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What's Better? Metal or Wood?


z-axis2010's Avatar
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01-24-07, 09:55 AM   #1 (permalink)  
What's Better? Metal or Wood?

I'm about to replace a six foot privacy fence around my back yard with the same. Should I go with metal or 4X4 treated post? And should I use concrete for the wood option? My grandfather said contrete causes the post to rot out quicker where the wood enters the concrete because it doesn't allow water escape. Papa isn't around to ask these questions anymore so hopefully you guys (or girls) can help me. Any advise much appreciated! Thanks, Greg

 
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01-26-07, 04:22 PM   #2 (permalink)  
Most folks prefer the look of wood, and wood you can change or easily add to.

In my climate, the banana slugs can't keep down the moss and mildew or the woodbugs - when the woodbugs aren't drowned, that is. Yet we *can* build untreated wood fences to last 30 years or more looking good.

Don't let wood touch earth. Use concrete footings with embedded brackets - long "H"-shape powder coated or heavily galvanized brackets that support the posts against lateral load - not the stubby brackets good only for vertical loads. The concrete should rise a bit higher than you can imagine gardeners raising the soil over decades.

This might be a good time to pour a low retaining wall - the brackets would set on top and obviously be rock-solid, forever.

Repairing such a fence is easy, as it's wood and no digging is required.

We prefer raw unpainted cedar, on the coast. It requires no preservative and the bugs rather pass on it. I usually get "full-rough" cedar - that is, a 4x4 really is about 4"x4"; it's only been through the mill once so costs no more and lasts longer due to bulk. Find the brackets first before deciding on a lumber size.

I think in Texas such a fence will last a century.

 
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01-26-07, 05:07 PM   #3 (permalink)  
Our Colorado snows and UV rays are murder on wood, although it looks better. We've had two trim boards fall off our 5 year old chainlink dog run due to wood rot and splitting, but the 6x6 posts are holding strong. In TX I would think your biggest concerns are torrential downpours, high winds (tornadoes), flooding, and heat. An all-metal fence will be hotter than the blazes in mid-summer, while wood will be cooler to the touch. My dad's neighbors have a wood privacy fence that seems to hold up well, but it's buffered from the elements by trees.

As far as concrete issues goes, Dad's fence in Ft Worth is stone held together with a concrete mortar (at least 40 years old) and there has never been a problem or repair, even though part of the fence sits in water when there is a frog-squasher downpour and half the fence holds back four feet (tall) of dirt.

 
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01-26-07, 10:24 PM   #4 (permalink)  
z-axis2010,

I'm going to throw in a THIRD option for your posts -- slump block posts.

12-6-12 concrete column blocks surrounding a steel pipe or rebar set in a concrete footing, and then fill the column with concrete. It won't rot, termites won't touch it, and as long as the footing is deep enough, it'll never fall over. Install bolts about 12" up from the bottom and about 12" down from the top as you are building each column so that you can attach wood panels to them. You'll replace the wood panels every 20 years or so, but the posts will outlast your grandkids!!!

 
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01-26-07, 10:41 PM   #5 (permalink)  
Have you checked out the PVC fence.? They work real good and your done with it . Its ok for the UV

 
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01-26-07, 11:00 PM   #6 (permalink)  
Notice how "better"

wearing,

affordability,

appearance, and

expedience,

yield different answers.

 
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01-27-07, 05:13 PM   #7 (permalink)  
Of course, Kobuchi. But we try to cover ALL the bases here!

The price difference between a wood 4 X 4 post and a metal 1-7/8" or 2-3/8" steel post is virtually nothing. The life span of the steel is going to be 5 to 8 times (maybe more) of the wood. One is as quick as the other. Therefore, the steel wins hands down, given the choice simply between those two.

Throwing in the slump block colums adds to the life span, but it also adds to the cost. I've got about 20 of them around my back yard, and no, they aren't cheap. Neither are they fast to install. There's a lot of drying time involved.

Vinyl is certainly a good option. I've seen brand new vinyl fences added to 10 year old vinyl fences, and you can't tell the difference. And there are some attractive options available with it. (My 12' wide gates in front of my trailer are tan vinyl frames with stained cedarcrest solid panels, and a privacy lattice top panel. The local vinyl supplier took pictures of them for his next batch of brochures.)

 
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01-30-07, 12:08 PM   #8 (permalink)  
Wood or Metal.

My subdivision restrictions will only allow me to build the fence with metal or wood post and 1"X 4" X 6' cedar pickets. So PVC and brick, rock, or concrete columns are out. And considering the cost and time to build columns, I think I prefer the less expensive and quicker way. I'm going to check into Kobuchi's idea of using "full-rough" cedar 4 X 4's. Depending on what I find, that maybe the way I go.
Thanks, Greg

 
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01-31-07, 10:20 PM   #9 (permalink)  
z-axis2010,

OK -- your POA or CC&R's say that you can only have wood or metal posts. That rules out the block and rock posts. But go back and read again what I have said in this thread. The cost differance between a wood and a metal post is virtually nothing. The LIFE SPAN of a metal post is 5 to 10 times that of a wood post.

It's really not how much you pay, it's HOW OFTEN YOU PAY IT, an how often do you want to be out there replacing that post!!

 
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02-01-07, 12:47 PM   #10 (permalink)  
Given these are your only choices, I'd go metal to increase the time before you have to mess with it again.

 
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02-02-07, 09:34 AM   #11 (permalink)  
Check out "Oz Post". They give the best of both worlds and are very easy to install. I personally don't like the looks of steel post with a wood fence. These post last as long as a steel post, but let you use wood post if that is what you want.

 
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02-02-07, 10:40 AM   #12 (permalink)  
The Oz Post is very cool. I just wonder how tough it would be to drive them in straight. The ground around my house is very rocky, and the rock starts close to the surface. But since I have to rent a jack hammer anyway, it might be worth a shot at the oz post if I can manage to just buy one instead of a box of six, like the web site says that how their sold.
So going back to wood vs. metal.... It seems metal wins considering my limited choices. Plus, I haven't had much luck finding "full-rough" cedar in my area.

 
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02-02-07, 12:06 PM   #13 (permalink)  
What's Better? Metal or Wood?

In reality, the oz post is a lower strength post support that can be removed. Once it is installed(driven) you are stuck with the alignment, while a dug post support can be adjusted below the final installation.

Going 30" deep with a point (small area) is not anywhere near the stability provided by a wider surface provided by other methods. Having a wider area in the upper foot of soil is meaningless, since this area has the least strength and contributes little to lateral strength and alignment, especially with saturated surface soils.

Looks fast and easy so it should be a big item for realtors signs. Even a wood post in a dug hole is superior such a lightweight temporary system.

Dick

 
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02-02-07, 02:25 PM   #14 (permalink)  
Good Point

I was concerned about the alignment. And Concretemasonry has a good point about the point of the oz post not providing stability. Last thing I want is to build it and the first good wind makes it lean.
The idea of driving a giant metal stake in the ground with a jack hammer kinda excited me.

 
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02-04-07, 09:44 AM   #15 (permalink)  
Posted By: z-axis2010 The Oz Post is very cool. I just wonder how tough it would be to drive them in straight. The ground around my house is very rocky, and the rock starts close to the surface. But since I have to rent a jack hammer anyway, it might be worth a shot at the oz post if I can manage to just buy one instead of a box of six, like the web site says that how their sold.
So going back to wood vs. metal.... It seems metal wins considering my limited choices. Plus, I haven't had much luck finding "full-rough" cedar in my area.
The reason I looked for and used the Oz post is because I have extremly rocky soil.

I called the dealer in Dallas and explained my situation and he said Oz post would hammer right through any rock, and it did. I had to install 28 post in wooded area and in very rocky soil. A tractor wasn't going to fit with all the trees. I was not looking forward to digging holes, so I decided to give these a try. Well four hours later all 28 post were set. And the only reason it took four hours is because we hit a lot of rock. The post that didn't hit rock took about 45 seconds to set. The others took longer to bust through the rock. I had one post that took five minutes to move an inch. I'm sure I saved in labor and cement to set the post. The fence has been up for 18 months and I haven't had a lick of problems in our hard Oklahoma winds. I have pictures, but don't know how to post htem.

Beary

 
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02-06-07, 03:59 PM   #16 (permalink)  
The best way to achieve absolutely plumb posts, is casting the temporarily braced post/bracket in cement. For bracing, I use the same lumber I'll later build the fence with.

 
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04-03-07, 11:57 AM   #17 (permalink)  
I need to build a fence as well am am considering several post options. What about using metal posts and building a simple wood facade around the pole once the fence is in? Seems like that would be simple enough -- take three 1x4's and create three sides of a post, then attach it to the pole.

But are there any existing fence system that would make it easier and give you a nicer looking final product?

 
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10-15-07, 02:31 AM   #18 (permalink)  
I wish I'd known about those Oz posts earlier. We just drilled about 18 holes this weekend with an auger, rock breaker, etc. Still get to set the posts, pour concrete, etc. The Oz posts look like they would have saved quite a bit of time and effort, power auger rental, bags of concrete, etc.

Oh well. Good info to have for next time, though!

 
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