February 28, 2023

How to Pick the Best Fence Finish


Fences serve many purposes. Whether to enclose our homes, keep out intruders, or let in light and air, fences are an integral part of our lives. You should choose them according to the size and location of the property, the type of animal living on it, and other contributing factors. This article will be a guide on all things finishes.

What is a fence finish?

The term fence finish usually refers to any coating on the wood or steel surfaces, protecting them from rust and corrosion. A fence finish is also commonly referred to as a chip coat or a finish.

A fence finish protects the steel and can also be aesthetic. This coating also helps retain moisture, which prevents the rusting of any iron materials. The term fence finishing is used to describe the process of applying a protective coating on the fence surface, eliminating or reducing the amount of rust caused by the weather.

What to Consider?

There is no clear answer as to what is considered a good or bad finish for your fence. Still, there are several factors you can consider when looking for a finish that would provide you with an attractive appearance while providing a long-lasting solution.

Factors to consider when picking out the finish:

1. Intended purpose of the fence:

a. Residential fence:

If you plan on using the fence to protect your property and landscape, then a durable finish is the best option for you. Standard finishes for residential fences include: hot-dip galvanized, painted, and vinyl or aluminum coatings. These are all long-lasting options that provide an attractive appearance.

b. Commercial or industrial fence:

For a fence to be used in a commercial setting, it must withstand harsh weather conditions, heavy usage, and sharp objects that may be thrown at the fence. Because of this, the finish must provide long-lasting protection for the steel surfaces of the fence and be easy to clean when needed. Commercial fences' most common finishing options include:

- Zinc phosphate paint.
- Anodized coating/spray-on coating.
- Galvanized steel coatings.
- Chain link fencing.

c. Temporary fences:

Suppose you need to extend your fence for a specific purpose, such as a backyard basketball court or a temporary porch. In that case, the finish that you choose should withstand weather conditions that will most likely occur while using the fence. Some standard finishing options for temporary fences include vinyl or aluminum coatings. These are all long-lasting options that provide an attractive appearance.

2. Type of fence

Another factor to consider when choosing a finish is your fence type. If you have an old fence that needs to be revitalized, then choose a finish that provides you with a long-lasting solution. For example, if the fence is made from galvanized steel, it is best to paint the entire surface of the fence or apply a coat of zinc phosphate paint for better protection. Another type is the panel-type fence, where the metal panels are attached and lead to an attractive look. For this type of fence, you can install a paintable coating that will provide an attractive look and long-lasting protection.

Different types of fences require different types of finish.

3. Quality of materials:

A good fence is only as good as its components. The quality of materials used to construct the fence, in addition to having a quality finish, will determine the life of your fence. For example, a chainlink steel fence is inexpensive and easy to install. The quality materials make this type of fence very durable against harsh weather conditions and sharp objects. If you plan on buying damaged or second-hand fencing, you must first look into the damage done to it and identify how it was caused. It would be best to inspect the fence and repair the damage.

4. Environmentally friendly

A fence finish should provide you with an attractive look and be easy to clean. If a fence is being used in a commercial setting, it must withstand harsh weather conditions, heavy usage, and sharp objects thrown at the fence. A durable finish should also be as environmentally friendly as possible. Durable finishes are not harmful to the environment because the coating is a thin layer of paint or powder on the surface of the exposed steel and iron materials. The coating does not absorb moisture and does not require cleaning or maintenance.

5. Costs

The costs of a fence finish depend on the type of finish you choose to go with. A commercial fence will require different types of finishes, such as hot-dip galvanized, anodized, or an aluminum coating, which are all long-lasting options. This type of coating will provide an attractive appearance and offer excellent protection from all types of weather conditions.

The costs for a residential finish are mainly based on the material used and the length of the fence.


The different finishes and the advantages of each one

1. Hot dip galvanized finish:

This is one of the most popular and durable fences finishes since it is resistant to damage and rusting due to weather conditions, heavy usage, and sharp objects thrown at it. This is a highly desirable finish because it will seal the zinc plating onto the steel's surface, preventing moisture from affecting the steel, which reduces corrosion and rusting. A hot-dip galvanized finish requires no maintenance, cleaning, or other special treatment to keep the surface protected against rust. The hot-dip galvanized finish provides a clean and smooth appearance to your fence, but it is heavy and requires professional installation.

2. Chainlink steel finish

This finish is one of the most popular in residential fences and is ideal for chainlink steel fences because it does not require too much maintenance or cleaning. The chain link steel can be cleaned by hand or with a pressure washer and will provide years of protection from weather damage. This finish is excellent for preventing rust and corrosion, which will affect the long-lasting appearance of the fence, causing a dull and old look. The chain link steel finish has disadvantages, such as a high cost to purchase and have it installed. It requires professional installation only and is not environmentally friendly.

3. Zinc Phosphate paint finish

This finish is one of the most popular in residential fences because it provides you with an attractive appearance and rust protection. Because it requires little maintenance and cleaning, it is an ideal choice for a residential fence. The zinc phosphate paint finish is an excellent finish to have on your fence because it protects the metal surface against rust and corrosion. The most significant disadvantage of using this type of finish is you will need to repaint your fence every few years to maintain the appearance.

4. Anodized finish

This is another popular and durable finish that is used for residential fences. The anodized finish provides long-lasting protection from weather conditions, hard objects, and corrosion. The anodized finish requires special care to maintain the fence's appearance because it can easily corrode over time if not taken care of properly. The only disadvantage is that you need professional installation.

5. Aluminum finish

This finish provides a nice look, is easy to clean and maintain, and is suitable for areas where some children or pets may damage fences. The aluminum fence finish is environmentally friendly and is one of the most popular fencing finishes. It requires minimal maintenance, cleaning, or repainting so long as you use quality paint. However, it can corrode over time if not taken care of properly, which could be a problem if you have pets or children who play on the property often.

6. Solid stain finishes

An oil-based stain is a finish used on fences to bring out the wood's natural wood grain. The wood must be properly sanded and prepped before applying the stain. It is an inexpensive finish because it does not require top-quality materials, professional installation, or professional maintenance. If you choose to use a solid stain finish on your fence, then you can expect it to last anywhere from 2–3 years before needing another coat of stain.

7. Paint finishes

Paint is a standard finish used on fences to fill the gaps and areas unprotected by the top coat of paint. The only advantage to using a paint finish is that it does not require professional installation. However, this type of fencing does not give you the same protection from weather conditions and other objects as the other finishes discussed in this article do. The paint is also easy to remove if necessary, which could be dangerous for your child or pet.

8. Sealer

A fence sealer is a finish used to cover bare wood before applying any other finishing materials. It provides the protection you need for your fence for up to 2 years. A fence sealer does not require professional installation, but it does provide less protection from damage to your fence from sharp objects and other weather conditions.

9. Concrete finish

A concrete finish is applied to a flat surface and can be used on fences to fill the gaps of the fence and protect them from damage. The surface must also be level before applying this finish because it is a rigid material that does not provide any protection against sharp objects. The concrete finish does not require professional installation, but it does require some maintenance from time to time. A professional will need to come out periodically and check the depth of the concrete to make sure the entire fence is wholly covered.

10. Wood tone finish

A wood-tone finish is used on fences to give the fence a nice, natural look. It requires professional installation and allows you to maintain your fence for up to three years before having to repaint it. The only downside to this type of finish is that it will only protect the wood from damage such as water, weather erosion, and decay.

Commercial Maintenance and Installation

Fencing is designed to protect and keep the people and animals on the property inside, but it can be damaged if not maintained properly. Regularly check for cracks and any breaks in the fence to avoid any accidents from these factors. Fences should be checked out at least once a year to ensure no one has climbed or fallen through the fence. To maintain your fence and make it look its best, you can use these maintenance steps in the following order.

1. Inspect the fence for any damage that may occur

If there are any new holes in your fence, keep an eye out for them to repair them as soon as possible. If there are any larger holes, it may be time to replace the wood entirely on your fence because it has a limited life span when exposed to weather conditions such as rain or snow.

2. Paint the fence

This should be done every 2–3 years, depending on your region. Keep in mind that painting a fence does not just mean using one coat of paint on it. You can start with one coat and then use the second coat to fill in any empty spots you may have missed with the first coat. When applying any paint finish, make sure you use quality paint to provide the protection you need.

3. Replace the existing wood on your fence

If you are using the correct coating, it should last you 2–3 years before needing any maintenance again. If you notice a spot on your fence that is starting to decay or rot, you should replace it as soon as possible to avoid any accidents or injuries resulting from this factor. You can have a professional come out to repair or complete all of these tasks as necessary for commercial fencing.

4. Replace the fence posts and railings

The fence posts and railings will need to be replaced from time to time. If you notice that any of these parts have become weak or broken, it is time to replace them immediately. Different types of wood can be used for fence posts, so make sure you get the correct type for your property.

If there are any holes in your fence, it is essential that you repair them immediately before they become more significant than they already are.


Many factors can affect the durability of your fence and its look. Fences are typically purchased to make a home more secure and safe, but any lapse in maintenance or weather conditions can make them look old, faded, and rough up against. The most important thing you can do to ensure your fence lasts for as long as possible is to have regular maintenance performed by professionals and choose the best finish for your fence.