By far, we get asked this question most by people shopping for fence and gates is:
Which one is better – Iron or Aluminum fence and gates?
We go though the most common scenarios and questions to show where iron trumps aluminum, aluminum trumps iron and where they are a draw.
We’ve all read these comparison articles and if you’re like me, you jump right to the end to see who the winner is. Before you go scrolling down I do want to point out that there is not one clear ‘better’ choice. When deciding between iron and aluminum fence, its really going to come down to your preferences and project needs rather than one material being superior to the other. However, knowing the where one material outshines the other will help you decide which is best for your specific project.
To compare iron and aluminum fence, we went with the 7 main factors that come up in conversation with customers as well as the questions often asked about:
- Looks/ Appearance
- Fence Finish
- Strength and Durability
- Ease of Installation
Let’s go through each of these 7 areas and compare iron and aluminum fence to each other to see who reigns supreme in each.
1 – Looks/ Appearance
We get a lot of folks that come to us with pre-conceived notions of one fence material looking nicer than the other. Especially with thinking aluminum fence always looks cheap and flimsy. While we would normally agree with that notion, we built our Infinity Aluminum® line to look like a wrought iron fence instead of taking the cheap approach like our competitors.
If you compare our Stronghold Iron® and Infinity Aluminum ® fences and gates to each other, both look very nice and are pretty similar looking.
- Both have solid, welded-on sand-cast finials
- Both feature punched rails that the pickets are fed through
- Both have similar sized components in each grade
The only real appearance difference is that the aluminum pieces have a slightly taller rail face and the pickets are screwed to the rail. The iron pickets are welded to the rail and have a lower profile rail so we can get the weld underneath. So where you will have a screw head on one side of the rail in aluminum, your iron panels will look the same from either side.
Given the similarities in looks, I’m going to declare:
Best Fence Material for Looks and Appearance – DRAW
2 – Maintenance
One of the biggest maintenance concerns we hear from folks is dealing with rusting on iron and aluminum fences.
We’ll start with aluminum. Our Infinity Aluminum fences and gates cannot rust. If you scrape the finish down to bare metal on an aluminum fence and leave it exposed, it will not rust and spread like it does on steel and iron. Even though aluminum cannot rust, we suggest the same maintenance for it as iron. Inspect your fence and gates every year for any scrapes or scuffs and touch them up.
While our Infinity Aluminum cannot rust, I don’t want to give you the impression that our Stronghold Iron fencing and gates will rust and need re-painting all the time either. We go the extra mile to protect our iron fence and gates from rusting with by hot-dipped galvanizing the bare metal with a protective zinc coating before we apply the final powder coat finish. Our iron fence finish is also part of our 25yr warranty for our Stronghold Iron® line of products.
I tell folks that our iron products should be thought of in the same manor as the hood of your car. If you get a rock chip in your car hood to bare metal, it will rust. However, if you touch it up before it spreads too far, there is no long-term harm. Our iron fence and gates are the same way. If you scrape or scuff them to bare metal, just be sure to touch them up. A little rust will not hurt the fence and it would take decades of neglect to actually compromise the iron fence or gate.
However, since the iron products can rust if the finish is compromised beyond the protective galvanization and powder coating whereas the aluminum does not, I’m going to declare:
Best Fence Material for Maintenance – ALUMINUM
3 – Fence Finish
Folks sometimes think that different fence materials means a different finish. However, both our iron and aluminum pieces are powder coated with the same high-quality TGIC satin black top finish coat. Our TGIC powder coat resists cracking and spider-webbing, is extremely durable and contains UV fade inhibitors to keep it from graying or chalking out. Its applied in 2.5mil uniform thickness on both materials.
Since both our iron and aluminum pieces use the same high-quality powder coat finish in the same thickness, I’m going to declare:
Best Fence Material for Finish – DRAW
4 – Strength and Durability
There’s not a whole lot of detail to go into on this one. Hands down, the iron pieces are much stronger, durable and heavy-duty than their aluminum counterparts. The properties that make aluminum lighter and rust-free also make them easier to bend or break than steel and iron. To give you some perspective between the two, a 6×8 Signature Grade fence panel in iron weighs about 120 lbs whereas its aluminum counterpart only weighs about 40 lbs. There’s just more beef in the iron pieces.
Now this isn’t to say that aluminum fence and gates are weak pieces that bend at the slightest pressure. They do possess a lot of strength and durability, but when push comes to shove and pressures are applied, the iron pieces will hold out much longer before bending than the aluminum ones. So for that reason, I’m going to declare:
Best Fence Material for Finish – IRON
5 – Ease of Installation
If you have seen some of our other videos or read our installation guides, you know that our iron and aluminum fences install a little differently form each other. Our iron panels are hung between the posts with brackets, whereas the aluminum fence panel rails fit inside punched holes on the post.
So with iron you set your posts and wait for them to dry before hanging the fence.
With aluminum, you are installing the fence panels into the posts as you set them.
Other than that, the installation process is identical. Walk gates and driveway gate follow the same installation process regardless of them being iron or aluminum.
Since the installation process only differs slightly and requires essentially the same tools, I’m going to declare:
Best Fence Material for Ease of Installation – DRAW
6 – Versatility
In regards to versatility, I am looking at what one material can do that the other cannot. As I previously mentioned, our iron fence panels are welded solid where the picket and railing intersect whereas the aluminum panels are connected by a screw.
With the screw connection on the aluminum fence panels, it allows them to pivot slightly. This is referred to as ‘racking the panel’ on an aluminum fence. Doing this allows you to angle the railing, but keep the pickets upright when following a grade or slope in your yard. Since iron is welded solid, it cannot do this.
Our iron fence panels can follow yard grade as well, but its achieved by ‘stair-stepping’ the panels to follow the hill. It doesn’t take much, but requires a little more effort in the planning and installation process. While there are some iron/ steel fence products on the market that rack like aluminum, they are often put together more cheaply and the racking often creates a rust point under each picket at the rail connection.
With aluminum fence being able to follow yard grade or slope right out of the box without any special considerations, I’m going to declare:
Best Fence Material for Versatility – ALUMINUM
7 – Security
Chances are if you are buying a fence or gate, security is a concern. That may be security in keeping something in or security in keeping something out.
The construction and installation differences between iron and aluminum are what will declare a winner on this one.
Where the screwed together aluminum fence panels are a benefit for versatility, they are a detractor for security. If someone came up with a screwdriver or cordless drill, they could undo the screws on several of the pickets and simply lift them out of the rails to gain access past the fence.
The picket-to-rail connections on the iron pieces are welded solid. So an iron fence panel is an all-welded single fence panel piece than cannot be taken apart like the aluminum fence panel can be.
In a standard iron fence installation, the bracket screws could be backed out of the post and the fence panel could be removed. However, if security is the primary reason for the fence, you have some additional options with iron that you don’t have with aluminum to make the fence more secure.
With iron you could put a small tack weld on the head of the self-tapping screw to the bracket so it cannot be backed off. You can also replace the bracket screws with a tamper-proof screw that cannot be removed without a special tool.
Lastly, with the shape of the iron fence rails and thicker nature of the iron pieces, you could forgo the brackets and actually weld the iron fence panels directly to the post.
Given the additional strength of an iron fence and the different security enhancing options, I’m going to declare:
Best Fence Material for Security – IRON
So let’s recap where each material landed. Out of 7 possible areas, Aluminum came out on top for Maintenance and Versatility. Iron came out on top for Strength and Security. The other 3 areas of Looks/ Appearance, Ease of Installation and Fence Finish all came out as a draw.
So all in all, there is not one clear ‘better’ material between iron and aluminum fences that trump all categories over the other. And keep in mind that if one outshines the other in an area, it doesn’t mean the other is a poor choice. If you need a strong fence, you shouldn’t shy away from aluminum. If you are worried about maintenance, you shouldn’t shy away from iron.
We make both our iron and aluminum fences to handle a variety of applications. Iron just outshines aluminum in some ways the same as aluminum outshines iron in other ways. The best way to choose which is best for your project is to look at this list and see if more of your preferences fall in line with one material’s strengths more than the other.
Still not sure which fence material is best for your project? Give us a call at 800-261-2729 or shoot an email to [email protected] with your project needs and we can help guide you to which fence material would best suite your wants and needs.