US 20060022187 A1
A bracket assembly for attaching rails of multiple configurations to a support structure. The bracket assembly may include a base piece having a plate with a pair of flanges extending substantially perpendicularly therefrom. An insert may be configured to fit between the flanges and within the rail to provide support to the rail. A pin may be inserted through openings in the flanges, the insert, and the rail to attach the rail to the insert and the base piece. A cover may be placed over the base piece to provide a pleasing appearance to the bracket assembly. A single sized base piece, insert, and pin may be used to connect rails of different sizes and shapes to the support structure.
49. A method of attaching a rail to a support structure, said rail having a hollow open end, said method comprising the steps of:
a) attaching a base piece to the support structure, said base piece comprising a pair of flanges;
b) placing an insert within said hollow open end of said rail;
c) placing said rail and insert on said base piece between said flanges; and
d) inserting a pin through said rail, said insert, and said pair of flanges to attach said rail to said support structure.
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54. A method of attaching a rail to a support structure, said rail having a hollow open end, said method comprising the steps of:
a) attaching a pair of flanges to the support structure;
b) placing an insert within said hollow open end of said rail for supporting said rail;
c) placing said rail between said flanges; and
d) removably attaching said insert to said flanges.
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62. A method of attaching a rail to a support structure, said rail having a hollow open end, said method comprising the steps of:
a) providing a base piece for attaching to said support structure;
b) providing an insert for inserting into said hollow open end of said rail for supporting said rail;
c) constructing said base piece and said insert to meet a building standard requirement without regard to the rail; and
d) utilizing the base piece and insert to attach rails having different configurations to said support structure.
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74. A method of attaching a rail to a support structure, said rail having a hollow open end, said method comprising:
a) attaching a base piece to the support structure, said base piece comprising a pair of flanges;
b) surrounding a perimeter of said rail with a cover;
c) placing said rail between said flanges of said base piece such that a top and a bottom of said rail is unbounded by said base piece; and
d) concealing said flanges with said cover.
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82. A method of attaching a rail to a support structure, said rail having a hollow open end, said method comprising:
a) attaching a base piece to the support structure, said base piece comprising at least one flange;
b) placing a cover on a perimeter of said rail;
c) placing said rail adjacent said at least one flange of said base piece such that a top and a bottom of said rail is unbounded by said base piece; and
d) concealing said at least one flange with said cover.
83. The method of claims 82, wherein parts and (a) and (c) respectively further comprise:
a) attaching a base piece having a pair of flanges to the support structure; and
c) placing said rail between said flanges of said base piece such that a top and a bottom of said rail is unbounded by said base piece.
This application is a division of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/361,150, filed Feb. 5, 2003, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/440,307, filed Jan. 13, 2003, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/355,382, filed Feb. 6, 2002, which applications are hereby incorporated by reference herein in their entireties, including but not limited to those portions that specifically appear hereinafter, the incorporation by reference being made with the following exception: In the event that any portion of the above-referenced applications is inconsistent with this application, this application supercedes said above-referenced applications.
1. The Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to bracket assemblies, and more particularly, the present invention relates to a rail attachment bracket assembly used to secure a rail to a support structure such that rails of different configurations may be used with the same bracket.
2. Description of Related Art
Railings of various sizes and configurations are used to designate boundaries such as in fences for example, or to protect individuals from dangerous locations. Additionally, railings on stair cases and decks help to steady people and prevent accidental injury. In recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in the use of vinyl and similar products for constructing railings. The vinyl products have numerous advantages over the prior materials. For example, vinyl rails can be shaped in various configurations to provide a desired aesthetic appearance or strength. Vinyl is flexible and less prone to damage than wood and other prior materials. Vinyl is also mark resistant and does not require frequent repainting or staining to protect the fence or railing from the elements. Additionally, the vinyl products are usually cost competitive with the other materials. Because of these advantages, vinyl has become a material of choice for making fences and columns, as well as railings for decks and staircases.
While the vinyl products are highly desirable for such uses, the fact that the vinyl is typically formed into hollow rails or posts raises certain difficulties. Primarily, the lack of any center support makes vinyl rails and posts more difficult to attach to support structures, especially to other pieces of vinyl.
Various different bracket systems are known in the art to attach rails to support structures. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,873,671 (granted Feb. 23, 1999 to West) discloses a rail attachment bracket with a snap-on cover. The attachment bracket has a face plate having an integral support member extending away from the face plate for supporting a hollow rail. The integral support member is sized to accommodate a rail having a particular configuration. Rails having hollow openings that are too small are not able to fit around the support member. Rails having hollow openings that are too large allow movement of the rail with respect to the support member. Thus, a different sized attachment bracket is required for each different configuration of rail that is used.
Rail brackets used in most commercial applications must meet various strength and functional standards such as those established under the Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), the Standard Building Code (SBC), or the International Conference of many brackets are designed to attach only to rails of a specific design or shape, for each type of rail and bracket combination, considerable testing must be accomplished to ensure that the products meet the applicable standards. The testing required to meet the standard approval adds to the cost and complexity of producing the brackets. Furthermore, the complexity and cost of producing and storing brackets of various sizes and configurations increases with the number of different brackets that are required. Installation in the field is also more difficult when proper sizing of a bracket is required with a specific rail.
Thus, there is a need for an improved rail attachment bracket wherein the bracket can be used with rails having different configurations so that the bracket is more versatile and the cost of testing to meet applicable standards is reduced. The attachment bracket should also be inexpensive and easy to use. Additionally, the bracket should be concealed to provide a finished look to the railing.
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.
The features 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 features and advantages of the invention may be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.
The 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:
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.
It must be noted that, as used in this specification and the appended claims, the singular forms “a,” “an,” and “the” include plural referents unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.
As used herein, “comprising,” “including,” “containing,” “characterized by,” and grammatical equivalents thereof are inclusive or open-ended terms that do not exclude additional, unrecited elements or method steps.
As used herein, “consisting of” and grammatical equivalents thereof exclude any element, step, or ingredient not specified in the claim.
As used herein, “consisting essentially of” and grammatical equivalents thereof limit the scope of a claim to the specified materials or steps and those that do not materially affect the basic and novel characteristic or characteristics of the claimed invention.
Referring now to
The base piece 12 may include a substantially planar plate 22 having means for attaching the base piece 12 to the support structure 23. In one embodiment of the present invention, the means for attaching the base piece 12 to the support structure 23 may include openings 24 in the plate 22 through which bracket fasteners 25 such as screws (see
The base piece 12 also may include at least one flange 26 extending in a substantially perpendicular orientation from the plate 22. In one embodiment, a pair of flanges 26 may be spaced apart on the plate 22. The flanges 26 may include one or more supports 28 to help the flanges 26 sustain lateral loads placed upon them. The supports 28 may be oriented in a plane substantially perpendicular to the flanges 26 and also to the plate 22. Also, the flanges 26 may include one or more apertures 29 for receiving the pin 14 to secure the rail 20 to the base piece 12. The apertures 29 may be rounded or formed as slots to facilitate insertion of the pin 14.
The plate 22 may also include a groove 32 extending along back side edges of the plate 22. The groove 32 may be used for attaching the cover 18 to the base piece 12 as discussed more fully below. The plate 22 may also have tapered edges 33 adjacent to the groove 32 on a front side of the plate.
The pin 14 may have a round cross-section and a smooth surface, characterized by an absence of threads, to facilitate insertion into apertures 29, and may be dimensioned to extend across the flanges 26. It will be appreciated that the pin 14 may have various sizes and configurations within the scope of the present invention.
A rail fastener 13 may also be used in addition to the pin 14 to attach the rail 20 to the base piece 12. It will be appreciated that the rail fastener 13 may include a threaded screw or a nail for example, and may pass through a flange 26 on one or both sides of the base piece 12, as well as through the rail 20 and the insert 16. The rail fastener 13 may provide an additional attachment mechanism for the bracket assembly 10, and it will be appreciated that the bracket assembly 10 may be used without the rail fastener 13.
The insert 16 may be substantially “H” shaped to provide strength for supporting the rail 20. The insert 16 may include opposing side walls 17 separated by a connecting wall 15. However, it will be appreciated that the insert 16 may have other configurations within the scope of the present invention, such as a substantially “U” shape or rectangular shape for example. The insert 16 may also include apertures 30 in the side walls 17 for receiving the pin 14 to attach the insert 16 to the base piece 12. The insert 16 may be sized to fit inside the rail 20 so that the rail 20 resides between the flanges 26 and the insert 16 as shown most clearly in
The cover 18 may be sized to receive the rail 20 and serve to conceal the base piece 12 to provide an aesthetically pleasing connection. The cover 18 may include a tab 34 which may be received in the groove 32 of the base piece 12 to attach the cover 18 to the base piece 12. The tab 34 may be made of a resilient material to allow the tab 34 to deflect when pressed against a solid object such as the tapered edge 33, and spring back to its relaxed position when the tab 34 enters into the groove 32. Such attachment of the tab 34 into the groove 32 may also be referred to herein as a snap-fit. The cover 18 may also be configured to allow the tab 34 to slide into the groove 32 without a snap-fit.
The cover 18 may define a perimeter 19 which corresponds to the exterior shape of the rail 20. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 a, the perimeter 19 may be rectangular in shape to correspond with a rail 20 having a rectangular shaped cross section. However, covers 18 may be used for rails 20 having different exterior shapes, or rails 20 having different shaped cross sections may be used with a rectangular shaped cover 18. As shown in
It will be appreciated that the bracket assembly 10 may be configured to support the rail 20 without the cover 18, but the cover 18 provides advantages of enhanced security since the cover 18 may cause the pin 14 and base piece 12 to not be readily accessible. Moreover, the cover 18 may be configured in various different decorative configurations to provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
The rail 20 may also include apertures 31 for receiving the pin 14 to attach the rail 20 to the insert 16 and the base piece 12. It will be appreciated that the rail 20 may have various configurations, such as substantially rectangular as shown in
The base piece 12, the pin 14, and the insert 16 may be made of a material having suitable strength and durability characteristics, such as metal for example. The cover 18 may be made of vinyl or other materials for example to match the material of the rail 20. The rail 20 may be made of various materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a composite of wood flour and PVC, a composite of wood flour and polyethylene, or pultruded fiberglass for example. However, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that other materials may be used to make the rail 20 and the components of the bracket assembly 10.
Assembly of the elements of one embodiment of the invention will now be discussed. The base piece 12 may be attached to the support structure 23 by inserting bracket fasteners 25 through the openings 24 and into the support structure 23. The insert 16 may be placed within the rail 20 so that the apertures 31 in the rail 20 are in alignment with the apertures 30 in the insert 16. The rail 20 may be placed between the flanges 26 so that the apertures 31 in the rail 20 and the apertures 30 in the insert 16 are in alignment with the apertures 29 in the flanges 26. The pin 14 may be inserted through the apertures 29 in the flanges 26, the apertures 31 in the rail 20, and the apertures 30 in the insert 16. A rail fastener 13 may also be inserted through one or more of the flanges 26, the insert 16 and the rail 20. The cover 18 may be placed over the rail 20 and the tabs 34 placed into the grooves 32 in a sliding or snap-fit arrangement.
It will be appreciated that a particular base piece 12, pin 14, and insert 16 may be used with rails 20 of different configurations. For example, the insert 16 may be configured to fit within either a rectangular rail 20 or a somewhat “T” shaped rail 20 b, 20 c as shown in
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It will be appreciated that the structure and apparatus disclosed herein is merely one example of a means for attaching a base piece to a support structure, and it should be appreciated that any structure, apparatus or system for attaching the base piece to the support structure which performs functions the same as, or equivalent to, those disclosed herein are intended to fall within the scope of a means for attaching the base piece to the support structure, including those structures, apparatus or systems for attaching the base piece which are presently known, or which may become available in the future. Anything which functions the same as, or equivalently to, a means for attaching a base piece to a support structure falls within the scope of this element.
In accordance with the features and combinations described above, a useful method of attaching a rail to a support structure includes the steps of:
Those having ordinary skill in the relevant art will appreciate the advantages provided by the features of the present invention. For example, it is a feature of the present invention to provide an improved rail attachment bracket assembly wherein the bracket can be used with rails having different configurations so that the bracket is more versatile and the cost of testing to meet applicable standards is reduced. Another feature of the present invention is to provide such a bracket assembly that is inexpensive and easy to use. It is a further feature of the present invention, in accordance with one aspect thereof, to provide a bracket assembly that can be concealed to provide a finished look to the installed railing.
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 described above with particularity and detail, 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.