Comparing timber, metal, and concrete fence posts

Selecting and quoting for the most appropriate type of fence post - concrete, timber or metal - can be problematic, as there are pros and cons in all three cases.

Our advice is to begin by considering these four points: the aesthetics of the project; the practical issues; the short and long- term costs; and, of course, the sustainability of the fence posts.

Here’s an outline of each post type, which should help you make the correct decision for your fencing projects:

Concrete fence posts

These are incredibly strong and will last for decades. However, it’s a fact of life that concrete posts are heavy to carry and install (around 40kg), are not aesthetically pleasing, and don’t tend to blend with timber fence panels. Also with concrete, the fence panels can’t be attached easily, so can rattle in the wind. There’s no flex in the material, and moving them at a later date is challenging. Another downside is that they can crack, which escalates quickly if water gets in and freezes during winter months. Equally the steel core can rust if exposed to the elements, for instance, if cracking has taken place.

But perhaps the biggest problem with concrete posts is that they are an extremely destructive material environmentally. With concrete said to be responsible for 4-8% of the worlds CO2, it’s certainly not the most sustainable choice in construction. On the upside, the cost is competitive - £30 for 2.7m high posts, at the time of writing.

Timber fence posts

Timber posts that have been pressure treated with high quality treatment will last for 25 years and above. That said, inferior timber posts, which are usually the cheapest on the market, might only last 10-15 years. It's best to specify high quality timber posts that have a long guarantee, to reduce the number of times they’ll need to be replaced.

A big plus with timber fence posts is that they are attractive, and typically blend well with the surrounding natural environment and with timber fence panels. Slotted timber fence posts and timber panels are much easier to install than when you have concrete posts. The panels can be securely fixed to posts with screws to stop them being lifted, and this will reduce any chance of wind rattling and movement. Here at Jacksons, we also manufacture heavy duty posts which should be used when the overall fence height is above 2000mm, in areas of high wind, or if the fence is steeply stepped.

Pressure treated timber posts are far more sustainable than concrete, and easier to dispose of at ‘end of life’. However, the sustainability of timber posts will be dependent on their lifespan. At Jacksons, our timber posts are kiln-dried and pressure treated; designed to last at least 25 years, with a close to zero carbon footprint. Shorter guarantees will mean the timber is not adequately protected from rot and insect attack, and therefore the impact of producing more timber will worsen the effect on the environment.

Cost-wise, pressure treated timber fence posts are around £32.70 +VAT for 2.7m high.

Metal posts

Metal posts that work with timber fence panels are new to Jacksons. With only a small strip of steel visible from the back of the fence, our T shaped metal posts provide a seamless finish. Metal posts are normally made from galvanised steel and often have a powder coated finish for protection against rust and corrosion.

On a practical level, our metal posts are great to work with, as they have pre-drilled holes, can be securely attached to panel frames with screws, and are lightweight, making installation easy on site. Remember they can currently only be used with the corresponding framed panels, including Tongue and Groove, Venetian, Hit and Miss, and Woven.

Metal posts may have varied lifespans. A top tip is to always look for galvanised metal posts as this will extend the lifespan. Having manufactured metal posts for our security fencing for over 30 years, Jacksons was well versed to create a metal post offering for residential installations, and that's why we can confidently guarantee our Mi-T® posts for 25 years.

A massive plus is that metal posts are 100% recyclable. So, after serving their time supporting fence panels they can be melted down and used again, in keeping with the circular economy aspirations of the construction industry.

Although metal posts require a greater upfront cost than concrete and timber fence posts, the long-term cost-effectiveness is well worth considering.

As an illustration of cost, a Mi-T® post including 12 screws is currently £47.24 +VAT.

Our final piece of advice is to spend time with your client, so that you fully address their needs regarding the strength, durability, overall look, cost and sustainability of their fencing. Between you, the right choice will be obvious.

If you’d like professional advice on choosing the right fence posts for your project, speak to us today.

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From design and manufacturing to supply and installation, we can help you with your project. If you'd like to discuss anything in this article or need information or guidance, please feel free to contact us at any stage to discuss your requirements.