When I began articles about outdoor furniture, I never expected that I would end up diving into the topics to ensure that I had the most helpful information I could share. In my article about what outdoor furniture lasts longest, wrought iron outdoor furniture was a clear winner. So here are some things you should know before you buy.
Wrought Iron furniture is usually found outdoors and has historically brought a classic elegance to most outdoor spaces. There are different styles of wrought iron to choose from. Just keep in mind that despite its durability, it definitely can rust and will heat up on those hot summer days.
I plan on going into more detail by answering the questions you have about wrought iron furniture in this article. All you have to do is read it! And guess what? If you have more questions, let me know. There’s a link for that at the bottom.
Let’s get going!
What is Wrought Iron?
Wrought iron is iron ore with a less than 0.1% level of carbon in it mixed with 1-2% slag (a byproduct of the smelting process, containing sulfur, aluminum oxide, silicon, and phosphorus). This combination makes wrought iron so pliable that blacksmiths can heat it or weld it, yet it will not harden or become brittle.
Blacksmiths will ‘work’ wrought iron with a hammer while hot to shape it to its last form. It can be reheated and molded or hammered into a variety of shapes, and it becomes stronger over time as the smiths work on it. That’s why it’s also known as ‘worked iron’. Wrought is simply the past tense of the work.
Unlike its counterpart ‘cast iron’ (which has a 2% carbon content), wrought iron is malleable enough that it resists breakage. You can dent it with a high enough fall, but it will not break. Also, cast iron can be molded easier and cheaper, but it’s not easy to be smithed into something decorative – wrought iron is.
What is the History of Wrought Iron?
Most wrought iron railings that surrounded properties were made in the 15th century. Until cast iron caught on for practical purposes (cast iron being cheaper and easier to make) wrought iron continued to be used mostly for railings and bars and decorative practical purposes.
It was all over Europe from Canterbury to Notre Dame to the balconies of Spain. In the 18th century, beautiful railings and gates were made throughout London and Paris. These styles eventually made their way to the United States, most prominently in the French-inspired designs of New Orleans, Louisiana, then, after the Civil War in the English-inspired designs of Charleston, South Carolina.
At one time, wrought iron was used to make nearly everything metal. But its peak had to be during the American Civil War wherein it was used for ironclad warships. But with the advent of mild steel, which has the same malleability but is much cheaper to make, the use of wrought iron diminished.
Wrought iron is no longer produced on a commercial scale but can still be made for replication, restoration, and conservation of historical ironwork. Many products described as wrought iron are actually made of mild steel. The properties of both metals are so similar, and when this mild steel is used to make objects that resemble the style of objects that used to be made using wrought iron – the misconception is to be expected.
What are the Various Styles of Wrought Iron?
The answer to this question depends upon what you mean. Wrought iron can be separated into types based on how it was smelted, what it was shaped into to be used for, the quality of the finished product, or the origin of its ore.
Now if you mean the style of what it’s made into…that depends on the manufacturer these days. It would have depended upon the blacksmith in the old days. In the 19th century and beyond, wrought iron has only been used in a decorative and restorative manner. There is no specific style when you’re referring to both antique/historic wrought iron or more modern wrought iron.
Considering, at the height of its popularity in the Victorian era of decor, wrought iron was the least expensive and most durable metal available, it stands to reason that so much was made from it. Wrought iron has been used for railings, fences, gates, wall sculptures, window bars, sconces, candelabras, oil lamps, fireplace sets, furniture, table legs, chandeliers, braziers, and bathtub legs… the list could go on and on. And in my opinion, every bit of that can be considered a work of art.
Is Wrought Iron Outdoor Furniture Any Good?
Of course, wrought iron is good for outdoor furniture! This is the topic that got me into this article, to begin with. Wrought iron is durable and corrosion-resistant, which is what makes it a good material for outdoor furniture. It also lasts for lifetimes if you take care of it properly. For more on that, check out our article on how to take care of your outdoor wrought iron furniture.
Does Wrought Iron Rust?
Wrought iron is more resistant to corrosion, although it can rust over time. Powder coating can add an extra barrier against rust, but it also has its drawbacks. So usually wrought iron comes already painted. Some of my favorite wall hangings for outdoors are painted and then distressed wrought iron. And they come with a clear sealant on top of the paint. But, by all means, always consider a paint sealer to defend against rust.
Does Wrought Iron Get Hot?
Wrought iron, like any other metal, conducts heat. So, yes, it definitely can get hot, especially when outside on a hot summer day. That’s why, if you’re using it for outdoor furniture, it’s advisable to also get cushions to use in the chairs and be prepared for the heat on the iron wherever you’re going to touch it.
Feel free to read any of my other articles on the site and be sure to check back often because I am always creating new, helpful content for readers like you.