Can I Use Chicken Wire (Or Wire Mesh) To Reinforce Concrete?

You can use many things to improve the speed at which you are making and finishing projects around your house. One of the most talked-about alternatives to using regular rebar in concrete is chicken wire, or sometimes just wire mesh, but is it that effective? 

Chicken wire or wire mesh can be safely used as a reinforcement in concrete when the concrete is not used in structural or high-weight areas. The wire mesh or chicken wire can add stretching strength that concrete does not have, giving the concrete rigidity when facing specific pressures. 

Understanding why you may need to be careful when using chicken wire and wire mesh with your concrete is essential for the structural soundness of the mix. Many people forget that for every upside to using a replacement product, there are a few negatives, each one affecting your overall build quality in different ways. 

Does Wire Mesh Make Concrete Stronger?

Rolls of galvanized metal sheets steel chicken wire mesh and general wire mesh
Rolls of galvanized metal sheets steel chicken wire mesh and general wire mesh

Yes, any reinforcement laid out in a grid pattern within the concrete will strengthen it than pouring pure concrete. This is because concrete handles compressive and shear stresses but does not do well with tensile strength, which is stress when put under tension. 

So, if a concrete wall built without a mesh structure on the inside is placed vertically, it can handle being pushed down on and pulled. However, if a force is pressed against the concrete wall from the side, it will crack and break with almost no real pressure being applied. 

Giving concrete an internal mesh made out of wire mesh, chicken wire, or rebar drastically increases the amount of tensile strength the concrete has. Without this inner mesh, no concrete structure is ever built, as the concrete would start failing under stress almost immediately. 

Why Does Wire Mesh and Chicken Reinforced Concrete?

If wire mesh or chicken wire is used, the mesh inside the concrete absorbs the stresses that would usually hurt the concrete. While adding to some of the strength that the concrete can already handle well, giving the concrete more strength overall. 

Further, as the mesh is made out of a flexible iron, sometimes steel, the concrete gains a small level of flexibility. Pure concrete is like a rock and cannot bend as forces are applied, cracking and breaking immediately, whereas reinforced concrete easily bends to absorb hits much better. 

When building DIY structures or models, adding wire mesh or chicken wire will ensure that the concrete can withstand its weight. A common misconception that early DIYers make is to assume that statues and models made out of concrete require no reinforcement to be done. 

How Do You Use Chicken Wire Or Wire Mesh To Reinforce Concrete?

Thinner wire mesh used in concrete footings for a foundation
Thinner wire mesh used in concrete footings for a foundation

Understanding why you should use chicken wire or a wire mesh for your concrete is not the same as knowing how to use it properly. There are a few caveats to using these that you need to understand, first is when to use each one as wire mesh is much larger than chicken wire. 

Wire mesh is better for larger concrete slabs, while chicken wire works the best with smaller projects like statues or small blocks. Applying the meshes correctly and waiting for the concrete to be dried entirely will create the best possible structure for your DIY project. 

Layering The Wire Mesh Or Chicken Wire

Before you pour your first drops of concrete onto anything you may be working with, you will need to create the support structure out of your chosen mesh. Having the mesh laid out will be enough if you are creating simple slabs, whereas sculptures and other complicated structures need to be built.

The mesh works as the bones inside the concrete, and you need to ensure that it is fully structured before pouring any concrete at all. Once you start pouring the concrete, you can no longer change how the chicken wire or the wire mesh is shaped with ease. 

Layering The Concrete

If you are pouring a slab, you can pour all the concrete at once, ensuring that the wire mesh is not touching between layers. However, if you are working on something more complicated, we recommend layering the concrete instead of applying it all at once. 

This ensures that the wire is not bent while applying the concrete and that you can add more dynamic layers to the concrete. After all, the reason you are using wire mesh or chicken wire in your concrete is specifically that regular rebar is too solid and heavy to use for your project. 

Allowing Enough Drying Time For The Concrete

A smaller concrete slab possibly for a garage or outbuilding
A smaller concrete slab possibly for a garage or outbuilding

Once you have poured the concrete, the only thing left for you to do is to let everything dry; however, we recommend giving some extra time. You should have a support structure surrounding your slabs, and keeping your complicated structures up, waiting at least 24 hours before removing them is advised.

If you remove the support structure away from the concrete before everything has dried out properly, the concrete can start bending or cracking as it dries. This is often why you see concrete cracks in paths along the road, as these are made to be built as quickly as possible. 

What Are The Risks Of Using Wiring Mesh Or Chicken Wire To Reinforce Concrete?

Thicker metal rebar mesh during concrete pouring
Thicker metal rebar mesh during concrete pouring

Now that we know why you should be using a mesh of something inside your concrete, we need to look at why it may be a bad idea to use wiring mesh or chicken wire. If you are going to be using these materials instead of regular rebar, there are a few dangers. 

Most builders would never use this for something they are building instead of using smaller rebar to create their projects. The reasons for doing this need to be understood before you try and build walls, mountains, or anything else using your DIY reinforced concrete. 

Instability Of The Material

Wire mesh and chicken wire are not known for being stable, and when you are using them for your concrete, this creates a problem. The concrete can push down on the wires, causing them to bend and shift and become loose when everything is still wet. 

The concrete reinforcement needs to be as strong and taught as possible for the meshing to provide proper support to the concrete. If you are laying down your wire mesh or chicken wire, you are providing nothing to the concrete; it needs to be pulled taught before pouring. 

Chicken Wire Not Strong Enough

The stresses that concrete undergoes as it is drying and then eventually used are a lot higher than most people would ever assume. This means the concrete will tear through the chicken wire as it is curing, or the chicken wire will break when applying pressure to the concrete structure.

This is often why you will see concrete statues that have chicken wire in them falling apart when the statue falls over. The chicken wire is pushed to its extreme just trying to keep everything together and from falling apart; when more pressure is applied, it easily snaps inside the concrete. 

Wiring Mesh Corroding Too Fast

Chicken wire and wire mesh are two materials that are not meant to last forever, and when introduced to rain, they will eventually rust when used as a fence. When used inside the concrete, they will still start rusting, sometimes even faster, as the concrete absorbs water and moisture. 

Once the mesh inside the concrete starts to rust, it starts to expand as well, breaking and crumbling the concrete around it. Even if you are using rebar, you need to ensure that no water can get to it, as the metal that helps to concrete will destroy it from the inside. 

Conclusion

Wiring mesh and chicken wire can be used to reinforce your concrete DIY projects, helping to create stronger concrete that will last much longer. However, these materials should not ideally be used for load bearing concrete structures and will fail when pushed too far, as the concrete becomes too old and brittle. 

Whatever you do, please don’t use chicken wire as your reinforcement when building a concrete pool!