Whether you’re a homesteader, a rancher, or a suburban dweller, good fences make good neighbors, and 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 wire fencing — the type of fence that is almost always used to contain something, such as:
- 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 plays 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 from the 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, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of everything that’s available to help you choose. Here’s what you need to know before deciding which type of wire fencing is right for you.
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Related: Fence Designs
Wire Fence Construction
When it comes to how to wire fencing is constructed, there are several types available: welded wire, woven wire, barbed wire, and electric fencing. Each has its own benefits and disadvantages. Each is also better for certain uses than the other. Wire fence construction is an important consideration in choosing the right type of fencing for your 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 to form strong sheets of fencing that featureless give and less flexibility than traditional woven versions.
Popular Uses for Welded Wire Fencing
Welded wire fencing tends to have more decorative applications than woven wire, but it can also be constructed of industrial-strength material. This makes it a prime material 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 fencing, alternatively, is produced by weaving pieces of wire into various configurations. Chain-link is a popular example of woven wire fencing. Woven fencing features a loose structure that stretches and bends with great flexibility. Because the strands are all interwoven, however, 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 is probably the most popular form of woven fencing. This is the fence commonly seen around playgrounds, fenced-in backyards, and commercial areas. A tool called a fence-stretcher is needed to string the chain link fence properly. For this reason, adding chain link fencing to your property may take considerable investment. A chain-link fence that’s installed without the use of a fence-stretcher will sag along sections of the fence, making for an unattractive install and poor function.
Barbed Wire Fencing
Barbed wire is made of steel and is mostly used for keeping cattle and livestock contained. It’s a type of twisted wire that’s different from a traditional woven wire in that the strands are twined together instead of inter-joined with one another. At regular intervals along a length of barbed wire, barbs are formed. Hence the name. Animals that attempt to break through the barbed wire are discouraged by the pointy barbs that cause pain.
Popular Uses for Barbed Wire Fencing
Barbed wire has several 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 pest
- 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 wire in place. Almost anyone can install a barbed-wire fence, which is part of why it’s so popular among farmers and homesteaders today. A simple staple gun and some heavy-duty gloves are all that’s needed to string barbed wire fencing. The wire is stapled to the first post and then pulled tight before being stapled to the next post. Barbed-wire fences are economical because professional installation isn’t usually necessary. They’re also quite functional at keeping cattle contained.
A barbed-wire fence may consist of a single or multiple strands of wire. It may also be combined with other types of fencing, such as wood rails or chain link to help fortify the strength of the fence and to help 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. This type of wire causes cuts and injuries not unlike a razor when it contacts skin.
An electrified fence is usually made from thin steel or aluminum. It’s designed to give trespassers a shock when encountered. Electrified fences used for agricultural purposes deliver just enough voltage to be uncomfortable. Electrified fence used in other applications, such as for commercial or industrial, 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 today outside of some prisons or military installations. When it is used, it’s usually barricaded from accidental exposure by placing it behind another type of fencing that’s non-lethal or by stringing it high atop walls or barricades where it can only be reached by intentional means.
Popular Uses for Electrified Fencing
Most of today’s electrified fencing is used for agricultural purposes. It’s installed to contain animals such as horses, sheep, or poultry. One time touching an electrified fence and 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 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 moisture. It’s also a good conductor of electricity and is sometimes used in the making of electric fencing as a result.
Steel wire is heavy, durable, and considered one of the best investments you can make in fencing. Costing more at the onset, stainless steel wire is naturally resistant to corrosion and is even suitable for saltwater applications. Stainless steel needs no galvanization and last longs than products that have been galvanized before weld or weave. This type of fencing is extremely strong and not prone to rust.
Poly wire is used in the making of the electrified fence where visibility is needed. Brightly colored fiber strands are twisted with conductive wire which can then be electrified. Poly wire doesn’t rust, and it’s a better choice for the containment of valuable livestock such as horses. If an animal panics and becomes entangled in poly wire, there’s less chance for severe injury such as wounds.
Wire Fence Coating
There are several materials used to coat wire fencing. Each has different applications. The wire that’s used to surround a landfill, for instance, doesn’t need to be as aesthetically appealing or as safe as the one used to enclose a playground or a backyard. Coatings are often the deciding factor in which type of fencing goes where.
GBW — galvanized before the weld or weave
Galvanized wire is one that has been treated with a protective coating, such as zinc. This makes it more resistant to rust and deterioration. A wire that is galvanized before it’s welded or woven to other strands of wire is called GBW or galvanized before weave. In the case of welded wire, the welding causes parts of the galvanization to be burned away, creating 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. It may cost more at the onset, but it won’t require as much repair over time. GAW wire has been welded or woven before it’s dipped into a protective coating of zinc. There are no spots left uncovered and no spots burned away. GAW wire is more durable for outside applications where fencing will be exposed to extremes of weather.
VC — vinyl-coated welded or woven
Vinyl-coated wire fencing comes standard in black or green. It is fencing to which a vinyl covering has been applied after welding or weaving. Vinyl-coated fence looks nice and lasts a long time because the wire is protected by galvanized coating and vinyl. This type of fencing is often installed around yards to contain pets, or around playgrounds and pools to protect children. It may also be used in the making of animal and lobster traps and 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 fencing against moisture and corrosion.
E-coating, or electroplating, is sometimes layered beneath powder coat to help strengthen wire fencing against corrosion. To electroplate wire, it’s dipped into paint, and then electrically charged. This creates a chemical reaction that helps strengthen the coating.
You can purchase all of these types of wire fencing 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.
When 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’s a type of fence available that’s the best fit for the job. Use the tips listed here to help you pick the one that’s going to perform the best for your individual application.
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 and will give you solid estimates of how many reels of wire, how many posts, and how many braces you’ll need to construct your dream fence. They’re free to use, and they calculate your materials based upon the perimeter size of your fence. Aside from this, talking with your local supplier or fence contractor will also give you a finite idea of how much fencing you’ll need to buy 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) gives 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?
Gauge describes the diameter of the wire in numbers. The bigger the number, the smaller the wires used to construct it. 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 give your fence durability, but it’s not always practical for big applications. If you’re stringing chain link fence around your backyard, then yes. Use concrete. If you’re fencing in acres of property using barbed wire, pouring footings would be cost-ineffective. If you’re not using concrete or attaching fencing to existing trees or posts, use a post-hole digger to ensure you’re setting the posts 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 because the barbs can cause animals (horses especially) to become entangled. Even though the shock from your 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 will vary between manufacturers, but many types of wire fence, such as vinyl, are usually protected against defects in manufacture. This could mean that if your fencing begins to blister, rust, chip, peel, or flake due to normal usage, you 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 your fencing dealer, or with a specialist at your 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 will need a permit to make exterior improvements to the property, even though you’re the owner. If you live in an urban area, a permit check is especially important, as erecting your fence without it may lead to hefty fines and the forced removal of your 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.