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Publication numberUS20030164486 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/844,846
Publication dateSep 4, 2003
Filing dateApr 28, 2001
Priority dateApr 28, 2001
Publication number09844846, 844846, US 2003/0164486 A1, US 2003/164486 A1, US 20030164486 A1, US 20030164486A1, US 2003164486 A1, US 2003164486A1, US-A1-20030164486, US-A1-2003164486, US2003/0164486A1, US2003/164486A1, US20030164486 A1, US20030164486A1, US2003164486 A1, US2003164486A1
InventorsRonald West
Original AssigneeWest Ronald R.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Rail bracket mounting system
US 20030164486 A1
Abstract
A rail bracket mounting system, including a bracket that is attached to a post. The bracket is formed to support the notching of a rail. The end of a rail is then nested into the bracket, and is supported by the bracket. The rail is then secured to the bracket by fasteners such as screws, and a cover may then be placed over the bracket, housing the securing fasteners. The rail may be hollow or solid. A hollow rail may be reinforced along its entire length by the insertion of one or more reinforcing members through a hollow portion of the rail.
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Claims(123)
What is claimed is:
1. A bracket for supporting and attaching a rail to a fence in a fence system comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails, said bracket comprising:
a non-metallic bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardly-extending in orientation, the nonmetallic bracket further comprising at least a first ledge and at least two sides;
wherein the ledge is disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a laterally-extending fence rail inserted into said non-metallic bracket;
2. The bracket of claim 1, wherein the non-metallic bracket is capable of fully supporting the rail when the rail is inserted therein.
3. The bracket of claim 1, wherein each side of the two bracket sides is disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail.
4. The bracket of claim 1, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
5. The bracket of claim 4, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of PVC.
6. The bracket of claim 4, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
7. The bracket of claim 1, wherein at least of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
8. The bracket of claim 7, wherein each of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
9. The bracket of claim 7, wherein the rail may be fastened to the bracket by inserting a fastener into said rail through the opening.
10. The bracket of claim 9, wherein the fastener is selected from the group consisting of nails, screws, and bolts.
11. A system for assembling a fence comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails, comprising:
a bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardly-extending in orientation, the bracket further comprising at least a first ledge, at least two sides, and at least one receiving structure;
the ledge disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a rail inserted into said bracket, each side disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail, such that said bracket is capable of fully supporting the rail when the rail is inserted therein; and
a cover designed and configured to attach to the bracket and conceal the attachment of the rail to the bracket.
12. The system of claim 11, wherein the cover comprises at least one fastening structure, such that when the cover is attached to the bracket, the fastening structure interacts with the receiving structure to secure the cover to the bracket.
13. The system of claim 12, wherein the fastening structure consists of at least one tab on the cover and the receiving structure consists of at least one groove on the rail.
14. The system of claim 12, wherein the fastening structure consists of at least one groove on the cover and the receiving structure consists of at least one tab on the rail.
15. The system of claim 11, wherein the cover provides at least a part of the fastening that secures the rail to the bracket, when the cover is in attached to the bracket.
16. The system of claim 15, wherein the cover secures the rail to the bracket, when the cover is in attached to the bracket.
17. The system of claim 11, wherein the bracket is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
18. The system of claim 17, wherein the bracket is constructed of PVC.
19. The system of claim 17, wherein the bracket is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
20. The system of claim 11, wherein the bracket is constructed of metal.
21. The system of claim 11, wherein the cover is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
22. The system of claim 21, wherein the cover is constructed of PVC.
23. The system of claim 22, wherein the cover is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
24. The system of claim 11, wherein the cover is constructed of metal.
25. The system of claim 11, wherein at least of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
26. The system of claim 25, wherein each of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
27. The system of claim 25, wherein the rail may be fastened to the bracket by inserting a fastener into said rail through the opening.
28. The system of claim 27, wherein the fastener is selected from the group consisting of nails, screws, and bolts.
29. The system of claim 11, wherein the rail is hollow.
30. The system of claim 29 wherein the rail contains at least one hollow reinforcement chamber.
31. The system of claim 30, further comprising at least one reinforcement member that is inserted into the at least one hollow reinforcement chamber.
32. The system of claim 31, wherein the at least one reinforcement member extends the complete length of the rail.
33. The system of claim 31, wherein the at least one reinforcement member is constructed of metal.
34. A bracket for supporting and attaching a rail to a fence in a fence system comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails, said bracket comprising:
a non-metallic bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardly-extending in orientation, the nonmetallic bracket comprising attachment holes for attaching the bracket to the post that are accessible when a rail is inserted into the bracket; the non-metallic bracket further comprising at least a first ledge and at least two sides;
wherein the attachment holes are position to be accessible when a laterally extending fence rail is inserted into the bracket; and
wherein the ledge is disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a laterally-extending fence rail inserted into said non-metallic bracket.
35. The bracket of claim 34, wherein the attachment holes are located in the at least two bracket sides.
36. The bracket of claim 34, wherein the attachment holes reside in a lateral position with respect to the rail.
37. The bracket of claim 34, wherein the non-metallic bracket may be fastened to the post by inserting a fastener into said post through the attachment holes.
38. The bracket of claim 34, wherein the non-metallic bracket is capable of fully supporting the rail when the rail is inserted therein.
39. The bracket of claim 34, wherein each side of the two bracket sides is disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail.
40. The bracket of claim 34, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
41. The bracket of claim 40, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of PVC.
42. The bracket of claim 40, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
43. The bracket of claim 34, wherein at least of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
44. The bracket of claim 43, wherein each of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
45. The bracket of claim 43, wherein the rail may be fastened to the bracket by inserting a fastener into said rail through the opening.
46. The bracket of claim 45, wherein the fastener is selected from the group consisting of nails, screws, and bolts.
47. A system for assembling a fence comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails, comprising:
a bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardly-extending in orientation, the bracket comprising attachment holes for attaching the bracket to the post that are accessible when a rail is inserted into the bracket; the bracket further comprising at least a first ledge, at least two sides, and at least one receiving structure;
the ledge disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a rail inserted into said bracket, each side disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail, such that said bracket is capable of fully supporting the rail when the rail is inserted therein; and
a cover designed and configured to attach to the bracket and conceal the attachment of the rail to the bracket.
48. The system of claim 47, wherein the attachment holes are located in the at least two bracket sides.
49. The system of claim 47, wherein the attachment holes reside in a lateral position with respect to the rail.
50. The system of claim 47, wherein the bracket may be fastened to the post by inserting a fastener into said post through the attachment holes.
51. The system of claim 50, wherein the fastener is selected from the group consisting of nails, screws, and bolts.
52. The system of claim 47, wherein the cover comprises at least one fastening structure, such that when the cover is attached to the bracket, the fastening structure interacts with the receiving structure to secure the cover to the bracket.
53. The system of claim 52, wherein the fastening structure consists of at least one tab on the cover and the receiving structure consists of at least one groove on the rail.
54. The system of claim 52, wherein the fastening structure consists of at least one groove on the cover and the receiving structure consists of at least one tab on the rail.
55. The system of claim 47, wherein the cover is designed and configured to cover the attachment holes.
56. The system of claim 47, wherein the cover provides at least a part of the fastening that secures the rail to the bracket, when the cover is in attached to the bracket.
57. The system of claim 56, wherein the cover secures the rail to the bracket, when the cover is in attached to the bracket.
58. The system of claim 47, wherein the bracket is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
59. The system of claim 58, wherein the bracket is constructed of PVC.
60. The system of claim 58, wherein the bracket is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
61. The system of claim 47, wherein the bracket is constructed of metal.
62. The system of claim 47, wherein the cover is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
63. The system of claim 62, wherein the cover is constructed of PVC.
64. The system of claim 62, wherein the cover is constructed of fiberglass reinforced nylon plastic.
65. The system of claim 47, wherein the cover is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
66. The system of claim 47, wherein at least of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
67. The system of claim 66, wherein each of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
68. The system of claim 66, wherein the rail may be fastened to the bracket by inserting a fastener into said rail through the opening.
69. The system of claim 68, wherein the fastener is selected from the group consisting of nails, screws, and bolts.
70. The system of claim 47, wherein the rail is hollow.
71. The system of claim 70 wherein the rail contains at least one hollow reinforcement chamber.
72. The system of claim 71, further comprising at least one reinforcement member that is inserted into the at least one hollow reinforcement chamber.
73. The system of claim 72, wherein the at least one reinforcement member extends the complete length of the rail.
74. The system of claim 72, wherein the at least one reinforcement member is constructed of metal.
75. A system for assembling a fence comprising upwardlyextending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails, comprising:
a rigid fiberglass reinforced nylon plastic bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardlyextending in orientation, the bracket comprising
at least a first ledge, the ledge disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a rail inserted into said bracket, each side disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail, such that said bracket is capable of fully supporting the rail when the rail is inserted therein;
two sides each of the two sides having at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket by attaching a fastener to the rail through the opening, the bracket further comprising
attachment holes for attaching the bracket to the post that are accessible when a rail is inserted into the bracket, the attachment holes located in the at least two bracket sides, the attachment holes residing in a lateral position with respect to a rail inserted into the bracket; and
a cover made of rigid molded PVC, the cover designed and configured to attach to the bracket and conceal the attachment of the rail to the bracket comprising at least one fastening structure on the cover comprising at least one tab disposed on the cover, such that when the cover is attached to the bracket, the fastening structure interacts with the at least one receiving structure comprising at least one groove located on the bracket to secure the cover to the bracket;
the cover further designed and configured to cover the attachment holes and provide at least a part of the fastening that secures the rail to the bracket, when the cover is in attached to the bracket;
a PVC rail containing at least one hollow reinforcement chamber;
at least one reinforcement member inserted into the at least one hollow reinforcement chamber, the at least one reinforcement member made of metal and extending the complete length of the rail.
76. A method of attaching a fence rail to a fence post in a fence system comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence-rails, comprising the steps of:
(a) selecting a first non-metallic fence bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardlyextending in orientation, the first non-metallic bracket further comprising at least a first ledge and at least two sides;
the ledge disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a laterally-extending fence rail inserted into said first nonmetallic bracket, each side disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail;
such that said first non-metallic bracket is capable of supporting the rail when an end of the rail is inserted therein;
(b) attaching the bracket to the post;
(c) selecting a fence rail and placing a first end of the rail into the non-metallic bracket, such that the rail is supported by the non-metallic bracket; and
(d) securing the rail to the bracket.
77. The method of claim 76, further comprising, attaching a second non-metallic bracket to a second post, and inserting the second end of the rail into the second nonmetallic bracket, such that the rail is entirely supported by the first and second non-metallic brackets, then securing the rail to the first and second non-metallic brackets.
78. The method of claim 76, wherein each side of the two bracket sides is disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail.
79. The method of claim 76, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
80. The method of claim 79, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of PVC.
81. The method of claim 79, wherein the non-metallic bracket is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
82. The method of claim 76, wherein at least of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
83. The method of claim 82, wherein each of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
84. The method of claim 82, wherein the rail may be fastened to the bracket by inserting a fastener into said rail through the opening.
85. The method of claim 84, wherein the fastener is selected from the group consisting of nails, screws, and bolts.
86. The method of claim 76, wherein the bracket further comprises attachment holes for attaching the bracket to the post that are accessible when a rail is inserted into the bracket.
87. The method of claim 86, wherein the attachment holes are located in the at least two bracket sides.
88. The method of claim 86, wherein the attachment holes reside in a lateral position with respect to the rail.
89. The method of claim 76, wherein the non-metallic bracket is fastened to the post by inserting a fastener into the post through the attachment holes.
90. The method of claim 89, wherein the fastener is selected from the group comprising nails, screws and bolts.
91. The method of claim 76 wherein the rail contains at least one hollow reinforcement chamber.
92. The method of claim 91, further comprising the step of inserting at least one reinforcement member into the at least one hollow reinforcement chamber of the rail, either prior to or after inserting the rail into the bracket.
93. The method of claim 92, wherein the at least one reinforcement member extends the complete length of the rail.
94. The method of claim 92, wherein the at least one reinforcement member is constructed of metal.
95. A method of attaching a fence rail to a fence post in a fence system comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails, comprising the steps of:
(a) selecting a first bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardly-extending in orientation, the first bracket further comprising at least a first ledge and at least two sides;
the ledge disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a first end of a laterally-extending fence rail inserted into said first bracket, each side disposed to support at least a portion of a side of one end of said rail;
such that said first bracket is capable of supporting the rail when an end of the rail is inserted therein;
(b) attaching the first bracket to the post;
(c) selecting a fence rail and placing a first end of the rail into the first bracket, such that the rail is supported by the first bracket;
(d) securing the rail to the first bracket;
(e) selecting a bracket cover designed and configured to attach to the first bracket and conceal the attachment of the rail to the first bracket, said cover comprising at least one fastening structure, such that when the cover is attached to the bracket, the fastening structure interacts with the receiving structure to secure the cover to the bracket; and
(f) attaching the cover to the first bracket.
96. The method of claim 95, further comprising, attaching a second bracket to a second post, and inserting the second end of the rail into the second bracket, such that the rail is entirely supported by the first and second, then securing the rail to the first and second brackets, and selecting and attaching a second bracket cover to the second bracket.
97. The method of claim 95, wherein the bracket further comprises attachment holes for attaching the bracket to the post that are accessible when a rail is inserted into the bracket.
98. The method of claim 97, wherein the attachment holes are located in the at least two bracket sides.
99. The method of claim 97, wherein the attachment holes reside in a lateral position with respect to the rail.
100. The method of claim 95, wherein the non-metallic bracket is fastened to the post by inserting a fastener into the post through the attachment holes.
101. The method of claim 100, wherein the fastener is selected from the group comprising nails, screws and bolts.
102. The method of claim 95, wherein the cover comprises at least one fastening structure, such that when the cover is attached to the bracket, the fastening structure interacts with the receiving structure to secure the cover to the bracket.
103. The method of claim 102, wherein the fastening structure consists of at least one tab on the cover and the receiving structure consists of at least one groove on the rail.
104. The method of claim 102, wherein the fastening structure consists of at least one groove on the cover and the receiving structure consists of at least one tab on the rail.
105. The method of claim 95, wherein the cover is designed and configured to cover the attachment holes.
106. The method of claim 95, wherein the cover provides at least a part of the fastening that secures the rail to the bracket, when the cover is in attached to the bracket.
107. The method of claim 106, wherein the cover secures the rail to the bracket, when the cover is in attached to the bracket.
108. The method of claim 95, wherein the bracket is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
109. The system of claim 108, wherein the bracket is constructed of PVC.
110. The method of claim 108, wherein the bracket is constructed of fiberglass-reinforced nylon plastic.
111. The method of claim 95, wherein the bracket is constructed of metal.
112. The system of claim 95, wherein the cover is constructed of rigid molded plastic.
113. The system of claim 112, wherein the cover is constructed of PVC.
114. The system of claim 112, wherein the cover is constructed of fiberglass reinforced nylon plastic.
115. The system of claim 95, wherein the cover is constructed of metal.
116. The system of claim 95, wherein at least of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
117. The system of claim 116, wherein each of the two sides has at least one opening therein for fastening the rail to the bracket.
118. The system of claim 116, wherein the rail may be fastened to the bracket by inserting a fastener into said rail through the opening.
119. The system of claim 118, wherein the fastener is selected from the group consisting of nails, screws, and bolts.
120. The method of claim 95 wherein the rail contains at least one hollow reinforcement chamber.
121. The method of claim 120, further comprising the step of inserting at least one reinforcement member into the at least one hollow reinforcement chamber of the rail, either prior to or after inserting the rail into the bracket.
122. The method of claim 121, wherein the at least one reinforcement member extends the complete length of the rail.
123. The method of claim 121, wherein the at least one reinforcement member is constructed of metal.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] Not Applicable

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[0002] Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] 1. The Field of the Invention.

[0004] The present invention relates generally to a rail attachment bracket system, and more particularly, but not entirely, to a rail attachment bracket system that provides a unique attachment of a fence rail to a post without the need for additional support.

[0005] 2. Description of Related Art.

[0006] It is a common practice to construct fencing from a system of vertical posts connected by horizontal rails to which pickets are attached. Commonly, these pieces are attached to each other with nails, screws, or nuts and bolts. These fasteners have a small surface area of contact against the piece fastened, resulting in a connection that may be insecure or easily disconnected. Such fasteners also protrude from the fence and can pose a safety risk by contact with the skin, resulting is cuts and abrasions. To attach a rail to a post using these conventional fasteners requires that the rail be separately supported until the rail is secured to the post. A user is thus required to use a separate means to support the rail, before screwing or belting the rail to the post. This is laborious and time consuming.

[0007] Attempts have been made in the prior art to provide alternatives to the conventional fasteners. U.S. Patent No. 5,873,671, granted Feb. 23, 1999 to West (herein after the “'671 patent”) discloses a rail attachment bracket with a snap on cover. The '671 bracket consists of a internal support member that is attached to a vertical post, and the open end of a hollow rail is slipped over the internal support member of the bracket. The rail may be secured to the internal support, and a snap-on cover is placed over the rail and internal support connection.

[0008] One advantage of the '671 bracket is that once the rail is installed on the bracket, the bracket provides independent to supports the rail. Another is that if the rail is secured to the bracket, the fasteners are then covered by the snap on cover. However, the rail is supported internally. This both limits the bracket to use with a hollow rail and places the weight of the rail on the interior of the top wall of the rail. If additional pressure is placed on the rail, the top wall can fail requiring the rail to be replaced. The internal support also prevents a reinforcing structure from running the length of the rail inside the hollow interior.

[0009] Reinforcement means for a hollow rail have been commonly provided by the use of a metal rod running through the rail. Such a rail is attached to the posts by aligning the protruding end of the rod to an opening in the post, then securing the rail to the post with screws. This arrangement still requires the user to provide separate support for the rail until the attachment is secured, and leaves the head of the screws exposed. It also requires the user to align the rail to the post so the rod may enter the opening.

[0010] It is noteworthy that none of the prior art known to applicant provides a rail bracket system capable of holding the rail in position to be attached to the post, without requiring separate support.

[0011] The prior art is thus characterized by several disadvantages that are addressed by the present invention. The present invention minimizes, and in some aspects eliminates, the above-mentioned failures, and other problems, by utilizing the methods and structural features described herein.

BRIEF SUMMARY AND OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

[0012] It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a rail bracket mounting system that is simple in design and operation.

[0013] It is another object of the present invention to provide a rail bracket mounting system that supports the rail during attachment so the rail may be secured without separate support.

[0014] It is another object of the present invention, in accordance with one aspect thereof, to provide such a rail bracket mounting system that provides a means to guide a rail into alignment with the post.

[0015] It is a further object of the present invention, in accordance with one aspect thereof, to provide a support means that resides below the lowest portion of the rail.

[0016] It is an additional object of the invention, in accordance with one aspect thereof, to provide a rail bracket mounting system capable of being used with a hollow rail or a solid rail.

[0017] It is also an object of the invention, in accordance with one aspect thereof, to provide a means by which a hollow rail may be reinforced along its entire length.

[0018] It is another object of the invention, in accordance with one aspect thereof to provide a rail bracket mounting system in which the securing fasteners are not exposed.

[0019] The above objects and others not specifically recited are realized in a specific illustrative embodiment of a rail bracket mounting system. The system includes a bracket that is attached to a post. The bracket is formed to support the notching of a rail. The end of a rail is then nested into the bracket, and is supported by the bracket. The rail is then secured to the bracket by fasteners such as screws, and a cover may then be placed over the bracket, housing the securing fasteners. The rail may be hollow or solid. A hollow rail may be reinforced along its entire length by the insertion of one or more reinforcing members through a hollow portion of the rail.

[0020] Additional objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by the practice of the invention without undue experimentation. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0021] The above and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from a consideration of the subsequent detailed description presented in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:

[0022]FIG. 1 is a perspective, break-away view of a rail bracket mounting system made in accordance with the principles of the present invention;

[0023]FIG. 2 is a frontal view of an alternative embodiment of a rail bracket mounting system of made in accordance with the principles of the present invention;

[0024]FIG. 3 is a perspective, break-away view of an alternative embodiment of a rail bracket mounting system, made in accordance the principles of the present invention; and

[0025]FIG. 4 is a perspective, break away view of an alternative embodiment of the rail bracket mounting system of FIG. 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0026] For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles in accordance with the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Any alterations and further modifications of the inventive features illustrated herein, and any additional applications of the principles of the invention as illustrated herein, which would normally occur to one skilled in the relevant art and having possession of this disclosure, are to be considered within the scope of the invention claimed.

[0027] The invention is directed to a system for attaching fence members together with a bracket. FIGS. 1-3 show some of the possible embodiments of the invention. The support bracket 14 is attached to the post 10. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the bracket has been attached by screws 22, but any suitable method to attach the bracket 14 to the post 10, such as nails, bolts, or the use of a chemical adhesive will suffice. Note that in the embodiments of FIGS. 2, 3, and 4 the post 10 is not shown in order to more clearly the show the rail bracket mounting system. In one preferred embodiment, the post is a PVC fence post, but any post constructed of suitable; material will suffice. The bracket 14 features a bottom ledge 18 which is constructed to support the weight of a rail. Rail 12 is placed into the bracket 14. In the preferred embodiment, the rail 12 is placed into two brackets 14, one at each end of the rail 12. This allows the rail to be cut to the exact length needed. When the rail 12 is placed into the bracket, the bottom wall 28 of the rail 12 is placed on top of the bottom ledge 18, and the side walls 30 of the rail 12, lie adjacent to at least a portion of the side supports 20 of the bracket 14. The rail 12 is thus “nested” in the bracket. It will be appreciated that any number of alternative shapes for the rail 12 and bracket 14 are possible, including a rail 12 that is cylindrical or octagonal in shape, or a rail having a decorative portion above the bracket, among many others, with a bracket 14 that is similarly configured. In any embodiment the bracket 14 preferably supports the rail 12 at least in part from a point on the bottom surface 28 of the rail. It will be appreciated that all such variations of the shape of the rail 12 and bracket 14 are within the scope of the present invention.

[0028] It will be appreciated that in some preferred embodiments, the side supports 20 of the bracket 14 are configured to help support the rail 12. The side supports 20 may also be configured to secure the rail in the 12 in the bracket 14. This is most clearly demonstrated by the embodiment shown in FIG. 3. The side supports 20, of this embodiment include a flat surface 34 and a ridge 37. When the rail 12 is nested in the bracket 14, the sidewalls of the rail 30 are held between the ridges 37. The top surface of the ridges 37 enter a channel 38 on the rail 12 acting to secure the rail in the bracket. Optionally, the rail 12 may be configured to engage in an interference fit with the bracket, for example by modification of the channel and ridge structure that is depicted in FIG. 3. The side supports 20, of the FIG. 3 embodiment also feature a flat surface 34. When the rail 12 is nested in the bracket 14, the flat surface 34 lies underneath a corresponding bottom side surface 36 on the rail 12, providing additional support for the rail. It will be appreciated that other configurations of the bracket 14, including the side supports 20 and the rail 12, including structures for interacting with the bracket 14 so as to be secured in the bracket 14 or supported by the side supports 20, are readily ascertainable to those skilled in the art, from the teachings herein and are included within the scope of the present invention.

[0029] When the rail 12 is nested in the bracket 14, the bracket holds and supports the rail. Additional support is not needed. If the rail 12 is nested in a bracket 14 at both ends, the rail 12 is completely supported and does not need any separate support. Once the rail 12 has been nested in the bracket 14, the rail may be secured to the bracket. In the embodiments of FIGS. 1-3, this may be done by attaching a connector, such as a screw through the opening 24 in the side support 20 of the bracket 14. It will be appreciated that many alternative structures can be used to secure the rail 12 to the bracket 14, and that such structures are within the scope of the present invention.

[0030] Once the rail 12 has been secured, a cover 16 may be used to conceal the connector used to secure the rail 12 to the bracket 14. In such an embodiment, the cover 16 is first placed over the rail 12, prior to the rail 12 being nested in the bracket 14. Once the rail 12 is nested and secured to the bracket 14, the cover 16 is then slid along the rail 12 and over the bracket 14. The cover 16 preferably attaches to the bracket 14 by the interaction of receiving openings 26 located on the side wall 20 of the bracket 14 with projections 32 located on the cover 16. This is best shown in the embodiment of FIG. 2, which depicts a cover 16 in the installed position relative to the bracket 14. It will be appreciated that many alternative structures, readily ascertainable to those skilled in the art, can suffice to attach the cover 16 to the bracket 14, and that such structures are within the scope of the present invention.

[0031] By providing a bracket 14 attached to a post 10, in which the rail 12 may be nested prior to securing the rail 12 to the bracket 14, the present invention accomplishes the object of holding the rail 12 during the attachment of the rail 12 to the post 10 in a fence system. This provides an advantage over the prior art, in which a rail must be separately supported to be attached to the post. By supporting the rail 12 beneath its lowest portion, the system allows the rail 12 to span the length of the space between the posts and have support that is less likely to weaken the rail. This is an advantage over the device disclose in the '671 patent, described in the background section above, which requires the rail 12 to be shorter than the space between the rails, so that internal supports may be inserted into the rail. The present invention, also avoids focusing the stress on the internal surface of the top wall of a hollow rail, and allows the system to be used with a solid rail 12 (as represented in FIG. 1.), both advantages over the '671 patent. The rail 12 of the FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 embodiments are hollow, illustrating the versatility of the invention.

[0032] Referring now to FIG. 4, there is shown an alternative structure for the rail 12, which may be used in an embodiment of the present invention. Unlike the rail 12 of FIG. 2, which may be solid in construction, rail 12 is hollow. Preferably, rail 12 is constructed of PVC and is used as part of a PVC picket fence system, although it may be constructed of any suitable material. Rail 12 has a decorative top portion, generally indicated at 42, and contains internal walls 44 which divide the hollow interior. Reinforcement cavities 46, 51 and 52 are contained within the rail 40. The reinforcement cavities are defined by the bottom wall 49 of the rail 40 and internal walls 44. It will be appreciated that a reinforcement cavity may comprise the entire interior or there may be a plurality of reinforcement cavities as shown to provide additional reinforcement. A reinforcement member 48 may be inserted into the cavity 46. The reinforcement member 48 is preferably formed to fill the entire reenforcement cavity 46, but need not do so. The reinforcement member 48 may be constructed of any material capable of giving additional strength to the rail 12. The preferred materials for the reinforcement member 48 are steel and aluminum. The reinforcement member 48 may extend the entire length of the rail 12. FIG. 1 also shows reinforcement cavities 46, 51 and 52.

[0033] By using a rail 12 that is reinforced throughout its length, in a mounting system such as that in FIGS. 2, 3 or 4, the invention combines the advantages of a reinforced rail, with the advantages of a nesting mounting system.

[0034] In accordance with the features and combinations described above, one preferred method of attaching members in fence system comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails includes the steps of:

[0035] (a) selecting a first non-metallic fence bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardly-extending in orientation, the first non-metallic bracket further comprising at least a first ledge and at least two sides;

[0036] the ledge disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a laterally-extending fence rail inserted into said first non-metallic bracket, each side disposed to support at least a portion of a side of said rail;

[0037] such that said first non-metallic bracket is capable of supporting the rail when an end of the rail is inserted therein;

[0038] (b) attaching the bracket to the post;

[0039] (c) selecting a fence rail and placing a first end of the rail into the non-metallic bracket, such that the rail is supported by the non-metallic bracket; and

[0040] (d) securing the rail to the bracket.

[0041] It is further preferred to practice this method by attaching a second non-metallic bracket to a second post and insert the second end of the rail into the second non-metallic bracket, such that the rail is entirely supported by the first and second non-metallic brackets, then securing the rail to the first and second non-metallic brackets.

[0042] Also in accordance with the features and combinations described above, another preferred method of attaching members in fence system comprising upwardly-extending fence posts and laterally-extending fence rails includes the steps of:

[0043] (a) selecting a first bracket configured to be attached to a fence post that is upwardly-extending in orientation, the first bracket further comprising at least a first ledge and at least two sides;

[0044] the ledge disposed to reside beneath the lowest point of a first end of a laterally-extending fence rail inserted into said first bracket, each side disposed to support at least a portion of a side of one end of said rail; such that said first bracket is capable of supporting the rail when an end of the rail is inserted therein;

[0045] (b) attaching the first bracket to the post;

[0046] (c) selecting a fence rail and placing a first end of the rail into the first bracket, such that the rail is supported by the first bracket;

[0047] (d) securing the rail to the first bracket;

[0048] (e) selecting a bracket cover designed and configured to attach to the first bracket and conceal the attachment of the rail to the first bracket, said cover comprising at least one fastening structure, such that when the cover is attached to the bracket, the fastening structure interacts with the receiving structure to secure the cover to the bracket; and

[0049] (f) attaching the cover to the first bracket.

[0050] In a more preferred embodiment, this method further comprises attaching a second bracket to a second post, and inserting the second end of the rail into the second bracket, such that the rail is entirely supported by the first and second, then securing the rail to the first and second brackets, and selecting and attaching a second bracket cover to the second bracket.

[0051] It will be appreciated that the structures and methods included in the present invention thus provide a rail bracket mounting system that is simple in design and operation and is capable of being used with a hollow rail or a solid rail. It will be further appreciated that certain embodiments of the present invention provide a rail bracket mounting system that supports the rail during attachment so the rail may be secured without separate support and some embodiments of the present invention provide such a rail bracket mounting system that provides a means to guide a rail into alignment with the post.

[0052] It will also be appreciated that the present invention, in some embodiments provides a support means that resides below the lowest portion of the rail. Other embodiments provide a means by which a hollow rail may be reinforced along its entire length. It will also be appreciated that the present invention, in accordance with one aspect thereof, provides a rail bracket mounting system in which the securing fasteners are not exposed.

[0053] It is to be understood that the above-described arrangements are only illustrative of the application of the principles of the present invention. Numerous modifications and alternative arrangements may be devised by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention and the appended claims are intended to cover such modifications and arrangements. Thus, while the present invention has been shown in the drawings and fully described above with particularity and detail in connection with what is presently deemed to be the most practical and preferred embodiment(s) of the invention, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous modifications, including, but not limited to, variations in size, materials, shape, form, function and manner of operation, assembly and use may be made without departing from the principles and concepts set forth herein.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6805335 *Aug 8, 2002Oct 19, 2004Robert M. WilliamsRail mounting systems and methods
US7427055 *Dec 13, 2005Sep 23, 2008Platt Robert EMounting bracket and snap-on cover assembly for use therewith
US8047485 *May 13, 2008Nov 1, 2011Homeland Vinyl Products, Inc.Rail end cover
US20120138758 *Nov 30, 2011Jun 7, 2012Digger Specialties, Inc.Fencing bracket system
Classifications
U.S. Classification256/65.1
International ClassificationE04F11/18, E04H17/14
Cooperative ClassificationE04H2017/1452, E04F11/181, E04H17/1421
European ClassificationE04F11/18F, E04H17/14D1
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 8, 2009ASAssignment
Owner name: U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, MINNESOTA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNORS:PLY GEM INDUSTRIES, INC.;PLY GEM HOLDINGS, INC.;ALCOA HOME EXTERIORS, INC.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:022793/0229
Effective date: 20080608
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNORS:PLY GEM INDUSTRIES, INC.;PLY GEM HOLDINGS, INC.;ALCOA HOME EXTERIORS, INC. AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:22793/229
Owner name: U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION,MINNESOTA
Jan 28, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: KROY BUILDING PRODUCTS, NEBRASKA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:WEST, RONALD R.;REEL/FRAME:012529/0018
Effective date: 20011127