth and finished appearance. Preferably the plugs are disposed flush with the front and side walls of the flange members. The end of the mounting bracket that is to abut the post may be cut at an angle if the bracket is to be used to secure an angled rail to a post.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The preferred embodiments of the invention, illustrative of the best mode in which applicant has contemplated applying the principles, are set forth in the following description and are shown in the drawings and are particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims.

FIG. 1 is a side view of a portion of a deck railing and stairs incorporating unitary rail mounting brackets in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional front view of the rail mounting bracket through line 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional top view of the rail mounting bracket through line 3-3 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is cross-sectional side view of the rail mounting bracket through line 4-4 of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a rear view of the rail mounting bracket through line 5-5 of FIG. 4; and

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional front view of a second embodiment of the rail mounting bracket in accordance with the present invention as taken through line 6-6 of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1 there is shown a portion of a deck 10 and a flight of stairs 12 extending downwardly therefrom to the ground 14. A deck railing 16 is mounted on a first vertical post 18 and includes a bottom rail 22 and hand rail 20 connected to post 18 by way of rail mounting brackets in accordance with the present invention and generally indicated at 24 and 36 respectively. A plurality of balusters 26 are disposed between hand rail 20 and bottom rail 22. A stair railing 28 extends between first vertical post 18 and a second vertical post 30. Stair railing 28 includes a bottom rail 34 and hand rail 32 that are secured to first and second vertical posts 18, 30 by rail mounting brackets 124 and 136, respectively, as will be hereinafter described. All the components described herein, and particularly the rails posts 18, 30, the rails 20, 22, 32, 34 and brackets 24, 36, 124 and 136, are preferably all manufactured from a suitable plastic materials such as vinyl or acrylic.

Referring to FIGS. 2-5, the rail mounting bracket 24 which is used to connect bottom rail 22 to post 18 is shown in greater detail. Bracket 24 preferably is a unitary member comprising a housing 38 with a pair of flange members 40, 42 extending outwardly away therefrom. Housing 38 preferably is substantially rectangular in cross-section and comprises an upper wall 44, lower wall 46 and opposing side walls side wall 48, 50. The upper, lower and side walls define a generally rectangular central aperture 52 therebetween. Central aperture 52 is complementary sized and shaped to receive rail 22 therein.

In accordance with a specific feature of the present invention, flange members 40, 42 are integrally formed with and extend outwardly away from side walls 48, 50 respectively. As may be best seen from FIG. 2, each flange member 40, 42 comprises an upper wall 40a, 42a, respectively, which walls terminate a distance inwardly from upper wall 44 of housing 38. Lower walls 40b and 42b of flange members are substantially continuous with lower wall 46 of housing 38. As may be best seen from FIG. 3, each flange member 40, 42 has a front wall 40d, 42d respectively, which walls terminate a distance inwardly from the front edges 48d and 50d of side walls 48, 50. Side walls 40c, 42c are spaced a distance outwardly away from side walls 48, 50 and a gap 54, 56 is defined therebetween. Side walls 40c, 42c of flange members 40, 42 are disposed substantially parallel to side walls 48, 50 of housing 38.

Each of front walls 40d, 42d of flange members 40, 42 defines an aperture 58, 60 therein. A first fastener 62 is inserted through each of apertures 58, 60, through a cross-wall 59, 61 and into cavities 54, 56 formed within the interior of flange members 40, 42. First fasteners 62 are then screwed into post 18 so that bracket 24 is thereby securely retained on post. While cavities 54, 56 are shown to be larger than the diameter of fasteners 62, it will be understood that these cavities could be complementary sized and shaped to the exact diameter of fasteners 62. As may be seen from FIG. 3, fasteners 62 are retained entirely within cavities 54, 56. The head of each fastener 62 is disposed inwardly of the front walls 40d, 42d of flange members 40, 42 and the fasteners 62 are therefore hidden from view. A plug 64 preferably is inserted into each aperture 58, 60 to hide the heads of fasteners 62 and therefore give bracket 24 a finished and more aesthetically pleasing appearance. Plugs 64 preferably are inserted into apertures 58, 60 so that the outer surface of the plugs is substantially flush with front walls 40d and 42d. Plugs 64 are removable should it be necessary to remove bracket 24 from post 18.

Referring to FIGS. 4 & 5, a second aperture 72, 74 is defined in side walls 40c, 42c of flange members 40, 42. A second fastener 70 is inserted through each of second apertures 72, 74, through a second cavity 66, 68 formed in the interior of flange members 40, 42 and through holes 76, 78 in side walls 48, 50 of housing 38. Second fasteners are then screwed into rail 22 and to thereby secure bracket 24 and rail 22 together. Fasteners 70 are retained entirely within second cavities 66, 68 with the heads thereof being disposed inwardly of the side walls 40c, 42c of flange members. Fasteners 70 are therefore hidden from view. A plug 80 preferably is inserted into each of said second apertures 72, 74 to close the same, hiding the heads of fasteners 70 and thereby giving bracket 24 a more finished and aesthetically pleasing appearance. Plugs 80 are again preferably disposed within apertures so that the outer surface of each plug 80 is disposed substantially flush with side walls 40c, 42c.

Cavities 54, 56 and 66, 68 are formed within bracket 24 to make the bracket lighter in weight and therefore easier to handle and keep securely mounted to post 18. Furthermore, the formation of cavities 54, 56 and 66, 68 reduces the quantity of material required during manufacture of bracket 24 and thereby reduces the costs for producing the same. It will however be understood that flange members 40, 42 could be formed as substantially solid bodies, with the cavities being reduced to be complementary sized and shaped to the fasteners 62, 70 received therein.

Bracket 124 (shown in FIG. 1) is used to connect an angled bottom rail 34 between posts 18 and 30. Bracket 124 is substantially identical in configuration to bracket 24 except for the fact that the end of the bracket to be butted up to posts 18 or 30 has been cut on an angle. Bracket 124 has been cut so that upper wall 44 is of a different length to the lower wall 46 thereof. So, for example, if a bracket is needed to join rail 34 to post 18, the bracket 124a is cut so that upper wall 44 is longer than lower wall 46. If a bracket is needed to join rail 34 to post 30, then bracket 124b is cut so that upper wall 44 is shorter than lower wall 46.

A second embodiment of mounting bracket is shown in FIG. 6 and generally indicated at 36. Bracket 36 is substantially identical to bracket 24 with the exception that bracket 36 is substantially T-shaped in cross-section and defines a T-shaped aperture 152 therein. Aperture 152 is adapted to receive a complementary sized and T-shaped hand rail 120 therein. Flange members 140, 142 are integrally formed with and extend outwardly away from side walls 148, 150 of central portion 138. The outermost walls 140c, 142c of flange members 140, 142 preferably are disposed inwardly of the upper portions of side walls 148c, 150c. Furthermore the upper walls of flange members 140, 142 are substantially integrally formed with the underside 148e, 150e of the upper portion of side walls 148, 150. Although not shown in FIG. 6, it should be understood that the front surfaces 140d and 142d of flange members 140, 142 are disposed inwardly of the outermost front surface 138a of central portion 138, i.e., the flange members 140, 142 are effectively recessed relative to the front surface 138a of central portion 138. Bracket 36 is used in the same manner as bracket 24 with fasteners (not shown) being inserted through an aperture in front surface 140d, 142d and into the post. Plugs 164 hide said fasteners within the interior of flange members 140, 142. Second fasteners 170 are inserted through apertures (not shown) in side walls 140c, 142c and ultimately into rail 120. Second plugs (not shown) are used to hide these second fasteners 170 from view.

If an angled hand rail 32 is to be secured between posts 18 and 30, a rear end of bracket 36 is cut down to form angled bracket 136 (FIG. 1). Bracket 136 has an upper wall 144 and lower wall 146 that are not of equal length. A bracket 136a having an upper wall 144 that is shorter than lower wall 146 may be used to connect hand rail 32 to post 30. A bracket 136b having an upper wall 144 that is longer than lower wall 146 may be used to connect the other end of hand rail 32 to post 18.

The mounting bracket of the present invention is used in the following manner. The installer positions bracket 24 so that a first end 24a (FIG. 3) thereof buts up against the outer surface of post 18. A fastener 62a is inserted through aperture 58 in flange member 40 and is screwed into post 18. A fastener 62b is inserted through aperture 60 in flange member 42 and is screwed into post 18. Rail 22 is inserted into aperture 52 until the end 22a thereof abuts outer surface of post 18. A second fastener 70a (FIG. 5) is inserted through a second aperture 72 in flange member 40, through hole 76 in side wall 48 and is screwed into rail 22. Another second fastener 70b is inserted through hole 74 in flange member 42, through hole 78 in side wall 50 and is screwed into rail 22.

Brackets 124 and 136 are connected to posts 18 or 30 in a similar manner, except that prior to the insertion of fasteners into either of the posts 18, 30 or rails 32, 34, the end of the relevant bracket 124 or 136 that is to abut the post is cut at an angle using a suitable saw.

It will be understood by those skilled in the art that while mounting bracket 24 has been shown in the Figures to have no front wall or rear wall, the bracket may be provided with a front wall and rear wall in which a rail-receiving aperture is formed. Alternatively, only the rear wall may be formed as a substantially continuous member that extends from the upper wall to the lower wall and between the opposing side walls. In that instance the continuous rear wall would be placed in abutting contact with the outer surface of the post when the bracket is to be mounted thereon.

In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding. No unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.

Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is an example and the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described.