When considering a new fence for your property, understanding the materials and their durability against weathering is crucial. Steel, known for its strength and longevity, is a popular choice for fencing. However, a common concern is whether steel fences rust. This comprehensive guide will explore the factors that affect steel fencing and how they can be protected against rusting, ensuring your investment stands strong for years to come.

The Basics of Steel Fencing and Corrosion

Steel, an alloy made primarily of iron and carbon, is highly durable and offers structural strength that few materials can match. However, its Achilles' heel lies in its vulnerability to rust - a form of corrosion that occurs when steel reacts with oxygen and moisture. Understanding this, manufacturers and homeowners alike seek ways to protect steel fencing from the elements that contribute to rust.

Factors Influencing Rust Formation on Steel Fences

Several factors can influence the rate at which steel fences may rust. These include:

  • Environmental Conditions: The presence of moisture, whether from rain, humidity, or proximity to bodies of water, accelerates the oxidation process. Additionally, salt, whether from saltwater environments or road salt in colder climates, can further exacerbate corrosion.
  • Quality of Material: Not all steel is created equal. Lower quality steel with impurities may rust more quickly than higher quality steel designed for outdoor use.
  • Protective Coatings: The application and maintenance of protective coatings play a significant role in preventing rust. These coatings act as a barrier between the steel and corrosive elements.
  • Physical Damage: Scratches, dents, or cuts in the steel or its protective coating can expose the underlying metal to air and moisture, leading to rust.

Preventing Rust on Steel Fences

The key to ensuring the longevity of steel fencing lies in proper treatment and maintenance. Here are several methods commonly used to prevent rust:


Galvanising involves coating the steel with a thin layer of zinc, which protects it by acting as a sacrificial layer. If the coating is scratched, zinc corrodes while the steel remains intact. Hot-dip galvanising and electro-galvanising are two common methods, with the former providing a thicker, more durable coating.

Powder Coating

Powder coating applies a protective finish in the form of a powder, which is cured under heat to form a hard skin on the surface of the steel. This not only provides protection against rust but also offers an opportunity to add colour and texture to the fence.

Regular Maintenance

Routine inspections can identify and address minor issues before they develop into significant problems. Cleaning the fence to remove dirt, debris, and rust spots, followed by touch-ups to the protective coating, can extend the life of a steel fence significantly.

Stainless Steel and Weathering Steel Options

For those seeking higher-end options, stainless steel and weathering steel (sometimes known by the brand name COR-TEN) offer inherent resistance to rust. Stainless steel contains chromium, which forms a passive layer that prevents rust. Weathering steel develops a stable rust-like appearance when exposed to the elements that shields the deeper material from corrosion.


While steel fences can rust under certain conditions, understanding the factors that contribute to corrosion and taking preventative measures can greatly extend the life of your fence. By choosing the right type of steel, applying protective coatings, and performing regular maintenance, you can enjoy the durability and aesthetic appeal of steel fencing for many years to come. Whether you're safeguarding a residential property or enclosing a commercial space, steel fencing remains a robust and reliable choice.