Hardware cloth is metal mesh used as a utility screen. Traditionally made from galvanised metal, wires are soldered or welded together forming 1/2-inch or 1-inch square grids. Speciality materials such as steel and plastic mesh are less commonly used as hardware cloth.
Standard hardware cloth is made with wires evenly spaced apart to make a sturdy mesh. The wire mesh is inexpensive and available in most hardware and home improvement stores.
Hardware cloth made with galvanised wire is cut and fitted into vents or eave openings to screen out pests and allows air circulation. Gardeners form galvanised wire hardware cloth into seasonal tomato cages and compost bins. Other uses include mending fence holes, covering pipe openings and blocking birds from chimneys.
According to Cornell University, galvanised wire hardware cloth shapes easily, but eventually rusts when exposed to outdoor weather. Hardware cloth made with stainless steel wires is costly, stiff and hard to shape but does not rust. Hardware cloth made of plastic mesh is inexpensive and easily shaped.
Hardware cloth is sized according to the number of wires per inch. Number 4 hardware cloth, for example, is four wires per inch or 1/4-inch square. Number 8 hardware cloth is eight wires per inch or 1/18-inch mesh.
Hardware cloth is used as a mesh metal fabric. One roll of hardware cloth provides custom screening for many small repairs and tasks.
Beekeepers fit hardware cloth over beehive openings. The wire mesh keeps mice out of bee colonies.