Title:
HANDRAIL INSERT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An insert of this invention is attached to a post and secures an upper and/or lower rail to the post. The upper, lower rail is secured by disposing a bracket or extension within a reinforcing member, the reinforcing member present within a cavity defined in the upper or lower rail.



Inventors:
Beachler, Matthew L. (Green Bay, WI, US)
Lusk, Timothy D. (Casco, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/962286
Publication Date:
07/03/2008
Filing Date:
12/21/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KENNEDY, JOSHUA T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATTERSON THUENTE PEDERSEN, P.A. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A rail system, comprising: a generally vertical post; a rail with a longitudinal rail cavity; a plurality of balusters attached to said rail; a reinforcing member disposed in said rail cavity; and a bracket including a bracket insert at least partially disposed in said reinforcing member and attached to said reinforcing member; and an attachment member extending from said insert and attached to said post.

2. The rail system of claim 1, wherein said attachment member generally transversely extends from said insert.

3. The rail system of claim 1, wherein said insert is attached to said reinforcing member with a fastener.

4. The rail system of claim 3, wherein said fastener is a screw.

5. The rail system of claim 1, wherein said attachment member extends generally perpendicularly from said insert.

6. The rail system of claim 1, wherein said rail comprises a composite material.

7. The rail system of claim 6, wherein said composite material comprises granulated paper sludge blended with a synthetic polymer resin.

8. The rail system of claim 7, wherein said polymer resin comprises polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, or nylon.

9. The rail system of claim 6, wherein said granulated papermaking sludge includes paper fiber, kaolin clay, calcium carbonate, and titanium dioxide.

10. The rail system of claim 1, wherein said insert comprises aluminum or steel.

11. A method of constructing a rail system, the rail system comprising a post, upper and lower rails, and a plurality of balusters secured between the upper and lower rails, and a reinforcing member disposed in a longitudinal cavity of each of the upper and lower rails, the method comprising: axially sliding an insert of a bracket to contact a surface of each of said reinforcing members; securing said inserts to said reinforcing members; and securing an attachment member of each of said brackets to said post.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein each said reinforcing member comprises an upper member extending into a pair of lateral members, a slot defined between the upper and each of said lateral members and wherein a margin of each of the inserts is accommodated by the slots.

13. The method of claim 12, in which each of the lateral members tapers from a maximum dimension proximate the upper member to a tip and in which cross sections of said reinforcing members generally conform to a corresponding cross sectional shape of each of the cavities within the upper and lower rails.

14. The method of claim 11, wherein the rail system further comprises a pair of collars and wherein the method further comprises securing each of the collars to the post as the attachment members are secured to the post.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein orifices present in each of said collars align with orifices present in said attachment members.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein fasteners are used to secure the collars to said post.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein screws are used to secure the collars to said post.

18. The method of claim 11, wherein each of the upper rails and lower rails are attached to one of the inserts.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein said upper and lower rails are attached using a fastener.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein said upper and lower rails are attached using a screw.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. Ā§119(e) to, and hereby incorporates by reference, U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/876,229, filed Dec. 21, 2006.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to rail systems and, in particular, this invention relates to devices for assembling rails systems.

BACKGROUND

Typically, rail systems include generally vertical balustrades and upper and lower rails. The balustrades extend between, and are affixed to, the upper and lower rails. Typically, the upper and lower rails are attached to posts by using collars, which often have pre-drilled holes to accept screws. The screws are extended into the pre-drilled holes and into the posts. While often efficient and economical, the screws are the sole means of attachment, which may not provide sufficient reinforcement. Therefore, these systems may fail by being collapsed or torn away from the posts if sufficient force is exerted on the upper or lower rails. Moreover, rails made from composite score synthetic resins are often hollow, but are reinforced by metallic reinforcing members inserted therein. Having a structural member which attaches to the post and which supports and affixes to the reinforcing member would add structural integrity to the rail system and would also be easily installed.

There is then a need for further reinforcing rail systems. There is a particular need for a structural member to reinforce and assemble rail systems, which can be installed quickly and efficiently.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention substantially meets the aforementioned needs of the industry by providing a structural member for rail systems, such as the insert of this invention.

It is therefore an object of this invention, to provide an insert or bracket attaching to a vertical post and having a generally horizontal extension, which disposes within a reinforcing member of the upper or lower rail. The reinforcing member may be a bracket member disposing within the reinforcing member and which can be further secured within the reinforcing member using a connector, such as a screw. The reinforcing member may also include a pair of extensions, which, when disposed within the reinforcing member, can be displaced outwardly by a wedge member being displaced inwardly by another connector, such as a screw. The extensions may include outwardly serrated surfaces, which may be brought into abutting contact with inner surfaces of the reinforcing member to thereby secure the rail in place. The extensions may yet further include gaps disposed within inner surfaces, which would accommodate extensions present on outer surfaces of the wedge member, to thereby better secure the wedge member in place.

There is also provided a rail system including a generally vertical post, a rail with a longitudinal rail cavity, a plurality of balusters attached to said rail, a reinforcing member disposed in said rail cavity, and a bracket. The bracket may include a bracket insert and an attachment member. The bracket insert may be at least partially disposed in the reinforcing member and attached to the reinforcing member. The attachment member may extend from the insert and may be attached to the post.

there is also provided a method of constructing a rail system. The rail system may include a post, upper and lower rails, and a plurality of balusters, the balusters secured between the upper and lower rails. A reinforcing member may be disposed in a longitudinal cavity of each of the upper and lower rails. The method may include axially sliding and insert of a bracket to contact a lower surface of each of the reinforcing members; inserting the inserts into the reinforcing members; and securing an attachment member to each of the brackets to the post.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a rail system;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of another rail system;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of a cross section of an upper or lower rail, collar, reinforcing member, and a bracket member of one embodiment of the insert of this invention disposed within the reinforcing member;

FIG. 4 is a rear perspective view of one embodiment of the insert of this invention;

FIG. 5 is a side view of the insert of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of the insert of FIG. 4;

FIG. 7 is a top, cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the insert of this invention;

FIG. 8 is a plan front view of the insert of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a side view of the insert of FIG. 7;

FIG. 10 is a top, cross-sectional view of yet another embodiment of the insert of this invention;

FIG. 11 is a plan front view of the insert of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is a side view of the insert of FIG. 10;

FIG. 13 is a top, cross-sectional view of still yet another embodiment of the insert of this invention;

FIG. 14 is a plan front view of the insert of FIG. 13; and

FIG. 15 is a side view of the insert of FIG. 13.

FIG. 16 is a top view of still another embodiment of the insert of this invention.

FIG. 17 is a rear view of the insert of FIG. 16.

FIG. 18 is a side view of the insert of FIG. 16.

FIG. 19 is cross sectional view of one embodiment of a reinforcing member of this invention.

FIGS. 20-21 are perspective views showing installation of embodiments of this invention.

FIG. 22 is a cross sectional view showing embodiments of this invention installed in a railing system.

FIG. 23 is a perspective view depicting a step in installing the insert and reinforcing members of this invention.

It is understood that the above-described figures are only illustrative of the present invention and are not contemplated to limit the scope thereof.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Any references to such relative terms as upper and lower, horizontal and vertical, or the like, are intended for convenience of description and are not intended to limit the present invention or its components to any one positional or spatial orientation. All dimensions of the components in the attached figures may vary with a potential design and the intended use of an embodiment of the invention without departing from the scope of the invention.

Each of the additional features and methods disclosed herein may be utilized separately or in conjunction with other features and methods to provide improved devices of this invention and methods for making and using the same. Representative examples of the teachings of the present invention, which examples utilize many of these additional features and methods in conjunction, will now be described in detail with reference to the drawings. This detailed description is merely intended to teach a person of skill in the art further details for practicing preferred aspects of the present teachings and is not intended to limit the scope of the invention. Therefore, only combinations of features and methods disclosed in the following detailed description may not be necessary to practice the invention in the broadest sense, and are instead taught merely to particularly describe representative and preferred embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, rail systems 50, 52 are depicted as a component of a deck 54, 56. Each of the rail systems 50, 52 includes vertical balusters 62, 64 and respective upper 66, 68 and lower 70, 72 rails. The balusters 62 are present in generally horizontal rail systems and the balusters 64 are present in angular rail systems, such as those installed on stairs. The upper and lower rails 66, 70 are present in generally horizontal rail systems and the upper and lower rails 68, 72 are present in angular rail systems. The upper and lower rails 66, 68, 70, 72 may be attached to posts 74, 76 using collars 78. The collars 78 may have predrilled holes in some embodiments. The upper and lower rails 66, 68, 70, 72 and collars 78 may be made from a composite material or a synthetic resin and may be hollow.

Now referring to FIG. 3, a cross-section of one such upper or lower rail and collar may be viewed, the rail designated at 66, although any of the upper or lower rails may be described as well. The rail 66 as viewed forms a generally longitudinal cavity 80. In order to strengthen or reinforce the rail 66, a reinforcing member 82 is inserted in the cavity 80. The reinforcing member 82 may be made from any suitable materials providing the requisite strength, such as without limitation aluminum and steel alloys. In the embodiment depicted, the reinforcing member 82 is generally U-shaped in cross section. However, other geometries, e.g., rectangular or triangular, may be suitable for other embodiments.

As stated above, the upper and lower rails may be attached to the posts by extending fasteners, such as screws, though the pre-drilled holes in the collars and into the rails and posts. Another advantageous method of attaching the upper and lower rails is by means of the rail insert of this invention.

Referring to FIGS. 4, 5, and 6, one such rail insert or bracket is depicted generally at 100 and includes an attachment member, such as flanges 102, 104, and an insert member, such as a bracket member 106 extending generally perpendicularly or otherwise transversely from the flanges 102, 104. The outer margins 108, 110 of the respective flanges 102 and 104 may be configured to conform to the outer margins of the collars 78, so as not to be visible after installation (see FIG. 3). Orifices 112 and 114 may be formed in the flanges 102 and 104. The bracket member 106 has vertical members 116, 118 and a horizontal member 120. Aligning apertures 122, 124 (aperture 124 not shown) may be formed in the respective vertical members 116 and 118.

The rail system is installed between two vertical posts (e.g., vertical posts 74) by first attaching the bracket 100 to the position on the post aligning with the upper and lower rails by extending fasteners through the openings 112, 114 and into the post. The bracket member 106 is then disposed within the reinforcing member 82 as shown in FIG. 3. the upper or lower rail is then secured in place by extending screws through the sleeve 78 and rail 66 (for example) into the apertures 122, 124.

Referring to FIGS. 7, 8, 9, another embodiment of the insert of this invention is shown generally at 150 and includes respective bracket (or attachment) member and wedge (or insert) member 152 and 154. The bracket member 152 may include a plate 160 and integral (or otherwise unitary) tab member 164 and projections 166, 168. extending perpendicularly or otherwise transversely from the plate 160. The margin 172 of the plate 160 may generally conform to the outer margin 173 of the collar 78 (as shown in FIG. 24). Orifices 174 and 176 may be defined in the plate 160. An orifice 178 may be formed in the tab member 164. In the embodiment depicted, the projections 166, 168 each have outwardly angling, inner surfaces 180 and 182. The inner surfaces 180, 182 may be notched or serrated in some embodiments. Also present in the embodiment depicted are serrated outer surfaces 184 and 186, respectively present on the projections 166, 168. Further present may be a fastener, such as a screw 187. The wedge 154 includes outwardly sloping outer surfaces 188, 190, which may be optionally notched or serrated. The wedge 154 defines a bore 192, which may be disposed and dimensioned to accommodate the screw 187.

The insert (or bracket) 150 may be installed by attaching it to a vertical post by extending screws through the apertures 174, 176 at appropriate places on the vertical post so that the projections 166, 168 will generally align with the upper or lower rail. The screw 187 is then rotated so as to secure the wedge member 154 in place but not to expand (flex) the projections 166, 168 outwardly. The upper or lower rail is then inserted such that the projections 166, 168 are accommodated within the reinforcement member 82. The screw 187 is then further tightened to pull the wedge member 154 inwardly to displace (flex) the projections 166, 168 outwardly so that the serrations 184, 186 contact interior surfaces of the reinforcing member 82. The serrations 184, 186 thus hold the reinforcing member, hence the upper or lower rail, securely in place.

Another embodiment of the insert (or bracket) of this invention is depicted in FIGS. 10, 11, 12 generally at 200 and has an attachment member, such as a bracket member 202, and an insert, such as a wedge member 204 extending generally perpendicularly or otherwise transversely from the bracket member 202. The bracket member 202 includes a plate 208 and a tab member 210. The margin 212 of the plate 208 may generally conform to the collar 78 so that the insert 200 is not visible after installation. The plate 208 may define apertures 214, 216. An aperture 218 may be defined proximate the tab member 210. Unitarily, or otherwise integrally, extending from the plate 208 perpendicularly or otherwise transversely are extensions 220 and 222. Present on the extensions 220 and 222 are outwardly sloping, inner surfaces 224 and 226 having respective notch pairs 228, 230 and 232, 234. Also present on the extensions 220 and 222 are serrated outer surfaces 236 and 238. The wedge 204 includes outwardly sloping, optionally serrated, outer surfaces 240 and 242 having respective extension pairs 244, 246 and 248, 250. The extension pairs 244, 246 and 248, 250 are dimensioned and located to be disposed in the respective notch pairs 228, 230 and 232, 234. A bore 252 may be defined within the wedge member 204 so as to accommodate a fastener such as screw 254 (shown in green).

The insert 200 is attached to a post so that the extensions 220, 222 align with the upper or lower rail to be attached. Attaching is accomplished by extending screws through the orifices 214, 216 and into the post. The screw 254 is disposed in the wedge member 204 and rotated so as to secure the wedge member, but not to flex the extensions 220, 222 outwardly. The upper or lower rail is then attached by disposing the extensions 220, 222 inside the reinforcing member 82, then rotating the screw 254 until the wedge member 204 displaces the extensions 220, 222 outwardly and until the extensions 244, 246, 248, 250 are disposed in the notches 228, 230, 232, 234. At this point, the extensions 220, 222 are flexed outwardly and the serrated outer surfaces 236, 238 are in abutting contact with inner surfaces of the reinforcing member 82 to secure the rail and collar in place.

Yet another embodiment of this invention is depicted in FIGS. 13, 14, 15, generally at 260, and may include an attachment member, such as flange members 262, 264, and an insert, such as a bracket member 266. The respective margins 268, 270 of the flange members 262, 264 may be configured to accommodate the collar 78 so that the insert is not visible after installation. Orifices 272, 274 may be formed in the flange is 262, 264. The bracket 266 may include generally vertical bracket members 276, 278 and horizontal member 280. Extensions, such as serrations 282, 284, may be present on the exterior surfaces of the vertical members 276, 278.

The insert 260 is installed at a desired place on a post by extending screws through the apertures 272, 274 and into the post so that the bracket 266 aligns with the upper or lower rail. The insert and post are then displaced so that the bracket 266 is disposed within the reinforcing member 82. The bracket 266 is dimensioned so as to be snugly accommodated within, and so that the serrations 282, 284 will be in abutting contact with, interior surfaces of the reinforcing member 82 to thereby secure the upper or lower rail in place. Alternatively, screws can be extended through the upper or lower rail and collar and into the bracket 266 to further secure the rail in place.

FIGS. 16-24 depict yet another embodiment of the invention, a bracket 300, unitarily or otherwise integrally comprising insert 302 and attachment member 304 extending generally perpendicularly, or otherwise transversely, from the insert 302. The insert 302, in the embodiment depicted, is generally rectangular and defines an orifice 306. The attachment member 304 defines orifices 308, 310 and may have a margin 312 configured such that the attachment member 304 will not be visible when installed, e.g., when collar 78 is in place. FIG. 19 depicts a reinforcing member 320 of this invention. In contrast to the reinforcing member 82 which is generally rectangular or square in cross section, a cross-section of the reinforcing member 320 shows the presence of a generally planar upper member 322 and tapering, unitary (or otherwise integral) lateral members 324, 326. The lateral members 324, 326 taper from maximum dimensions 328, 330 to tips 332, 334. A lower surface 336 of the upper member 322 extends and cooperates with the lateral members 324, 326 to define notches 338, 340. In one embodiment, the notches 338, 340 are dimensioned and spaced apart so as to accommodate a margin 342 of the insert 302. The cross sectional shape of the reinforcing member 320 more completely fills the cavity 80 of either the upper rail 68 or the lower rail 70, thereby adding additional material, such as aluminum or steel, to further strengthen the reinforcing member 320 against a vertical force 344.

As shown in FIGS. 21-24, a rail system of this invention is installed by first inserting the insert 302 of the bracket 300 within the reinforcing member 320, such that the margins 342 of the insert 302 are accommodated within the notches 338, 340, as illustrated by the arrow 346. A fastener, such as a screw 348, is then extended through an orifice 350 in the upper rail 66 (or lower rail 68) and through the aligned orifice 306 of the insert 302, as depicted by the arrow 352. The attachment member 304 is then placed against a post 74 (post 74 not shown) and the collar 78 is slid to abut the post 74, as shown by arrow 354. In this abutting position, orifices 356, defined in some embodiments of the collar 78, align with the orifices 308 and 310 of the attachment member 304 and as indicated at 358.

Metals, composites and synthetic resins may be used for the insert or bracket and reinforcing member of this invention and for the railings disclosed and discussed herein. Suitable metals would have thicknesses with the requisite strength and/or weight and would include without limitation, steel alloys, and aluminum. Composites suitable for the railings are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,758,996, hereby incorporated by reference. One such suitable composite contains granulated papermaking sludge blended with a synthetic resin. One suitable embodiment of the granulated papermaking sludge is sold as BIODACĀ®. Suitable granulated papermaking sludge may contain between about 47% and 53% or about 50% paper fiber, between about 28% and 34% or about 31% kaolin clay (kaolinite), between about 14% and 20% or about 17% calcium carbonate, and less than about 1% titanium dioxide, each percentage being by weight. Suitable granulated papermaking sludge may be manufactured by a method described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,730,371, hereby incorporated by reference, wherein a plurality of drums are rotatably mounted in a delumper housing. A pasty mass, such as papermaking sludge, is routed through the housing, wherein the drums are rotated, e.g., at 30-120 revolutions per minute. The flexible fingers on the rotating drums strike and delump the papermaking sludge. Due to the rotation of the drums, the flexible fingers constantly flex and vibrate to thereby prevent the pasty masses from becoming caked onto the fingers. After being delumped, the substantially homogeneous papermaking sludge drops into a conveyer and is then agglomerated or granulated, e.g., using a drum palletizer, disk palletizer, pinmill, extruder, or granulator. The pasty papermaking sludge is then formed into spherical pellets or granules, which may be flattened into a granular shape by a standard compaction device. The granulated product may then be dried until the granules contain between about 1% and 10% moisture by weight. Drying may be accomplished at a temperature between about 200 degrees and 750 degrees Fahrenheit in a dryer, such as a fluid bed dryer, turbo dryer, belt dryer, or tray dryer. In some embodiments the granulated papermaking sludge has a developed porous structure and/or may absorb at least 100% of their weight of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic liquids. Suitable synthetic resins may include high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, poly propylene, polyvinyl chloride, and nylon. Other suitable synthetic resins would have the requisite strength necessary for a specific application. However, a person of ordinary skill in the art will readily recognize that other synthetic resins may be suitable for other specific embodiments of this invention. Other suitable synthetic resins may be found in the Handbook of Plastics, Elastomers, and Composites, Charles A. Harper, Editor in Chief, Third Edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1996, hereby incorporated by reference.

While the present insert has been shown as used for exterior railing, it should be recognized that the insert of this invention can be used for interior railing as well as for other structural members with similar configurations. While a reinforcing member is shown in a cavity of the rail, the insert of this invention could be used to assemble rails and such having cavities without a reinforcing member or equivalent present.

Because numerous modifications of this invention may be made without departing from the spirit thereof, the scope of the invention is not to be limited to the embodiments illustrated and described. Rather, the scope of the invention is to be determined by the appended claims and their equivalents.