When it comes to home fences, a lot of people still think automatically of white picket fences. These are the quintessential fences of the American Dream and featured prominently on TV for years. Of course, a fence can serve many purposes.
You may want a fence as a way to secure pets. For some, fences serve as a security measure. Others may install a fence for privacy or because it may even improve your home’s value.
These kinds of considerations will play a role in your choice between metal and wood fence posts. Keep reading for some of the other factors that will affect your decision.
When you add any significant feature to your home, you typically do it with an eye toward the long-term. So how do wooden and metal posts stack up in the lifespan department?
Wood – Con
Wood doesn’t fare well on the lifespan front. As an organic material, it’s susceptible to rot and attack by insects. Some untreated fence posts will only last a few years before you must replace them.
Treated wood fence posts and a few varieties of rot and pest-resistant woods last longer. Yet, even these will typically start breaking down after ten or fifteen years.
On the upside, you typically find people who offer wooden fence repairs in most communities.
Metal – Pro
Metal fence posts do much better in terms of lifespan. Your typical steel or aluminum fence post will last 25 years or more assuming no abnormal wear and tear.
When it comes to picking between types of fence posts, durability may or may not prove a major factor for you. If you want a decorative fence, durability may matter less. If it’s an added security measure, durability will matter more.
Wood – Neutral
Wood offers fair durability for most applications. For example, most pets and children cannot push a properly seated wooden post out of the ground. Wooden posts can also withstand a lot of normal wear and tear, such as normal wind and low-speed impacts.
If you live somewhere where high-speed winds are common, think tornado winds in the Midwest, wooden fence posts cannot normally withstand that kind of abuse. They’ll likely snap off.
Metal – Pro
Metal posts tend to show much better performance in the durability department. With proper care, they stand up well to most of what nature can throw at them. They also provide better impact resistance, depending on the material.
Steel fence posts will typically outperform aluminum fence posts for durability.
A fence for your home is a different animal than a fence for a pasture or around a business. You must consider the appearance, as well as the durability or lifespan. Your homeowner association may even maintain rules about fencing materials.
Wood – Pro
When it comes to appearance, wood enjoys a huge advantage. Wood is an incredibly versatile material. That means you can wooden fence posts in a wide variety of design options.
Beyond that, many people find the grain pattern in wood a naturally attractive material. You can stain or paint wood to achieve a particular look that matches your home.
If you live somewhere that everyone has a fence, odds are good that you can find wooden fence posts that match the ones in your neighborhood with relative ease.
Metal – Con
In theory, metal is also a versatile material. Unfortunately, the realities of mass production mean that metal fence posts come in a small range of styles. You can typically get either round or square fence posts.
You may see other shapes for metal fence posts, but those posts typically come as part of a fencing system. It’s much less common to find them for sale individually or as a pack at a hardware store.
Most homeowners must also consider the overall cost of their fencing options. That becomes even more true if your home includes a large front or back lawn.
Wood – Pro
Wood also provides an upfront advantage in terms of cost. Wood fence posts cost substantially less than metal alternatives.
The tradeoff you make here is with replacement. You will need an all-new wooden fence much sooner than you’ll need a new metal fence. Of course, if you plan on moving within five or ten years, that may become the next owner’s problem.
Metal – Con
Metal fence posts cost more by themselves, but it’s not just the per post cost. Metal posts also require post caps and hangers for rails. That drives the cost up even more.
That higher initial cost does come with the benefit of longevity. Odds are good that you won’t end up footing the bill for it. For cash-strapped homeowners or those who mean to sell within ten years, that may not mean much.
Another consideration with any big addition to your home is the maintenance involved. For most homeowners, the more maintenance involved, the less attractive an option becomes.
Wood – Neutral
Wooden fences demand a fair amount of maintenance. You’ll likely end up putting on fresh coats of paint, stain, or sealant every few years to preserve the wood.
On the plus side, though, you can typically repair wooden fences yourself with basic power tools.
Metal – Neutral
Metal fences don’t need much maintenance beyond some fresh paint if it starts wearing away. The downside of metal fence posts is that you typically can’t replace them yourself. It almost always requires a professional.
How to Choose: Metal vs Wood Fence Posts
When it comes to how to choose fence posts, there is no clear winner in the metal vs wood fence posts debate. Wooden fence posts offer advantages in terms of cost and appearance. Metal fence posts offer benefits in terms of lifespan and durability.
Both offer advantages and disadvantages in the maintenance department. That means you must base your decision on the factors that matter most for your situation, any relevant HOA rules, and budget.
Looking for more tips for your home? Check out our Home and Garden section for more articles.