That aluminum is too weak for fences and gates is a myth.
However, truth gives this myth its power.
In the past, the easy-to-afford aluminum fences and gates were too weak for ordinary use. You had to pay more to get quality. Better technology has brought about higher strength at a lesser cost, and, now, we can purchase very strong aluminum gates and fences at a cost that is competitive to the other fencing materials.
(For the rest of this article I will refer to “gates” and “fences” primarily as “fencing”. One definition of fencing allows for this categorizing.)
Innovators Introduced Aluminum Fencing to compete for low-maintenance
People manufactured aluminum fencing to compete with wood fencing and iron fencing. Both wood and iron need constant upkeep to keep them looking attractive. Fencing manufacturers thought aluminum would be a perfect solution to that problem. Aluminum withstands corrosion while wood deteriorates and iron rusts.
When aluminum first became available for fencing, it was an excellent building material. However, it was expensive. There was a wide range of aluminum alloys and gauges of excellent quality.
On the high end of quality, aluminum was very expensive. At the low-end, the alloys and gauges were too weak, but lower in cost. All throughout this spectrum, the corrosion-resistant aspect remained constant. The key difference between excellent quality and poor quality wasn’t the corrosion factor, it was the thickness of the aluminum that was used.
Customers at the time thought they could get by with the cheaper versions and still enjoy the low-maintenance aspect of them. They figured they’d just be careful with the fencing and get by with the lower quality. Aluminum fencing salespeople weren’t fully aware of their less expensive product lines’ drawbacks. They agreed with the client to get the sale made.
You can still find neighborhoods where homeowners installed this early aluminum fencing. When you find this lower quality aluminum fencing still looking good, it means that there are homeowners being vigilant in keeping these maintained.
But there are many other properties where this fencing was a failure. It was beautiful to look at, but you couldn’t look at it too hard! (Well, not that bad, but close!)
Gates and Fences Need to Be Strong Enough. No Pushovers!
You couldn’t climb on, or lean against this fencing, at least for very long, or it would break under the strain. So this wasn’t good if you had kids playing in the yard. (And there were lots of families with kids in those days!) You couldn’t lean anything against them that was at all heavy. They also did not work out too well with bigger dogs!
Also, it didn’t take much effort at all to mess them up – they were too easy a target for vandals.
Aluminum fence contractors sold a lot of this fencing in the seventies and the eighties, and that is the basis of this “myth”!
A Cultural Shift to Quality
We can’t place the time exactly, but to us here at Mulholland, there seemed to be a culture shift in our world in the nineties. We saw that quality was becoming the thing most desired amongst our clientele, out ahead of price. Perhaps the huge influx of cheap materials coming from other countries finally came to a crisis point. More and more people were looking for quality as the most important thing.
And that brings us back to aluminum. Over the last fifty years, there have been tremendous advances in aluminum and recycling of aluminum. Experts now estimate that over eighty percent of all aluminum alloy ever created is still in use.
It is important to understand that aluminum keeps all of its positive characteristics regardless of how many times they recycle it. Aluminum does not degrade in the recycling process, and science has improved the recycling process to become more efficient.
Because of this, the industry needs to mine and process much less new aluminum in to keep up with demand.
As a result, aluminum stays level or lower in cost. This is in contrast to steel, which degrades with every recycling. Because of this, the steel industry always needs to mine more raw materials to keep up with the demand for more steel – and this is expensive!
There’s No Reason to Buy a Cheap Aluminum Fence or Gate
The result of all this is that the myth is over. Now you get, at competitive prices, aluminum gates and fencing that is greater in strength compared to their wood or iron competitors. Not just strength, but many other advantages, the most important of which is their durability. Because of their phenomenally low corrosion resistance, they can look and function wonderfully for generations, not just years.
So, there you have it. In years past, the aluminum ordinarily in use in American homes was too weak for the job. That became a myth.
It’s now true that people have changed so they want higher quality, and aluminum has changed to give that to them. And that’s not a myth, that’s the truth.