Steel Posts vs. Wood Posts

February 21, 2019

Steel Posts vs. Wood Posts

When designing your fence and gates, this is a pivotal decision that will determine esthetics, longevity, and the ability to change styles/future upgrades.

First, the most common size is 4”x4”. These are milled in both cedar and redwood for the most part. Redwood can be broken into two types: high pressure treated redwood and heart redwood. High pressure treated is easily distinguished in appearance from the heart variety because of its dark brown color.

High pressure-treated posts.

In appearance, heart redwood posts look like redwood boards (clear and low grade) respectively. This is important for staining uniformity especially with transparent and semi-transparent stains. This post is durable; however, the high pressure lasts and performs better over the long haul in humid and high precipitation climates. The heart redwood post is typically 25% to 30% more expensive than the high pressure treated posts. Also, when you commit to the heart redwood posts; you are also committed to the rails being heart redwood, hence more costs.

Heart redwood posts with a Cordovan Brown stain.

The high pressure treated posts and rails are typically what most contractors quote and install. They last longer, less costly, and are more readily available.

Cedar posts perform similarly to heart redwood posts, and at a glance can pass for them. These are milled usually from western cedar; however, other cedar species are sometime found.

Steel posts are come in all shapes, sizes, and finishes. The common galvanized rounds are what most people see and think of when steel posts are mentioned. These are used with chain link and wood fencing systems. It is a durable, low cost option. Esthetically, the limitations include limited choices in post caps and fasteners. The only way to enhance or dress these up is powder coating or painting them.

Conversely, custom steel posts, rectangular and square shaped offer many possibilities for discerning clients. The choices are almost limitless, and imaginative designers constantly break new ground. You can create a craftsman and mid-century look by incorporating a wide array of fasteners.

Steel post durability is determined by three factors: gauge of the steel walls, galvanization or finish, and country of origin of the steel. Depending on your budget, you can create a post that outlast most structures. These upscale posts create an infrastructure of fencing that is modular.

I have designed and made posts that cost $300 per post. This have flat bar welded on them and are hot dipped galvanized. These posts are usually accompanied by exotic wood species such as ipe or tigerwood or high end McNichols sheet metal products.

In conclusion, steel posts are better choice outside of costs. They offer the most range in options and outlast wood post hands down. However, on extremely long runs of wood fencing or house flippers, wood offers the better value.

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