Screen Grab: Choosing The Right Sheet Metal For Making Custom Garden Screens

A little privacy is always a welcome addition to a garden, whether you're the proud owner of a small urban plot or a more substantial suburban garden. To that end, many garden owners use metal privacy screens to block views to sensitive areas of their property, and these simple but effective screens can be seen surrounding gardens, pools and changing areas across the nation.

What sets metal privacy screens apart from screens made of other materials, however, is the ease with which they can be customised. A limitless variety of complex and attractive patterns can be cut, shaped and engraved into a sheet metal garden screen, creating a unique and attractive garden installation that still provides effective visual blocking. 

However, if you intend to customise your new metal screens in this manner, you should ensure that the metal you have chosen is suitable for customisation. When purchasing sheet metal for garden screen crafting, be sure to ask yourself the following questions to steer you towards the best sheet metal for your needs:

What type of metal should the screen be made from?

Sheet metal suppliers offer an enormous variety of metal types, and choosing the right one for screen making can be challenging. The following common sheet metals are offered by all good suppliers, and can be used to create most varieties of customised garden screen:

  • Steel: Cheap and durable, sheet steel can be buffed to a mirror sheen and takes well to surface treatments. Rust, however, will be a constant problem.
  • Stainless steel: Steel with all of the advantages and none of the rust problems, stainless steel is commensurately more expensive.
  • Aluminium: Immune to rust and surprisingly light, aluminium is also quite expensive, and its lightness can make larger screens vulnerable to strong winds.
  • Copper: Distinctive copper does not suffer from rust, instead developing a blue-green patina of copper oxide that many find even more attractive than the bare metal. However, copper can be an expensive option.
  • Brass: Rustproof and weighty enough to stand up to winds, brass screens are noted for their attractive golden hues. Brass is relatively soft, however, and brass screens can occasionally suffer from denting (especially if they fall over). 

This is far from an exhaustive list of metals, and some sheet metal suppliers stock metal alloys that can combine the advantages of several different metal types. Be sure to ask your chosen supplier about their full range, as they may be able to recommend a particularly suitable metal for screening purposes.

How thick should my screen be?

The thickness of the sheet metal you choose for your screen can affect the way your screen performs in a number of ways.

As a general rule, thicker sheet metal makes for a more durable screen, with the added weight providing protection against high winds. Thicker metal will also rust more slowly, if you choose a metal that suffered from rust

However, thicker metal will also be more expensive, and can be more difficult to transport if you choose to transport your metal yourself. You should also bear in mind that thicker metals will be more difficult to cut and engrave, and screen crafting services may charge you more to work on thicker sheets.

How will my screen be cut and engraved?

Customised screens can be crafted from sheet metal in a number of ways, and the method you choose will affect which metals are best suited for screen creation:

  • Conventional cutting: Conventional metal cutting and engraving services use manual and powered hand tools to create garden screens, and are capable of working on almost any type of metal. These services are more likely to charge extra for working with thicker sheets.
  • Waterjet cutting: These services cut and engrave designs into your metal using immensely powerful and precise waterjets, and can cut through virtually any type of metal you desire.
  • Laser cutting: Laser cutting is the fastest option, and can be used to craft the most delicate and precise designs. It is ineffective, however, on highly reflective metals such as brass, so check your chosen metal can be cut with lasers beforehand.