Build a High-Tension Fence

A well-constructed high-tension fence will outlast both barbed wire and woven wire with less maintenance, and is a more humane alternative to barbed wire.

| April/May 1992


High-tension fences cost, strand for strand, about the same as barbed-wire fences, yet are far more humane and last longer than both barbed-wire and woven-wire fences.


Owners of high-tension fences love to trade stories about line wires that spring back into place after being pinned to the ground by a fallen tree, flattened by a runaway bale, or challenged by a bull elk. Staples may pop loose from posts, and posts may bend or break, but wires remain taut and the fence stays fully functional.

Known as "New Zealand," "high tension," "HT," or "tension" fence, this fence of posts and smooth wire costs—strand for strand—about the same as a barbed-wire fence, yet it is far more humane. It is also as effective as woven wire, but much less costly. And best of all, a properly constructed tension fence will outlast both barbed wire and woven wire, with far less maintenance.

As complicated as the name may sound, constructing a high-tension fence isn't hard: Start with some anchor assemblies, string the bottom wire as a guide for line post alignment, set line posts, string remaining line wires, tension the wires, fasten the wires to line posts, then add spacers.

Note: For a printable one-page guide on recommended fence dimensions and details organized by what you are fencing in (or out!), see this Fencing Chart.

High-Tensile Wire

The key to an effective tension fence is high-tensile wire that is able to withstand constant fence tension, as well as tension increases due to animal impact or cold-weather contraction. While all high-tension fences are constructed of high-tensile wire, not all fences made of high-tensile wire are high-tension fences.

"High-tensile" refers to the wire's strength. "High tension" refers to its tautness—great enough so that the wires can't be easily pried apart and will bounce back on sudden impact. Instead of bouncing back, low-tensile wire (called "soft" wire because it contains less carbon and is therefore physically softer), stretches and breaks in similar situations.

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