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Fasten-ating Facts: Choosing Wire Fence Staples

A "staple" in rural America, wire fencing is commonly used to keep farm animals in place. But, did you know wire fencing is used for much more than livestock? Whether you rely on a wire fence to keep your animals safe, or to mark a boundary, each strand of wire serves little purpose without the fence staples that hold it in place. The staples not only need to be the right size for optimal holding power, they need to withstand the onslaughts of mother nature.

Corrosion-resistant fence staples will keep a fence lasting longer

The traditional method for fastening wire fence staples (also known as U nails) used to be hand hammering. This time-consuming and arduous method is no longer necessary, however, as brands like Dewalt, Freeman, Fasco, and StockAde have developed tools that that work several times faster. The StockAde ST400i, shown below, drives fence staples five times faster than manual hammering, for instance.

For those who don't know, StockAde remains a long-running leader in development of fencing staplers, and due to their success, other companies are making their own attempts in the market.

Now that technology has made fence installation incredibly efficient, there's every reason to take advantage. But before selecting a fencing stapler, you first have to choose the right staple for your application. And as with nearly any application, the fastener determines the tool.

Fence Staples By Size

Fence staples are defined by three main characteristics—crown size, leg length, and wire gauge. Crown size is the width of the bar across the top, and leg length is distance from the underside of the crown to the staple tip. Staple gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. as with nails, the larger the wire diameter, the smaller the gauge number. 

A 16-gauge fence staple, for example, has a smaller diameter than a 10-1/2 gauge staple.  The short answer for why fasteners are sized this way, is that gauge was once determined by how many times a steel rod had to pass through a die to create the wire. The more times it passed through the die, the larger the wire number.

A closer look at Stockade brand fence staples

What Gauge to Get

Some of the brawniest fence staples you’ll find are 8.5 or 9-gauge. The largest fence staples that Nail Gun Depot sells are nine-gauge, for tools such as in the new, cordless Dewalt DCFS950B fence stapler, covered in our recent July blog.

These heavy-duty staples are used primarily for large-scale applications that require tremendous holding strength. This includes livestock fencing, field fencing, and horse fencing. But they're also ideal for heavy mesh, wire, and chain link fencing. You’ll also find them in utility applications, such as copper ground wire installation.

Deer fencing or exclusion fencing is normally done with 9 gauge staples, but can also be done with the next size down, a 10-1/2 gauge fence staple. Other uses for larger diameter wire fence staples include vineyard trellises, and containing medium-sized livestock. For progressively smaller projects, such as pet enclosures, garden trellises and predator-prevention, 16- and 18-gauge staples are more suitable (as in the 18-gauge fence stapler from Freeman).

The cordless fence stapler from Stockade

Staple Legs, Barbs and Tips

Besides gauge, leg length is another factor in holding strength. How long does a fence staple need to be? It all depends on the wood. Most fencing pros recommend 1-3/4" to 2-1/2” leg staples for soft wood. For hardwoods, which are denser, a shorter staple leg will work.

 You’ve likely noticed fencing staples with formidable-looking hooks or barbs on the legs. Fence staples come in single- or double-barbed legs, and, as you might expect, these barbs aid in holding power. An added barb or “arm” holds onto the wood and keeps it from pulling out of the post.

Another notable feature on fence staples is the option of divergent tips. Divergent tip staples send the legs in different (opposite) directions when driven, thereby increasing the staple’s holding strength. You can see an example of this feature in the Fasco fence staples, shown below.

Fasco 10-1/2 gauge fence staples

Fence Staple Coating

Changes in temperature, pressure from wildlife and corrosive elements will quickly take their toll on fences and fence staples. Fence staples require a corrosion-resistant coating such as zinc. While uncoated (bright) fencing staples are available, their lifespan in even moderate climates is minimal.

The environment will help determine the type of coating. Class 1 galvanized fence staples are suitable for inland areas where sea spray, frequent road salt, and other corrosives are not a threat. For greater resistance, however, a Class 3 coating is preferable. It’s 2-1/2 times thicker than Class 1 and lasts 2 to 4 times longer. Class 3 is commonly requested for livestock fencing and utility work where longevity is demanded – it is the staples that hold up your investment.

Whether you’re installing a fence to keep in livestock, keep out predators, establish boundaries or protect landscaping, always invest in the proper staples. This will ensure that both the fasteners and fence last for a long time to come.


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