When you’re shopping for a fence, it quickly becomes a dizzying world of options. There are traditional wooden fences, faux-wood materials such as vinyl and composite, masonry, which uses concrete, brick, block, stucco or stone, and metal. But like wood, faux-wood and masonry options with their many forms, metal fences come in different styles, and it’s important to choose the right one for your need, whether it’s going around your home or place of business.
We all know that metal is strong, but it can also be heavy and riddled with maintenance issues, such as flaking and rusting, which can compromise the strength and utility of the fence itself. When it comes to the right fencing material for you, each have their pros and cons, and it all depends on what you’re looking for in a fence. Some are more affordable, some give a certain look, and some will last for decades, making a comparison of aluminum fences to wrought iron and steel a complicated issue.
That said, there are three main categories where the metal material matters when it comes to different fencing products.
Comparing Fences: Durability
When it comes to strength and durability, what your fence is made out of defines its status as a durable, long-lasting fence. The weakest fences use low-grade, galvanized steel that creates a mishmash of flimsy links that can be bent, cut or otherwise manipulated. On the natural side, wood doesn’t fare much better, and it can chip, split or rot, especially with weather extremes such as dryness, humidity, heat and cold, as well as heavy rains and snows.
Materials such as steel, wrought iron and other hard metals don’t fare much better as they can chip, rust or disintegrate over time, especially if there’s lots of moisture, rain or snow. Some manufacturers get around this by treating their fences with a protective paint or coating, but these coatings can wear off, especially over the course of years of weather and other impacts befitting a family yard. Unless you’re at the ready with a comprehensive maintenance schedule that ensures your fence isn’t neglected for too long, your once strong steel or wrought iron fence can start deteriorating before your very eyes, leaving many in search of a better solution when it comes to a metal fence.
Enter aluminum. Only aluminum is impervious to just about anything you or the world can throw at it without any coatings or protective barriers. Considering its weight, it’s also ridiculously strong, meaning there’s no way you could realistically damage, break or otherwise harm this metal fence in a traditional residential context. When you compare an aluminum fence to wrought iron or steel, it’s basically the perfect substitute. It doesn’t need anti-corrosive finishes or paint as it won’t corrode or rust, though it can also be painted black to give that imposing, don’t-even-try-it look that wrought iron pulls off so well.
Winner: Aluminum, though with proper maintenance and treatments, other metal fences can come close. If ultimate strength is the goal, a coated wrought iron or steel fence may be the better option.
Comparing Fences: Style
Next up: style. Because fences have existed for so long, particularly wrought iron ones that go back centuries, there are a lot of design options when it comes to a metal fence. There’s the unassuming bar or square fence that gives a more modern look, but more traditional and older styles can be as ornate as you’d like, with all sorts of options in between. But while some more decorative styles may seem like they’re only available in one type of material, it’s true that most styles are available across different material types.
That said, wrought iron fences, while the most ornate, may be the most restrictive in their styles due to how they’re made, their history and when people turn to wrought iron as a fencing material. However, since wrought iron fences are handmade, there’s theoretically no limit as to the shape they can take, though weight and other issues become a concern for very intricate or sprawling works that add bulk and mass to every section of fence.
Steel fences can also be simple bars-and-posts monoliths, with a strength to match that you would only expect from steel. Instead of the complicated designs of a wrought iron fence, they are often used as insurmountable barriers, painted in a strong black to complete the menacing look. Chain-link fences are also another option, though they’re more commonly used on building sites and would look grossly out of place, if not a little sour, buttressing a residential yard.
Aluminum fences, on the other hand, bring the strength and durability of other metals but they also check the lightweight and maintenance-free boxes of other types of fences. Being lightweight, aluminum can be made into just about any design, and because a paint job or coating is unneeded when it comes to rust — aluminum can’t ever rust — you can even use an aluminum fence bare, or at least not worry so much about those tiny nicks and paint flecks that inevitably take their toll over the years. The kicker is that aluminum can be painted in just about any color, so a traditional black, vibrant white or anything else is a possibility when you go with an aluminum fence.
But comparing an aluminum fence to wrought iron and other steel fences is almost unfair. Aluminum can do all the intricate stuff that steel can do, in a residential context it’s as strong as you’d need, and they’ll last forever without messy maintenance schedules or worrying about paint flaking and corrosion taking hold.
Winner: Aluminum, due to its various design options, as well as its ability to be left bare or painted in vibrant colors or a standard and unassuming black.
Comparing Fences: Cost
For many people, the determining factor of what makes a great fence is its cost, and no matter how good a fence looks or how long it’ll last, there are very real budgets that are attached to each fencing project. While you may want to install the be-all, end-all of fences, your budget often brings you back into the real world.
Alas, the cheapest fences are typically wood or some kind of composite material. There’s a lot of variation in quality across the board, but wood and faux-wood styles can be the most affordable options if you decide to go a DIY route and elect for the post and board route instead of buying something premade. However, you’ll have quite the project on your hands, and it’ll take specialty machinery to drill the posts and pour rigid concrete bases that will keep your fence standing after the first heavy winds come.
At the bottom end of the available metal fence options you have chain-link fences, which are dirt-cheap, but they’re also an eyesore, and you’d never want to consider lining your yard with this stuff unless it’s a temporary installation until the real fence goes in. Other types of more traditional steel fences are also available, which can mimic the wrought iron look in a pinch with the right paint job, though steel is still relatively expensive compared to more affordable options. Steel is also not great in an outdoor setting due to its proclivity to rust and chip over time unless they’re treated with non-corrosive paints that themselves require dutiful maintenance.
On the far end of the cost scale, wrought iron is one of the most expensive types of fencing due to their handmade nature and an attention to detail that makes wrought iron a labor-intensive product. Wrought iron fences are also heavy — real heavy — and typical wood or composite posts just won’t do — they’re often attached to brickwork or other heavy stones. And like other steel fences that can rust and chip, wrought iron fences must be treated with corrosion-resistant paint to get decades of use out of them, otherwise they’ll slowly deteriorate over the years and start to chip and rust along important welds and joints.
With aluminum, you don’t have to worry about any of that. Aluminum fences are cheap, lightweight, and you won’t have a challenging maintenance schedule to keep on top of because aluminum won’t ever rust like other metal fences. So while you may have to pay a little more up front for an aluminum fence over, say, a wooden fence, you’ll quickly make that money back with the $0 in maintenance you’ll have to commit to your new fence over the years.
Winner: Aluminum, due to its reasonable up-front costs and no-maintenance-needed recurring costs that makes it a one-time purchase with an all-in price. For those on an extreme budget, chain-link fences are a super-affordable way to do temporary fencing, but don’t try this in a typical residential neighborhood.
The Winner: Aluminum
Due to its reasonable price, various style and color options, as well as its durability in both painted and unpainted variants, it’s really no contest when you compare aluminum fences to wrought iron, steel and other options. If you have your heart set on a metal fence, aluminum’s the cheapest, it can go traditional or modern or anything in between, and, in most instances, it’s as strong as, if not stronger than, wrought iron and steel because it lacks a weakness to the elements.
When you consider the sheer cost of wrought iron fencing or the heavier, more expensive yet no more robust steel options out there, aluminum is the clear winner and is the ideal way to do a metal fence today. Forget about convoluted maintenance schedules to keep your wrought iron or steel fence looking its best — an aluminum fence doesn’t need to be coddled or slaved over. Day after day, it does what you ask of it without so much as a peep, and years from now it’ll still look as great as it did the day it was installed.
From Your Friends at Aluminum Fences Direct
Here at Aluminum Fences Direct, we love showing customers the utility and benefits of a beautiful, new aluminum fence. Even if you’re a wrought iron fan and would never consider a fence that doesn’t capture the feel of a traditional, black metal fence, you might be surprised at how close you can get with a painted aluminum fence. Those that like modern and simple designs also love our aluminum fences, which can be painted in black, bronze or white to complement just about any look.
Contact us to see how we can help you safely secure your yard space with a traditional or modern aluminum fence. Get a quote today for your home or check out our commercial fencing for ideas on how you can outfit your business.