If you've begun shopping for steel welded wire fencing, you've probably realized that you have several different materials to choose from. GAW, or galvanized after weld; GBW, or galvanized before weld; SS, or plain stainless steel; and VC, or vinyl coated, are the most common choices. Here's a look at what each of those fencing types really is and the situations in which each is appropriate.

GBW (Galvanized Before Weld)

GBW fencing is made from simple steel wires that are coated with a zinc compound before being welded together. Of the three common types of welded wire fencing, this one is the least expensive, and also the least durable. The welding process may disturb the zinc coating at some of the joints, giving corrosion a place to set in. Thus, GBW fences are a good choice if you're on a limited budget or looking for a fence to serve you for just a few short years. They will last slightly longer in warm, dry climates than in moist ones. Most of the welded wire fences you see in big box stores and the like are GBW.

GAW (Galvanized After Weld)

GAW fencing is made from steel wires. The wires are coated with zinc after they are welded together. GAW fences come with a higher price tag than GBW fences, and they are often only available through fencing companies – not at big box stores. Their higher price comes with the benefit of many more years of use. These fences are quite resistant to corrosion, and thus they are a common choice in coastal areas where the salty air would break down less resistant metals.  If you're looking for a sturdy fence that will still look good in a decade, GAW is a great choice.

SS (Stainless Steel)

SS fencing is made from plain stainless steel. It does not need any extra coating because stainless steel is so much more resistant to corrosion than the lower-quality steel used to make other types of welded wire fences.

The downside to this type of fencing is that it tends to cost significantly more than either of the galvanized fencing options. However, it will last for many years before beginning to rust or corrode, making it a good investment in the long run. SS fencing often comes in several gauges. It's important that you choose a low gauge (the lower the gauge, the thicker the wire) if your fence will be used in a situation in which force may be put against it. For instance, if you have a dog that may jump against the fence or a tress that you worry may grow into it, definitely buy a low gauge, like 12 or 14, if you opt for SS fencing. Higher gauges (thinner wires) are prone to bending.

VC (Vinyl Coated)

Vinyl coated welded wire fencing is typically made from a low grade of steel, since the vinyl offers protection from the elements. It can also look more "tidy" than other types of wire fencing, thanks to its sleek coating that will camouflage the beginnings of any rust or pitting. Vinyl coated fencing is a good choice if you do not like the typical wire look -- you can choose from several colors of vinyl.

Vinyl coating resists corrosion, but only for as long as the vinyl is intact. The downside to this type of fencing is that if the vinyl is nicked or damaged, the steel underneath can begin to break down without you seeing the extent of the damage. You may think the fence is in good shape because it looks fine, but when you press on it, you may find that the metal underneath has broken down. Thus, vinyl coated welded wire fencing is a good choice when you need a fence that looks very neat and pristine, but does not need to provide any sort of strength for a long time.

Talk to a fence contractor to get a better idea of which of these types of welded wire fencing is the best choice for you.