Title:
Metal fence post for panel and picket fences
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention includes an improved metal fence post for use with a wooden fence. The fence post has a C-shaped center section formed by a rear wall, two sides and two flanges, and each of the sides includes a plurality of holes extending along the length of the sides. The fence post can be used as a line, corner, end or gate post. Preferably, the width of the sides of the C-shaped center section is about the same as the thickness of the wooden fence rails so that the fence posts are positioned in-line with the fence rails. Advantageously, the fence posts allow the fence boards to be attached to either or both sides of the rails. In addition, the fence post of the present invention allows for the installation of prefabricated fence panels in the construction of the fence.



Inventors:
Van Fleet, Jeff George (US)
Application Number:
11/947060
Publication Date:
06/05/2008
Filing Date:
11/29/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/20
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
AMIRI, NAHID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BRUCE E. WEIR (MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, MD, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A fence post for an in-line wooden fence wherein standard two-by-four rails supported by the sides of the posts, with the rails supporting fence boards attached in-line to the rail and flush with the posts, said posts, comprising: an elongated member configured to support a wooden fence, the elongated member including a first flange extending along a first side of the elongated member and a second flange extending along a second side of the elongated member and generally aligned in the same plane with the first flange, and forming a generally C-shaped channel, the channel having a first side connected to a first flange and a second side connected to a second flange, and a rear wall joining the first and second sides, and the rear wall being spaced away from the plane of the flanges, the first side and the second side each having a dimension extending between the respective front surface of the flanges and the rear surface of the rear wall approximately the same as the width of a standard two-by-four, whereby the rails may be attached to the sides of the posts, with the ends of the rails being positioned adjacent the respective first and second sides of the post to thus enable fence boards to cover the flanges and the open end of the channel between the flanges and to also enable fence boards to be attached to the rails adjacent the rear wall of the channel.

2. The fence post of claim 1, wherein at least one of the sides has a plurality of penetrations extending along the length of said side.

3. The fence post of claim 1, wherein each of the two sides has an inwardly directed flange.

4. The fence post of claim 1, wherein said inwardly directed flanges do not abut thus creating an opening for the insertion of fasteners into said opening for the attachment of the fence rails to the sides of the post.

5. A fence system, comprising: a fence post including a front surface defined by a pair of spaced flanges, a generally C-shaped channel having a first side joined to one of the flanges, a second side joined to the other one of the flanges, and a connecting portion interconnecting the first side and the second side, and said connecting portion forming a rear surface of the fence post; and a standard two-by-four rail having a front surface and a rear surface; wherein the connecting portion is configured to contact and abut the rail with the end of the rail engaging and being supported by one of the sides, such that the front surface of the rail and the front surface of the fence posts are generally aligned, and the rear surface of the rail and the rear surface of the fence post are generally aligned.

6. The fence system of claim 5, further comprising fence boards attached to the front surface of the rail.

7. The fence system of claim 5, further comprising fence boards attached to the front surface and the rear surface of the rail, and wherein the fence post is concealed between two or more of the fence boards.

8. The fence post of claim 5, wherein the fence post is constructed from steel.

9. A method of constructing a fence, comprising: inserting a fence post into the ground, the fence post including a front surface defined by a pair of spaced flanges, a first side joined to one of the flanges and, a second side spaced from the first side and joined to the other one of the flanges, and a rear wall forming a connecting portion interconnecting the first side and the second side, the rear wall being spaced from the front surface and forming a rear surface of the post; placing one or more fence rails on either side of the fence post so that a front surface of the fence rails is generally aligned with the front surface of the post, and the rear surface of the fence rails is generally aligned with the rear surface of the post; attaching the one or more fence rails to the sides of the fence post.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein the fence rail has a width of about 1½ inches.

11. The method of claim 9, wherein the first side and the second side have a width of about 1½ inches.

12. The method of claim 9, further comprising attaching fence boards to the fence rails, and wherein the fence boards conceal at least a portion of the fence post.

13. The fence system of claim 9, further comprising fence boards attached to the front surface and the rear surface of the rail, and wherein the fence post is concealed between two or more of the fence boards.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/872,030, filed on Nov. 30, 2006, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/875,462, filed on Dec. 18, 2006 and are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO SEQUENCE LISTING, A TABLE, OR A COMPUTER PROGRAM LISTING COMPACT DISC Appendix

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to fencing and, in particular, to metal fence posts. More particularly, the present invention is an improved metal fence post which is used in conjunction with wood panel and picket fences.

Traditionally, wooden fence posts have been used to construct a wooden fence. Wooden fences are very desirable because of the appearance of the fence, especially for residential homes. A conventional wood fence includes a series of vertically oriented posts which are inserted into a hole in the ground and the hole is then filled with dirt and/or cement. The posts typically have a generally square cross-section with a width and depth of about four inches. The posts are connected by two or more horizontally oriented wooden rails. The rails are typically constructed from pieces of wood measuring two inches by four inches in cross section, commonly referred to as two-by-fours. Wooden slats or fence boards are then attached to the rails to create the fence. In addition, wooden fence posts allow for the installation of prefabricated fence panels in the construction of the fence which can save the home owner or builder both money and time.

The wooden fence posts used to construct the fence, however, have a number of disadvantages. For example, wooden fence posts decompose and decay, especially the portion of the post in or near the ground. Additionally, if the posts are set in concrete, there is a danger of breakage because the posts lack resilience about their base. Finally, the wooden fence posts are typically replaced every 5-10 years because of the deterioration and rotting of the wood.

It is known to use galvanized steel pipes in place of conventional wooden fence posts. For example, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,297,890 issued to Commins, a steel pipe is inserted into the ground and a bracket is attached to the pipe by one or more bolts. The bracket is then connected to a conventional wooden fence rail. Disadvantageously, this system requires a significant amount of time to correctly position and attach the bracket to the pipe, and the system is expensive because it requires brackets and bolts. Additionally, the aesthetics of the fence are compromised because the galvanized pipe protrudes outwardly from the wooden fence and the color of the pipe does not match the color of the fence. In addition, this type of fence post does not allow for the use of prefabricated fence panels in the construction of the fence.

It is also known to directly attach the wooden rails of a typical fence to a galvanized steel pipe. In particular, holes must be drilled or punched through the pipe and the wooden rails are then bolted to the pipe. Disadvantageously, it requires a significant amount of time to drill the holes in the pipe and to attach the fence rails to the pipe. Further, because of the great contrast between the galvanized steel pipe and the wooden fence, the aesthetics of the fence are compromised. In addition, this type of fence post does not allow for the use of prefabricated fence panels in the construction of the fence.

In order to create an aesthetically pleasing fence, known steel fence posts must be painted to match the color of the wood. For example, if a natural wood fence is desired, the steel posts are painted to match the color of the wood, but this is often very difficult because the wood may have many different colors, patterns and textures. On the other hand, if the fence and steel fence post are painted the same color, after a relatively short period of time the fence posts and fence are different colors because the steel posts and wooden fence components weather and change color at different rates. Further, in order to paint the steel fence posts, an expensive powder or primer coating is often necessary. This adds to the cost of the fence and increases the complexity of manufacturing the fence posts. In addition, this type of fence post does not allow for the use of prefabricated fence panels in the construction of the fence.

It is also known to use a galvanized post in the general shape of a hat-channel with a U-shaped center section. For example, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,173,945 issued to Lindsey et al., a metal fence post includes a U-shaped center section with two outwardly extending flanges resulting in post with a hat-channel configuration. A series of evenly spaced penetrations extend vertically along each of the flanges to allow wooden fence rails to be attached to the flanges. Disadvantageously, the fasteners that attach the rails are inserted perpendicularly into the fence rails near the ends of those same rails resulting in a weak bond between the flange and fence rail. Thus the rails may split or crack under stress and pull away from the fence post. Additionally, the thickness of the flanges extends beyond the front surface of the rails. This makes the attachment of the fence board that is used to cover the post difficult to install. The thickness of these flanges also causes this particular board to be positioned farther away from the fence rails than the other fence boards thus compromising the aesthetics of the fence. In addition, this system also requires clips for constructing corner and end posts resulting in additional cost and labor. Additionally, constructing a gate post requires the use of two posts joined together which is more costly and labor intensive to install. Disadvantageously, hat-channels are prone to twist under stress (such as wind) along the length of their longitudinal axis thus compromising the strength of the finished fence. In addition, this type of fence post does not allow for the use of prefabricated fence panels in the construction of the fence.

Thus, known metal fence posts used with conventional wooden fences either compromise the aesthetics of the fence because the metal posts detract from the appearance of the fence or they compromise the strength of the fence itself. Further, in addition to being difficult to use and costly to install, they cannot be used with prefabricated fence panels.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A need therefore exists for a metal post for use with a wooden fence which is simple to use and easy to install, and which eliminates the above described disadvantages and problems.

One aspect of the present invention is a metal fence post including a center section comprised of a rear wall, two sides, and two inwardly extending flanges. A series of penetrations extend vertically along each of the sides to allow wooden fence rails to be attached to the sides of the post. Preferably, the width of the sides of the post is about the same as the thickness of the wooden rails so that the fence posts are in-line with the fence rails. Advantageously, the fence posts allow the fence boards to be attached to either or both sides of the rails, and the fence posts, rails and fence boards are generally aligned. Thus, when a standard two-by four rail is attached to the post there is a smooth transition between the front surface and rear surface of both the fence rail and post respectively. This allows the fence board that is used to cover the post to be both easy to install and aesthetically pleasing.

Another aspect of the present invention is a fence post for an in-line wooden fence. The fence post includes a first flange extending along a first side of the elongated member, a second flange extending along a second side of the elongated member, the two sides interconnected by a rear wall forming a center channel with a generally C-shaped configuration. Each of the sides has a plurality of evenly spaced penetrations extending the length of the post. Preferably the two sides of the channel are about 1½ inches in width which is approximately the same as the width of a standard two-by-four. Thus, when a standard two-by-four is attached to the fence post, the front and rear surfaces of the two-by-four are generally aligned with the front and rear surfaces of the fence post.

A further aspect of the present invention is a method of constructing a fence which includes inserting a fence post into the ground. The fence post includes a front surface, a rear surface, a first side, a second side and a connecting portion interconnecting the first side and the second side. One or more fence rails are placed on either side of the fence post so that the front surfaces of the fence rails are generally aligned with the front surface of the post and the rear surfaces of the fence rails are generally aligned with the rear surface of the post. The fence rails are then attached to the sides of the fence post.

Advantageously, the fasteners that are used to attach the rails penetrate the ends of the fence rails at an angle, resulting in a large amount of surface contact between the fasteners and the fence rails. Thus, there is a strong bond between the fence rails and the fasteners and the fence rails resist cracking or splitting under stress.

In addition, another advantage of the present invention is a fence post with a C-shaped channel having a natural tendency to resist twisting along the longitudinal axis under a stress such as wind. Thus, the fence system created is able to withstand high wind loads without compromising the strength of the fence.

Advantageously, the metal fence post of the present invention allows the fence to be constructed in a variety of configurations. For example, the same fence post can be used as a line, corner, end or gate post. Thus, the fence post of the present invention is very versatile. Additionally, the fence post can be used with the fence boards in a variety of different combinations to create different appearances or the desired aesthetics. In addition, the fence post of the present invention allows for the installation of prefabricated fence panels in the construction of the fence which can save the home-owner or builder both money and time. Thus, the fence post disclosed herein has a wide variety of uses and applications.

Further aspects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

The appended drawings contain figures of the preferred embodiments of the present metal fence post. The above-mentioned features of the metal fence post, as well as other features, will be described in connection with the preferred embodiments; however, the illustrated embodiments are only intended to illustrate the invention and not limit the invention. The drawings contain the following figures:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the fence post in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged front view of the metal fence post;

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional side view taken along lines 14-14 of the metal fence post shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a front view of a fence system using the metal fence post shown in FIG. 1, illustrating metal fence posts supporting a portion of a wooden fence;

FIG. 5 is a top view of a fence system using the metal fence post shown in FIG. 1, illustrating metal fence posts supporting a portion of a wooden fence with the post hidden from view by a fence board;

FIG. 6 is a top view of the post in use as an end post with a horizontal rail attached;

FIG. 7 is a top view of the post in use as a line post with horizontal rails attached;

FIG. 8 is a top view of the post in use as a corner post with horizontal rails attached;

FIG. 9 is a top view of the post in use as a gate post with a horizontal rail and gate hinge attached.

FIG. 10 is a front view of the post with prefabricated panels attached.

FIG. 11 is a top view of the post with prefabricated panels attached.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention involves an improved metal fence post for use with a wooden fence. The principles of the present invention, however, are not limited to metal fence posts used with wooden fences and it will be understood that, in light of the present disclosure, the fence posts disclosed herein can be successfully used in connection with other types of fences, walls and barriers.

Additionally, to assist in the description of the metal fence posts and fence systems, words such as upward, downward, vertical and horizontal are used to describe the accompanying figures. It will be appreciated, however, that the present invention can be located in a variety of desired positions-including various angles, sideways and even upside down. A detailed description of the metal fence post now follows.

FIGS. 1, 2 and 3 illustrate a metal fence post 1 constructed in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The metal fence post includes a substantially C-shaped center section 2 with a first side 3, a second side 4, a rear wall 5, a first flange 6 and a second flange 7. The first side 3, the second side 4, and the rear wall 5 are generally straight and located at about 90 degree angles and the first side 3 and the second side 4 are generally parallel. Connected to the first side 3 is a first flange 6 and connected to the second side 4 is a second flange 7. The flanges 6 and 7 are orthogonal to the first side 3 and the second side 4, respectively, and the flanges are generally aligned in the same plane creating a substantially C-shaped center section 2 with an opening 13 between the first flange 6 and the second flange 7 through which fasteners (not shown) can be inserted. The C-shaped configuration creates a channel 2 with the minimum amount of material. The first flange 6 and the second flange 7 of the fence post 1 are preferably aligned in generally the same plane and the flanges form part of the channel 2. The channel 2 advantageously greatly increases the strength of the fence post 1 and it allows the fence post to be constructed of relatively thin material. Additionally, because the channel 2 and the first flange 6 and the second flange 7 preferably extend the entire length of the fence post 1, the fence post has great strength both above the ground and below the ground.

The fence post 1 is desirably sized and configured to be used with fence rails. As known in the industry, fence rails are typically “two-by-fours”. However, it is known that the actual dimensions of a standard two-by-four are about 1½ inches by about 3½ inches. It will be appreciated that although the fence posts 1 described herein are in connection with standard sized two-by-fours, the fence posts may be sized and configured to be used with fence rails of different sizes. In particular, the sides 3 and 4 of the C-shaped center section 2 have a width of about 1½ inches which matches the actual thickness of a finished two-by-four. As discussed above, the fence post may have different dimensions depending, for example, upon the size and configuration of the rails and fence boards. Additionally, the dimensions of the fence post may be slightly larger or smaller, for example, depending upon the desired use of the posts.

The fence post 1 is preferably constructed from steel and more particularly from 50,000 psi steel. The thickness of the steel is preferably about ⅛ of an inch, but the steel may have any desired thickness. It will be appreciated that the post 1 can also be constructed from other types of steel, metals and other materials with suitable characteristics such as plastics or composite materials. Additionally, the fence post 1 is preferably constructed from a high-strength material and, more preferably, the fence post 1 is constructed from a material which allows a fence to be constructed to meet Uniform Building Code Section 1622 exposure B for 70 mph wind load, but the fence posts can have any desired strength characteristics. Further, the fence post 1 may be coated with materials such as paint, for example, to match the fence post with the fence or other materials to inhibit rusting of the post.

The first side 3 and the second side 4 include a series of penetrations 8, 9 respectively which extend along the length of the first side 3 and the second side 4. The penetrations 8, 9 extend through the first side 3, and the second side 4 respectively. The penetrations 8, 9 are preferably spaced about 1 inch apart, but the penetrations may have any desired spacing and arrangement. One skilled in the art will understand that instead of penetrations 8 and 9, the fence post 1 may include perforations, indentations, markings, etc., and the fence post can be constructed without penetrations.

The fence post 1 is preferably manufactured by cutting a piece of steel to the desired dimensions and then forming the steel into the desired shape of the fence post. It will be understood these steps may be performed simultaneously or independently. Alternatively, the fence post 1 could be stamped and formed from a sheet of steel. Advantageously, the penetrations 8 and 9 can be formed when the post 1 is stamped, but the penetrations may also be formed by drilling, punching, etc.

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 4 wooden rails 12 are positioned to contact and abut the sides of the fence posts 1. In particular, an end of a rail 12 is positioned to contact and abut the first side 3 on one side of the fence post 1. Additionally, a rail 12 is generally horizontally aligned with the first rail but on the opposite side of the fence post 1, and an end of the second rail is positioned to contact and abut the second side 4 of the fence post 1. One or more fasteners (not shown) such as nails or screws are used to attach the rails 12 to the fence post 1. Fence boards 17 are then attached to the rails 12.

It will be appreciated that any number of rails 12 may be attached to the fence post 1 and the rails may have any desired spacing and orientation. As shown in FIG. 4, two exemplary rails 12 are attached to the fence posts 1. Additionally, the fence boards 17 may be attached to the rails 12 in any desired manner and at any desired angle. Further, the fence boards 17 may be attached at any desired heights and distances from the ground.

As best seen in FIG. 5, the wooden rails 12, which desirably are standard two-by-fours, are attached to the fence post 1 so that the front surface 16 of the rails are generally aligned with the front surface of the first flange 6 and the front surface of the second flange 7 respectively, and the rear surface of the rails 23 are generally aligned with the rear wall 5 of the fence post 1. Thus, the rails 12 and fence posts 1 are generally aligned and the fence posts preferably do not extend substantially outwardly from the line created by the rails.

Fence boards 17 are then attached to the front surface 16 of the rails 12 by fasteners (not shown) such as nails or screws. Advantageously, because the rails 12 and fence posts 1 are generally aligned, the fence boards 17 are also generally aligned and this creates a generally straight fence wherein the posts do not extend substantially outwardly from the fence line. Significantly, if fence boards 17 are attached to one side of the fence, the fence posts 1 are generally hidden from view on that side of the fence, and if fence boards 17 are attached to both sides of the fence, the fence posts 1 are substantially hidden from view of both sides of the fence.

The details of the arrangement and connection of the fence post 1, rails 12 and fence boards 17 are best seen in FIG. 5. As seen in FIG. 5, one end 24 of a rail 12 contacts and abuts the first side 3 of the fence post 1. One or more fasteners (not shown) are inserted into the opening 13 and used to attach the fence rail 12 to the fence post 1. The end 24 of a rail 12 contacts and abuts the second side 4 on the opposing side of the fence post 1. One or more fasteners (not shown) are used to attach the rail 12 to the fence post 1. The fence boards 17 are then connected by fasteners (not shown) to the rails 12.

As seen in FIG. 5, the fence boards 17 advantageously can be attached to either side of the rails 12 and fence posts 1. Significantly, because the posts 1 do not substantially extend from the line created by the rails 12, the fence boards 17 can be attached to both sides of the fence posts 1. Advantageously, when fence boards are attached to both sides of the posts 1, this entirely conceals the fence posts 1 within the fence and the fence appears to be entirely constructed of wood. Thus, an aesthetically pleasing fence which appears to be entirely constructed of wood is created.

As seen in FIG. 6 the fence post 1 can be used as an end post. In this embodiment, the rail end 24 is attached to the first side 3 of the post 1 by fasteners 15.

As seen in FIG. 7 the fence post 1 can be used as a line post. In this embodiment, a rail end 24 is attached to the first side 3 of the post 1 by fasteners 15. Additional rails 12 are attached to the second side 4 of the post 1 in the same plane as the original rails 12.

As seen in FIG. 8 the fence post 1 can be used as a corner post. In this embodiment, the rails 12 are attached to the first side 3 of the post 1 by fasteners 15. Additional rails 12 are attached to the second side 4 of the post 1 at a generally 90 degree angle to the original rails 12.

As seen in FIG. 9 the fence post 1 can be used as a gate post. In this embodiment, the rails 12 are attached to the first side 3 of the post 1 by fasteners 15. Hinges (or other apparatus) 22 for hanging a gate are attached to the second side 4 of the post 1 in the same plane as the original rails. Additionally, the hinges (or other apparatus) 22 for hanging a gate can be attached to the rear wall 5 of the post 1.

As seen in FIG. 10 the prefabricated fence panels 18 are attached directly to the first side 3 and the second side 4 respectively of the post 1.

As best seen in FIG. 11. the prefabricated fence panels 18 attach directly to the post 1. Fasteners (not shown) are inserted through the penetrations (not shown) in the first side 3 and the second side 4 respectively and then into the prefabricated panel.

Although this invention has been described in terms of a certain preferred embodiment, other embodiments apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art are also within the scope of this invention. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is intended to be defined only by the claims which follow.