In terms of metal fencing options, aluminum and steel are highly rated in the industry. They offer none of the disadvantages of using more natural materials like wood or wrought iron, for example, which can easily be broken and damaged by weather. Some, however, can’t decide on whether they should buy steel or aluminum fencing, as in most cases they offer practically the same benefits.

There are subtle differences between aluminum and steel, though, that can help make a decision easier. Here’s how they compare to each other.

Aluminum

Double construction fence in the country

Steel is stronger and more lasting, but aluminum is also attractive for more environmentally conscious homeowners. Aluminum is just as recyclable as steel, but aluminum is easier to recycle with a ton of other household uses, like cans, utensils, foils, and even airplane parts. According to data, steel is usually more recycled than aluminum, because it can be used in heavy-duty purposes like construction thanks to its strength. Steel, however, requires a lot of energy to be recycled much more so than aluminum, which makes the last an eco-friendly choice in terms of renewability.

In addition, aluminum is also less expensive than steel—at least in terms of buying it from the hardware store (a study claims that aluminum is more expensive to produce for specific use). Still, aluminum is much more affordable to buy for the average consumer as aluminum is more abundant, which drives prices down. Also, aluminum can be bent, shaped, and formed to mimic the appearance of more expensive materials, like wrought iron and steel. Other benefits include its lightness, making it easier to transport, which, again, drives its prices down, and its inherent corrosion resistance that doesn’t need additional treatment, unlike steel. 

However, as aluminum doesn’t have the considerable strength of steel, you should not use it for rigorous purposes, especially when you need it for something that you want to last for decades. This makes aluminum fencing great for decorative metal fences, such as emulating wrought iron fencing panels without investing a great deal into an actual wrought iron fence. That said, aluminum’s properties, specifically its low weight, ductility, malleability, and reasonable price, make it a mainstay in heavy industries and home improvement.

Steel

Steel fence with designs

The benefits of steel outweigh aluminum, and somewhat literally because steel is much more substantial (and more expensive). For fences that last and resist even the harshest weather, turn to steel. Its hardness and heft make it a great choice if you need security for your rails and not merely for decorative purposes. Like aluminum, it’s also recyclable, but its customization options are more limited because it’s harder and more challenging to shape. Its weight also makes it harder to transport, which can peg prices up due to logistics.

Steel fences come in several varieties, including picket, colorbond, and tubular, each with their own set of advantages. Steel fencing is useful for commercial purposes, particularly a military, maritime, or an industrial site, but it may also be used for areas with a high crime rate to deter would-be criminals or those in the path of hurricanes

Protecting your investment with a fence is vital, so most fencing manufacturers offer both steel and aluminum options. The takeaway here is that both have pros and cons, and you should look at why you need the fence to make a sound decision.