An Honest Contractor Assessment by Mulholland Gates
In this article, we will consider the “pros and cons” of aluminum fence.
It’s pretty frustrating to research a fence project. Seems simple when you begin, but there’s a surprising amount of things to know! “What’s more important, privacy or security?” “How do I know I am getting quality for the money?” “Does it make a difference if I buy from China or from the US?” “What should a homeowner about installers?” Here we will take up, “What material should I use?” This might be the most important question of all.
Hello! I’m Avi Ben David, the owner, and CEO of Mulholland Brand. I’m also in my family’s second generation of being involved in home improvement. I’ve been helping people specifically with fences and gates since 1994. My company has made thousands of gates and fences from all the conventional fence materials. We know what’s good about each one of these material as well as all of the drawbacks. We have hundreds of five-star reviews on Google and Yelp and other review sites that attest to our expertise.
You are in good hands.
In this article, we are going to discuss the pros and cons of aluminum. By the time you get through this article, you’ll have gained a lot of good knowledge about aluminum fencing, and this will be helpful in narrowing down your choices. You’re going to gain the confidence to help make subsequent decisions easier.
Now it’s best to be frank: I am a big advocate for aluminum. Aluminum is the core material that we work within our company. So, I lean in that direction. But, I don’t lean so far as to fall over! I can be objective about choosing fencing material and I’ll do my best to curb my enthusiasm for aluminum.
(Note: for easier reading, I will often use the word “fencing” as an embracing term to mean “gates and fences”.)
While aluminum solutions are amongst some of the newest products on the market, they are quickly becoming the most popular. Today we’ll outline some of the pros and cons of aluminum gates and fencing to help determine if this product is the best option for you and your home.
Aluminum is the most carefree, “get it and forget it” fencing material available. Unlike wood, it does not require re-painting or re-staining every few years. It also cannot rot or become infested with pests. Aluminum is not susceptible to rust like chain-link or wrought iron, so there is no worry of water damage. Plus, aluminum solutions are incredibly easy to clean, only needing a quick rinse with a hose or some warm soap and water for more intensive cleaning.
PRO & CON: Privacy
What? Privacy is a pro and a con? How can that be?
There are two major categories of aluminum fence styles.
The traditional, most well-known aluminum fencing design does not provide much privacy. If you are looking for fencing that will completely block the view of your home from the street, consider more modern, contemporary styles. (We are talking about the ubiquitous “wrought iron look”) Because of this, privacy can often be a con when looking at traditional aluminum fencing designs.
Recently, though, there have been offerings for solid profiles in aluminum fences and gates. This newer style does provide privacy, hence it being a pro as well. Unfortunately, not many people have seen or even heard of this style.
Note that prices go up considerably for privacy fencing such as this, primarily because there is a lot more aluminum in them!
CON: Sometimes Higher “Up Front” Costs
Aluminum is neither the most expensive fencing nor the least expensive. Iit can be that there are higher “upfront costs” if we are comparing it to the lowest cost alternatives.
We’ve compared aluminum fencing to wood fencing in another article on this site. At the time of this writing, we are looking at 4 ft x 8 ft panels of Eastern Cedar fencing for just less than $40 a panel. Contrasted with the very lowest price of aluminum panels of the lowest acceptability of quality for that size would be about $110 a panel. The installation costs for both should be similar.
The trade-off is, of course, by paying the lower amount, you get the property fenced less expensively. In return, there will be time and money spent in upkeep. Upkeep isn’t a problem with aluminum. If not deliberately or accidentally damaged, aluminum fencing can last a lifetime.
So, If you need to go as cheap as possible, then wood picket fencing might be a good fit for you. Get the best you can afford and do your best to maintain it right from the beginning.
Eastern White Cedar is lower maintenance wood and is a good choice for a lower cost fence or gate. There normally isn’t a lot of trouble with it cracking or splitting. The surface sands to a nice smooth finish. This wood doesn’t tend to shrink or expand so much as other soft woods. It is also pretty lightweight, too.
To get the longest life from this material, you will need to prime and paint it or stain and seal. Additionally, periodic treatment, as often as once or twice a year, is required, depending on the climate in your area.
Cedar holds off the weather and insects better than most wood choices and it’s at the lower end in terms of cost for wood picket fencing.
The best you can do with the least expensive wood fencing is to see that it is installed correctly, paint it well, and keep your sprinklers off of it. Then paint or seal it again every year.
If you are tight on money and you are concerned about home security, I think it is often good sense to fence the property as best you can. Commit to maintaining it as you put your finances in order to eventually buy higher quality, lower maintenance fencing.
Low-maintenance fencing is a very new thing. People have been fencing their properties for thousands of years with very high-maintenance materials as that was all that was available.
And inexpensive wood can still be used to make beautiful fencing that helps in keeping you and your family safe. If you need a fence, and the only choice is “least expensive or nothing at all”, get the least expensive and secure your family and property.
Note that there is a wide range of costs for fencing and gates made from any material.
In aluminum, the main variations in cost are from the thickness of the aluminum, the amount of aluminum used, the amount of customization, and the quality of the finish.
In wood fencing, the variations in price are influenced by the species of wood, the grade of the wood, the amount of wood used, the amount of wood used, and the quality of the finish.
The price of steel fencing (popularly known and marketed as “iron fencing”) is primarily influenced by the amount of steel used in the fabrication, and the finish. Steel of even the highest quality is going to rust if not finished well and retouched or repainted often.
Aluminum is the most cost-efficient material regarding metal options, ringing in at much cheaper than steel and many of the wood varieties. Cost-wise, only fencing made from the lesser expensive woods can compete, but then any price advantage is gone when ongoing maintenance costs are factored in, even over a period of just a few years.
See examples of low-cost wood, steel (iron), and aluminum fencing below. Note that in all cases there is sparing use of the fence material.
cheap steel fence
Examples of higher cost wood, steel (iron), and aluminum fencing. Note that in all cases there is more use of the fencing material. This results in a higher cost.
More expensive aluminum
Expensive steel (iron)
CON: For Industrial Uses, Military, or High-Traffic Areas
If you’ve got property on a busy street where the traffic is flying by, steel is often a better choice to protect your property due to its sheer brutal strength.
That’s not always the case, as aluminum can be alloyed with other materials so as to be super strong as well. The US military even made tanks from aluminum alloys.
However, the strongest steel alloy is capable of stopping more lateral force than the strongest aluminum alloy. When you are in heavy industrial, high vehicular areas, needing to defend a government building from attack, etc., Steel will be the more readily available and the less expensive option.
PRO: Stronger material at a lighter weight
Aluminum is about one-third the weight of steel, meaning parts can be made thicker and stronger while still reducing weight in vehicles and other applications. Depending on the alloy and processing technique used, pound for pound aluminum can be forged to be just as strong if not stronger than some steel.
How does this benefit you?
- Lesser cost in transportation due to lower weight.
- Lower weight means less manpower in the installation, and that means lower cost and faster installs.
- The heavier weight of steel and wood fencing and gates means more frequent adjustments are necessary.
PRO & CON: Versatile & Decorative
There are certain things that you can do in wood that you can’t do in aluminum.
We have been able to bring over the look of any steel gate into an aluminum fence or gate. In comparison to steel, I’d say that there is an even match. But wood is a different story.
There are manufacturers who have done very well with using a process called sublimation to very closely copy the look of wood. You can get fencing and gates that look just like wood – even from close up.
But when you touch it, you’ll know the difference. Aluminum doesn’t feel at all like wood.
Two other tiny differences: aluminum does not sound or smell like wood! Rain is a good example of this. When rain hits a wood fence, it’s partly absorbed into the wood, and partly deflected by it. This makes for a softer sound. When rain hits an aluminum fence, none of it is absorbed. It’s going to make a different sound. It will “ping”! (With wood it will “pong”!)
Someone actually made a video for Youtube called: “Calming Rain Hitting Aluminum Roof to Help Sleep”. Sounds nice enough to me!
I think for the city and small-town people, aluminum gives you all the diversity you could want in terms of style.
But if you are a rural person, there’s a lot to be said for the sight, sound, and smell of a wood fence. Ask any cowboy!
When it comes to gates and fencing, security is the number one priority that comes to mind, but that doesn’t mean there needs to be a sacrifice of your own personal style.
Many materials, such as iron and wood, can only be customized to a certain point due to their rigid materials.
Fence manufacturers can’t customize wood or iron to the extent that we can customize aluminum. Aluminum is highly malleable during the production process. Fabricators can create a wide variety of unique designs using aluminum.
Aluminum can also be made to replicate wood staining, finished with any color, and be embedded with glass for an even more unique look. Almost any design imaginable can be replicated with an aluminum solution.
PRO: Adaptable, Easy Installation
Aluminum installations are generally the easiest and most simple to accomplish due to the material’s light weight.
Contractors install aluminum fencing more quickly than wood or steel fencing. Less experienced installers have a much easier time installing aluminum/
Do you have a sloped property? Then aluminum is the best material. There are styles that are especially useful on sloped properties where the incline of the fence can be adjusted to give a smooth appearance.
PRO: Environmentally Friendly
Since aluminum is extremely durable and requires no maintenance, we can make aluminum fence and gates from recycled components, allowing you to have a cleaner impact on the planet.
Overall, aluminum solutions have many great benefits to fit any home or need.
So, that’s the way I’ve seen it in my experience: aluminum has got a lot more that is “right” about it than it has that is “wrong” about it. And those things that it’s got “wrong” won’t be for most people any real big deal.
Aluminum is an excellent fence material due to its low-maintenance. Particularly in traditional styles, your “up-front” cost for deciding to get an aluminum fence installation is lower than or competitive to wood and steel. Aluminum is lightweight and has a high strength-to-weight ratio; that makes it generally easier to install than wood or steel. Due to this, they also are less likely to need adjustments later on. You can get aluminum fences and gates in all sorts of styles, colors, grades, and textures.
Aluminum fence material is typically between 85-95% recycled post-consumer waste. We are not impacting the environment nearly as much as if we chose to work with wood.
Aluminum may not be the choice for you if you are on the tiniest of budgets. In that situation, the best choice for you to start with is wood. Just know that you’ve got to keep an eye on it and you have to be willing to do the work to keep it from deteriorating away. You might also prefer wood if you are a completely rustic setting and want everything to be in keeping with that, and you even want that sound of wood as the rain falls on it.
Also, if you are wanting to fence property that potentially has to be able to stand up to attack or a tremendous amount of force, steel may be the better option.
We install fences and gates made from all the usual materials. Aluminum is excellent for a lot of people, particularly people who don’t want to be bothered with upkeep. But there are benefits with wood and steel, and we know some people who really love keeping things up around the home.
What’s the right material for you? If you still have questions, we are always happy to help. Give us a call at (818) 639-3820, or complete this form and one of our team members will be happy to provide more answers. We look forward to hearing from you!