Galvanized Vs. Aluminized Vs. Vinyl-Coated: Which Is The Best Material To Choose For Your Chain-Link Fence?

Although it can be done, making a chain-link fence entirely out of aluminum or stainless steel is prohibitively expensive in most cases. Carbon steel is used instead due to its low cost. The immediate problem with using carbon steel in an outdoor environment, however, is that it's very susceptible to rust.

Carbon steel needs to be protected from the elements in order to prevent rapid corrosion, and there are a few ways that manufacturers accomplish this—the carbon steel can either be galvanized, aluminized or coated in polyvinyl chloride. What's the difference? If you're installing a chain-link fence on your property, read on to find out how each type of fence is manufactured and which will be best for your needs.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel chain-link fences are the most common type of chain-link fencing, owing to its low cost. These fences are manufactured using the hot-dip galvanization process, in which the carbon steel wire is immersed in molten zinc. The zinc forms an alloy with the carbon steel, which creates a protective layer over it.

Zinc reacts with moisture in the air to form zinc oxide, which protects the carbon steel underneath from rusting. Over time, however, the zinc layer can be worn away. Rain and debris blown by the wind or branches that scrape against the fence slowly erode the zinc layer, exposing the carbon steel underneath to moisture. Eventually, the fence will begin to rust.

Aluminized Steel

Aluminized steel chain-link fencing is manufactured in a similar way to fences made from galvanized steel. Instead of using molten zinc, the carbon steel wire is immersed in molten aluminum instead. The process creates a layer of aluminum over the carbon steel, and aluminum is resistant to corrosion—the carbon steel underneath won't rust when it's exposed to moisture.

Aluminum is slightly more durable than zinc, which makes aluminized chain-link fencing more suitable for applications where the fence needs to withstand impacts, such as in a playground or in a dog kennel.

Vinyl-Coated Steel

The process of manufacturing vinyl-coated chain-link fencing first starts with creating normal galvanized chain-link fencing. After the carbon steel wire is galvanized, a layer of polyvinyl chloride is applied to it in order to increase its resistance to the elements. The PVC can either be bonded to the steel wire using an adhesive or permanently fused to it by subjecting the wire to extremely high temperatures.

PVC provides an additional layer of protection to the zinc that has formed an alloy with the steel during the hot-dip galvanization process, which prevents it from being worn away by impacts and helps the fence maintain its resistance against corrosion.

Which Is the Best Material for Your Chain-Link Fence?

In practice, there's surprisingly little difference in durability between all three types of chain-link fence materials. You can expect all of them to last over a decade before the underlying carbon steel begins to rust due to rain and moisture in the air. Vinyl chain-link fencing is the most durable due to the additional protection that PVC provides, but the additional manufacturing step required makes it slightly more expensive.

The most important consideration is color. Vinyl chain-link fencing is available in numerous colors—dyes can be added to the PVC that's used to manufacture them. Brown, green, and black are the colors most commonly used, as they help the chain-link fence blend into the landscape. However, other colors such as blue, red, and yellow are also available from some manufacturers, and these colors can create contrast in the landscape or make a playground appear more fun and exciting.

Ultimately, your choice of chain-link fencing material comes down to whether or not you want a colorful fence. If the natural metallic color of galvanized or aluminized steel is acceptable, you may as well save money by choosing one of those options. Regardless of the material you choose, you can be assured that your chain-link fence will be durable and nearly maintenance-free, as all of them resist corrosion and withstand chipping and peeling from minor impacts. 

Contact a company like Butte Fence for more information.