When researching the type of wire fence you want to purchase, there are many things you want to consider before making a decision. Have you thought about the following?
- Aesthetic considerations - how important is appearance?
- Function is a significant factor - what do you want to keep in or out?
- Cost is important - should you buy the least expensive product or invest in fencing material that will last a long time and save on the future expenses and labor of early replacement?
- Country of origin may be something you want to take into account - is there any connection between the quality of a fence and where it is made?
- Topography of the site should be considered - are there irregularities in the ground's surface where the fence will be located?
- Manufacturing method is important - is a welded product a better choice than a woven fence mesh?
When making a decision about which wire fencing material to use, one of the most important aspects to take into account is the type of "finish" the wire has. There are four basic types:
- GBW - Galvanized Before Weld and Galvanized Before Weave
- GAW - Galvanized After Weld and Galvanized After Weave
- VC - Vinyl Coated welded and woven
- SS - Stainless Steel and other alloys.
Galvanized before wire fences can be either welded or woven. Galvanized wire is used to manufacture the mesh.
Welded products - the zinc coating is burnt off during the welding process. The welded points where the horizontal and vertical wires intersect are left unprotected and exposed to rust and corrosion. In wet weather, moisture tends to collect at the joint, hastening the process. While it is true that zinc can "flow" from the areas adjacent to the burnt intersection, the weld spot never regains it's full protection. These are the types you see in your local building supply store and garden center. Differences in gauge, mesh opening size and height are considerable. You can find a product that will meet your needs. It is important to keep in mind the fact that these items have a limited lifetime. Welded GBW fencing materials are relatively inexpensive and utilitarian.
Woven products - these do not have any welded areas and therefore do not have the same vulnerability. These range from light weight hex netting up to field fence and heavy gauge woven high tensile deer and wildlife fence. The heavier fences have an extended lifetime, especially those with Class 3 galvanizing.
Galvanized after fencing materials are galvanized after the welding or weaving process. The mesh is drawn through a bath of molten zinc which thoroughly seals the wire, including the welded and woven areas. These products are heavily protected from rust and corrosion and have an extended lifetime that far exceeds the lifetime of the same products with GBW finish. You can tell if a product is galvanized after by looking at the welded and woven areas. You can actually see how the zinc seals the areas. GAW items are initially more expensive. However when you consider the extra material and labor cost of replacement, the higher initial cost of GAW meshes can be justified.
GAW fencing is more specialized and therefore are not as easy to find at retail stores. The welded meshes are often used in making animal cages. They are ideal to use in areas where there is constant moisture or exposure to corrosion. There is an even wider range of choices in wire gauge, mesh size and widths due to the more specialized end uses of these items. The GAW hex netting meshes are often used in salt water applications and in building game bird pens - areas where long life is sought and appreciated.
Vinyl coated fencing materials are coated with either polyester or PVC after the welding or weaving process. The most common colors are black and green. Black color is the most unobtrusive. It blends with the background, becoming virtually invisible. As with GAW products, the vinyl coating thoroughly coats the entire mesh, sealing it against rust and corrosion. The additional cost is offset by longer life expectancy and more attractive appearance. Many different specifications are widely available in retail stores. The vinyl makes them aesthetically pleasing.
As with any products, there are different quality grades available. The least expensive products do not bond the vinyl securely to the wire. The vinyl is easily cut and can then be peeled off the wire with your fingers. The higher quality grades have vinyl coating that is tightly bonded to the wire and resists scraping, even with a knife. And there are products available that have the double protection of GAW wire under the coating. These offer the longest lasting meshes available. As always, higher quality means higher cost. You get what you pay for. Higher intiial cost can save you money over the life of the mesh.
In addition to the regular generic retail items, there is a wide range of gauge and mesh opening size specialty items not available in stores. There are welded meshes used in lobster traps, safety mesh in railings, animal cages and other unique applications. Woven hex mehses are used in such things as bird pens and deer fence.
SS and other alloys
Stainless steel fencing materials are perhaps the most specialized type available. They have the advantage of being resistant to rust, corrosion and other environmental stressors. Stainless steel welded wire meshes have often been used as fences in coastal areas. They are quite expensive and can be difficult to impossible to obtain at retail stores. Their appearance is more utilitarian than attractive. These items have an extended lifetime. Other alloys such as copper are also available in a variety of gauges, mesh sizes and weaving styles.