Buying pipe fencing isn’t easy these days. An Internet search can return thousands of hits, with most claiming the strongest, longest-lasting and cheapest pipe in the nation.

To make matters worse, they offer a dizzying array of choices. You can buy used, secondary and reject pipe, with those offering it insisting that it’s every bit as good as new pipe. Other confusing labels include “new seconds” and “new reject.” The big question, though, is which kind of fence will get the job done?

Used pipe is a bit cheaper, freely available and sometimes looks almost as good as new pipe. But a closer inspection might reveal rust, holes, pitting, flaking and plenty of wear.

Pick it up and compare the weight to the same length of new pipe. Why is it lighter? Because almost all of it comes from oilfields where it’s no longer considered fit for use. The bulk of it comes from stripper wells in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, which pump vast amounts of saltwater through these pipes on a daily basis, along with acid. Sucker rods are forced up and down the pipe, constantly wearing them away from the inside. Even if they look good, used piping often has poor wall thickness.

But even new pipe isn’t created equal. Vendors vary widely in their definitions. Within the ‘new’ category, there can be:

Good: Good pipe is normally a dead length (vs. random lengths), has no holes, no unwelded seams and is straight.

Secondary or seconds: Secondary pipe is like good pipe but is of random length or has some minor cosmetic flaw.

Reject: Reject pipe is where the pipe could have one or more defects such as unwelded seams, bows and varying wall thicknesses. Since every mill has its own criteria for what they reject, the quality will vary from mill to mill.

“Seconds and reject are usually a good buy for fencing pipe but the hardest to find,” explains Bob Studebaker, owner of GoBob Pipe and Steel, Mounds, OK, which offers a complete selection of hay trailers, flatbeds, pipe and fencing, and feeders.

Seconds and reject are hard to find, Studebaker says, because it takes a mill messing up on an order – perhaps cutting it to the wrong specification – to send a decent amount of seconds and reject material onto the market. More than likely, if seconds are available, they won’t be quite what you’re looking for in terms of size or length. Those looking in the secondary market, therefore, are advised to not be too attached to the popular pipe sizes as they are always in high demand. Most ranchers, for instance, use a lot of 2 1/2-in. pipe. What you are more likely to find in the seconds category is 2 3/8 or 2 1/4-in., which will probably do the job just as well.

Wall thickness is another crucial factor. It determines the price per foot, as well as what kind of function the pipe can perform. Some users are tempted to skimp on thickness to save a few dollars. The best advice is to find a knowledgeable supplier who knows pipe inside out, and can tell you the wall thickness of any pipe available and advise you on the proper size for the job.

--GoBob Pipe and Steel (www.gobobpipe.com)