Whether you’re a homesteader, a rancher, or a suburban dweller, good fences make good neighbors, as the cliche says. There are as many types of fencing available as there are reasons to install them. But, for the sake of this article, we’re concentrating on types of wire fencing — the type of fence that is almost always used to contain something, including things like:
- Pets in your backyard
- Livestock on your ranch
- Poultry on your farm
- Inmates at the local prison
- Animals at the local zoo
Wire fencing is also used to keep unwanted elements out, including:
- Deer and rabbits from your garden
- Intruders from your property
- Thieves from the local salvage or lumber yard
Essentially, wire fencing fulfills huge roles in modern life, both rural and urban. It has purposes that are agricultural and industrial, aesthetic and necessary. Wire fencing can help keep unattended children safe around a community pool, or it can safely outline off-limits areas used for testing or for the containment of hazardous waste.
If you’re in need of wire fencing for your home improvement project, please peruse our a comprehensive list of every type of wire fence available to help you choose. It includes what you need to know before deciding which type of wire fencing is right for you.
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Wire Fence Construction
When it comes to how to wire fencing, there are several types available: welded wire, woven wire, barbed wire, and electric fencing. Each different type of wire fence has its own benefits and disadvantages.
Each is also better for certain uses than others. Wire fence construction is an important consideration to keep in mind when choosing the right type of fencing for a home improvement project.
Welded Wire Fencing
Welded wire fence is formed by placing wires in horizontal and vertical configurations that form squares or rectangles. The wires are then attached to one another through a technique called spot-welding. This forms strong sheets of fencing that is virtually featureless and is also less flexible than traditional woven versions.
Popular Uses for Welded Wire Fencing
Welded wire fencing tends to have more decorative applications than woven wire fencing does, but it can also be constructed from industrial-strength material. This makes welded wire fences an excellent option for many rural and urban uses, both residential and commercial, such as:
- Perimeter fence around residential and commercial properties
- Fencing around residential and community pools
- Fencing along walkways in parks and nature reserves
- Fencing around prisons and military installations
- Fencing for dog runs and kennels
- Fencing around gardens
- Farm and ranch gates
Woven Wire Fencing
Woven wire fencing, unlike welded wire fencing, is produced through weaving pieces of wire into various configurations. The chain-link design is a popular example of woven wire fencing design. This type of fencing is also called an interlink wire fence or a cyclone wire fence design.
A woven wired fence features a loose structure that stretches and bends with great flexibility. However, because the strands are all interwoven, if one strand is cut, the entire fence may begin to unravel.
Popular Uses for Woven Wire Fencing
Woven wire fencing is typically used for the following purposes:
- Containment of pets
- Kennels and dog runs
- Perimeter fencing around yards
- Decorative applications
The chain link fence is probably the most popular and widely used form of woven wire fencing. This is the type of fence most commonly seen around playgrounds, fenced-in backyards, and commercial areas.
A tool called a fence-stretcher is required to string a chain link fence properly. For this reason, adding chain link fencing to a property may take considerable investment.
A chain-link fence that is installed without the use of a fence-stretcher will likely sag along sections of the fence. This makes for an unattractive install and poorly functioning wire fence.
Barbed Wire Fencing
Barbed wire fence designs are made of steel and is typically used for keeping cattle and livestock contained. It is a type of twisted wire that is different from a traditional woven wire in that its strands are twined together instead of intertwined with one another.
Barbs are formed at regular intervals along a given length of barbed wire, hence the name. Animals that attempt to break through the barbed wire are discouraged by the pointy barbs that can cause pain and injury.
Popular Uses for Barbed Wire Fencing
Barbed wire has several practical applications, including:
- Separating boundary lines between ranches
- Containing livestock and cattle
- Containing prisoners (when used in combination with other forms of fencing)
- Protecting areas such as gardens and crops from pests
- Military applications
Barbed wire is installed along a fence line by stringing it from post to post. Typically, the posts are made of wood, and tension is used to keep the barbed wire in place.
Almost anyone can install a barbed-wire fence, which is part of the reason it is such a popular type of fence among farmers and homesteaders today. A simple staple gun and some heavy-duty gloves are all that’s required to string barbed wire fencing.
The wire is stapled to the first post, then pulled tight before it is stapled to the next post. Barbed-wire fences are economical because professional installation isn’t usually necessary to create one. They are also quite functional at keeping cattle and other livestock contained and protected.
A barbed-wire fence may consist of single or multiple strands of wire. Barbed wire fences may also be combined with other types of fences, including wood rails or chain link fences, to help fortify the strength of the fence and discourage climbing over, under, or through.
Razor wire, a variant of barbed wire, is often placed along the tops of wire fencing in prisons and in military installations to prevent humans from climbing over the fencing. Razor wire fences cause cuts and injuries not unlike a razor does when it contacts skin.
An electrified fence is usually made from thin steel or aluminum. It is designed to give trespassers a shock when it is encountered. Electrified fences used for agricultural purposes deliver just enough voltage to make the being touching it uncomfortable.
Electrified fencing used in other applications, such as for commercial or industrial uses, may be designed to stun the offender. Military- or security-grade electrified fence may be set to deliver a lethal dose of energy, meaning a person or animal who comes into contact with it could die as a result.
Lethal electrified fencing is not typically used outside of some prisons or military installations today.
When used, it’s usually barricaded from accidental exposure through placement behind another type of fencing that is non-lethal, or by stringing it high atop walls or barricades where it can only be reached intentionally.
Popular Uses for Electrified Fencing
Most of today’s electrified fencing is used for agricultural purposes. It is installed to contain animals such as horses, sheep, or poultry. After one touch to an electrified fence, most animals will know to stay away. Other applications include:
- Keeping animals away from airport runways
- Keeping wildfowl away from areas where people congregate, such as parks
- Preventing conflict between neighboring animals and humans, such as to keep elephants from raiding crops in Kenya
- Securing property lines
Unless you’re experienced with stringing electrified fencing, professional installation is strongly recommended.
Wire Fence Composition
Wire fencing is made from different materials, which makes each one suitable for different purposes.
Aluminum fencing is lightweight and resistant to damage from rain and other forms of moisture. An aluminum fence is also a good conductor of electricity. It is sometimes used in the making of electric fencing as a result.
Steel wire is heavy, durable, and considered to be one of the best investments you can make in fencing. Though it typically costs more at the onset than other types of wire, stainless steel wire is naturally resistant to corrosion.
It is even suitable for saltwater applications. Stainless steel needs no galvanization, and last longer than products that have been galvanized before welding or weaving. This type of fencing is extremely strong and not prone to rust, either.
Poly wire is used in the making of the electrified fence where visibility is required. Brightly colored fiber strands are twisted with conductive wire, which can then be electrified. Poly wire doesn’t rust, and it’s an ideal choice for the containment of valuable livestock, like horses. If an animal panics and becomes entangled in poly wire, there’s less chance that severe injury or wounds will occur.
Wire Fence Coating
There are several materials used to coat wire fencing. Each has different methods of application. The wire that is used to surround a landfill, for instance, doesn’t need to be as aesthetically appealing or as safe as one used to enclose a playground or backyard.
GBW — galvanized before weld or weave
Galvanized wire is a wire that has been treated with a protective coating, such as zinc. This coating makes the wire more resistant to rust and deterioration. A wire that is galvanized before it is welded or woven to other strands of wire is called GBW, galvanized before weave.
In the case of welded wire, the welding causes parts of the galvanization to be burned away. This creates small areas where water or moisture can cause damage over time.
GAW — galvanized after weld or weave
A wire that has been galvanized after welding or weaving is much more indestructible than wires galvanized before welding or weaving.
Galvanized after weld or weave wire may cost more initially, but it also won’t require as much repair over time as GBW wire. GAW wire has been welded or woven before being dipped into a protective coating of zinc.
This means there are no spots left uncovered by the zinc, and no spots of zinc are burned away. GAW wire is quite durable for outside applications where fencing will be exposed to weather extremes.
VC — vinyl-coated welded or woven
Vinyl-coated wire fencing comes standard in black or green. This is a wire fence to which a vinyl covering has been applied after welding or weaving.
A vinyl-coated fence looks pleasant and lasts a long time, due to the fact that the wire is protected by both galvanized coating and vinyl.
This type of fencing is often installed around yards to contain pets, or around playgrounds and pools to protect children. Vinyl coated wire fencing may also be used in the making of animal and lobster traps, or as decorative panel inserts for deck railings.
Powder coat is a form of thick, powdered paint that’s often used to coat steel wire fencing. Resistant to UV rays, the powder coat helps protect the wire fencing against moisture and corrosion.
E-coating, or electroplating, is sometimes layered beneath a powder coat to help strengthen wire fencing against corrosion. To electroplate wire, it must be dipped into paint, and then electrically charged. This creates a chemical reaction that helps strengthen the coating.
All the types of wire fencing we’ve discussed can be purchased at various online retailers, or your local farm and ranch supply store. Some types of fencing will require professional installation from a local fencing contractor or company that uses special tools, such as post-hole diggers and fence stretchers.
Whether you’re ready to begin installing a fence line around your homestead, decorative fencing around your urban backyard, or fencing to keep your livestock or pet contained, there is a type of fence available that’s the best fit for the job.
Q: How do I know how much wire fencing I need to buy for my project?
A: You can find fencing calculators online that are easy to use. They will give you solid estimates of how many reels of wire, how many posts, and how many braces are needed to construct a certain fence.
These calculators are free to use, and they calculate materials based upon the perimeter size of a fence. Aside from this, talking with a local supplier or fence contractor will also give a finite idea of how much fencing must be purchased and how much it will cost.
Q: I’m shopping for fencing, and someone told me to go by style numbers. What are the style numbers?
A: Style numbers are codes that describe the characteristics of the fencing material. For example, fencing that carries style number 1246-6-11 can be broken down this way.
The first two numbers (12) give you the number of line wires, top to bottom. The next two numbers (46) give you the height of the fencing material in inches. The number 6 refers to the pull-out of the wire.
The pull-out is simply the distance between the wires that run vertically. Lastly, 11 refers to the gauge, or diameter, of the individual wires.
Q: How does gauge work?
A: Gauge describes the diameter of the wire in numbers. The bigger the number, the smaller the wires used to construct it are. For instance, 10-gauge wire is bigger and heavier than a 20-gauge wire.
Q: Will I need to pour concrete into the post holes as I put up my wire fence?
A: Pouring concrete footers will increase fence durability, but it’s not always practical for big applications. If stringing chain link fence around a backyard, then use concrete. If fencing in acres of property using barbed wire, pouring footings would not be cost effective.
If not using concrete or attaching fencing to existing trees or posts, use a post-hole digger to ensure the posts are being set deep enough.
Q: Can I electrify my existing barbed wire fence to make it more secure?
A: No. Electrifying a barbed wire fence is never recommended. This is because the barbs can cause animals (horses especially) to become entangled. Even if the shock from an electric fence isn’t lethal, entanglement and repeated shocks could stress animals enough to cause death.
Q: What should I expect in the way of a warranty on my wire fencing materials?
A: Warranties vary between manufacturers, but many types of wire fence, such as vinyl, are usually protected against defects in manufacture. This means that if the fencing begins to blister, rust, chip, peel, or flake due to normal usage, it may be covered.
Exclusions to most warranties include vandalism, improper installation, lack of proper maintenance, misuse, impact, or acts of God, such as damage from tornados or rock slides.
Talk with the fencing dealer, or with a specialist at a local supply store for more information on wire fence warranties.
Q: Do I need a permit to erect a fence on my own property?
A: In many instances, you may need a permit to make exterior improvements to a property, even though you own it. If you live in an urban area, a permit check can be especially important, as erecting your fence without it may lead to hefty fines and the forced removal of the fence.
Call your local building office for more information on obtaining permits for fence-building projects.
Q: What is a slatted fence?
A: Slats can be installed in a chain-link fence to add privacy. They’re typically made of plastic, and they’re woven between the links to prevent passers-by from gazing through your fence.
Q: Why Was Barbed Wire Fencing Invented?
A: If you are a bit of a history buff like me, you like to know the why of things. Plain wire has been around for over 2000 years, but barbed wire fencing, or thorny wire as it was first referred to, was used for boundaries and, most of all, to control cattle.
Lucien Smith is credited with creating the first successful prototypes, but Joseph Glidden made it commercial by emerging victorious from a patent battle for mechanically-produced fencing material. There is a lot of sad history behind barbed wire fencing if you are inclined that way, and Michael Kelly also deserves mention in the history of the thorny fence.
Q: How Are Wire Fences Made?
A: Depending on their use, you can make your own, but most wire fencing is manufactured from steel ingots in big factories for the consumer. For those of you that are good with your hands, here is a Youtube video for review.
Q: Is Wire Fencing Recyclable?
A: Yes, if your wire fencing is made from metal, it can be recycled, like most 100% metal products. Before you recycle it, check whether your scrapyard accepts it and remove any plant or cement material that may have attached itself.
Q: Does Welded Wire Fence Need to Be Stretched?
A: Yes, welded wire fence does need stretching. If the wire is under-stretched, your fence may sag, rendering it almost useless. If it is over-stretched, it could snap during cold weather or when too much force is applied.
Q: What Tool to Use to Cut Wire Fencing?
A: Bolt or wire cutters are used to cut wire fencing. Wire cutters are small tools that you can use with one hand. Bolt cutters are wire cutters on steroids, suitable for big projects and regular wire fence cutting.
Q: Is Barbed Wire Fencing Ok for Horses?
A: Absolutely not! Barbed wire is 100% unsuitable for horses. If you need fencing and it has to be wire, use high tensile smooth wire with visibility tape at the correct height so your horse can see it. A wire mesh fence is another excellent alternative.
Q: Can You Use a Woven Wire Fence for Horses?
A: A woven wire fence or mesh wire fence is ideal for horse paddocks. It is unlikely to cause any harm to your horses like barbed wire, as long as it is correctly installed and marked with visibility tape so that you and your horse can see the wire clearly.
Q: Can You Use a Barbed Wire Fence for Goats?
A: Yes, you can use a barbed wire fence for goats. Goats usually escape by going under a barrier, so two or three strands at the bottom will deter an adventurous goat. It will also add a layer of protection to your goat enclosure by deterring predators.
The correct spacing will depend on your exact requirements and is a vital aspect of using barbed wire for goats and sheep.
Nevertheless, it is essential to check your goat fencing regularly as they will often pull off the most unlikely Houdini escape trick, and if they can’t go under, they will try to push their way free or jump over. And if you find they are regularly hurting themselves on the barbed wire fencing, it is better to remove it and try an alternative like woven fencing.
Q: Is Welded Wire Fence Good for Goats?
A: You can use welded wire fencing for goats, but it is not a very sturdy product. Woven fencing is better if you have escape artists masquerading as goats. The only problem is that welded wire fence is economical, whereas woven fencing can be pricey.
Q: Can You Use Welded Wire Fence for Dogs?
A: Yes, you can use welded wire fences for dogs that are not too boisterous or for kennels. It will really depend on your dog type and why you are using the fencing.
Dogs are unlikely to chew through welded wire fencing, but it is not sturdy, and for larger dogs or dogs that tend to be aggressive, it is not a suitable option, and if it breaks, it can cut your dog.
No matter the size of your dog or your animals, you don’t want them to get hurt trying to get through or running into the fence. It is also worth considering predators. If your fencing is to keep your dogs in and predators out, then robust fencing is a must.
Q: Is Woven Wire Fence Good for Dogs?
A: Yes, a woven wire fence is a good alternative for dogs. It is a strong physical barrier and acts as a solid deterrent visually.
It is perfect for boundaries when your dogs have the run of the yard. Correctly installed and maintained, a woven wire fence will serve you well for years and serve as a safe space for you and your dog.
Q: Is Welded Wire Fence Good for Chickens?
A: Yes, it is an excellent option to keep your chickens in and predators out. An ½ inch welded wire mesh fence is the most commonly used option, and although you can use chicken wire, this is only suitable in areas where there are no predators for your chickens.
If coyotes, foxes, or other chicken hunters are about, the chicken wire won’t cut it, but if it is only eagles you need to worry about, then the chicken wire is good enough.
I recommend using a combination of these wires for an effective enclosure because welded wire fencing can be hard to use in small spaces.