What Is Galvanized Wire?

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Galvanized wire makes strong and durable fencing.
Galvanized wire makes strong and durable fencing. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Galvanized wire is used in many different industries due to its durability. This type of wire is easily identified because of the bright shine it usually holds. Farmers use it for fencing, and it is widely used in shipyards. Finer varieties of galvanized wire provide material for craftsmen and jewelers to use on their projects.

Zinc

The term "galvanized" means that a metal has been specially treated with zinc. Essentially, the basic wire is completely coated in a very thin layer of zinc. It is this zinc coating that gives galvanized wire its useful properties. Zinc can be applied using a method in which the wire is actually dipped into a molten bath of zinc, or it can be electroplated onto the surface of the wire.

Rust Prevention

One of the most important properties of galvanized wire is its ability to resist rusting. This is what makes it so well-suited for use in the open, such as on fences. The constant rain and damp weather would rust non-galvanized wire very quickly. The salt in shipyards also contributes to potential rust problems with much of the equipment in that environment. Galvanized wire holds up well, though, even when hit with wet and salty conditions.

Resistant to Damage

The zinc coating on a galvanized wire also provides the steel wire with a hard, protective coating. Exposed steel wire is relatively easily chipped, scratched and otherwise damaged in ways that weaken the strength of the wire. The zinc coating on a galvanized wire provides a shield between the steel and the outside world because it is much more resistant to chips, cuts and scratches than plain steel alone.

Fire Resistance

Galvanized wire is also useful in industrial applications where fire is a hazard. When wire is hot-dip treated, the melting point of the resultant zinc is even higher than regular zinc. It doesn't start to melt until roughly 650 degrees Celsius. The zinc coating's resistance to melting helps keep the steel on the interior of the wire from reaching its own melting point. As a result, galvanized steel wire stays strong in most fires.

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