Choosing the Right Fence Material and Design

Getting a new fence can be a daunting challenge considering all of the different types of materials and styles that you can choose from.

The climate of where you live and any local regulations will certainly impact what you choose. Ultimately, you’ll want something that fits your needs, budget, and of course, looks appealing.

Materials

Wooden FencesWooden Fences@2x

Wood is a classic material that’s great for people who want a natural looking fence. Though there are some common pitfalls such as rot, warping, and termites, a professional installation with regular maintenance can help prevent these problems and extend the life of your fence. The lifespan of your fence also depends of what kind of wood you choose. Here are some common choices:

Cedar
Cedar@2xCedar is one of the most durable materials you can choose. Typically, a well maintained cedar fence (specifically red cedar) can last up to 15-20 years. Because of the oils naturally occurring within the wood, cedar is resistant to warping, rot, and termite infestation.

Spruce
Spruce@2xSpruce is an economical option, however, the low cost comes with a lower lifespan for the fence. Untreated and well maintained spruce will typically last around 4-7 years. It’s prone to warping, especially in damp climates. However, those in dryer climates that are on a budget may find spruce to be a good option.

Pine
Pine@2xA pine fence will typically last at least 5 years, and even up to 10 if it’s pressure treated. While this isn’t the longest lasting material, some homeowners find the look of pine to be appealing. It’s also a more affordable option than other types of wood. 

Redwood
Redwood@2xRedwood is a popular choice due to its natural resistance to rot, warping, and insect infestation. It typically has the most longevity, with well-maintained redwood fences lasting around 25 years. This is one of the most durable woods you can choose for a fence. The wood also has a unique look that is sure to add appeal to your home. While redwood is more expensive, the quality lasts longer than other options and is a good investment for those able to front the cost.

Treated vs. Untreated Wood

Some types of wood can have their lifespans lengthened by treating them with certain chemical compounds. This is a technique known as “pressure treating.” The chemical compounds help the wood last longer by making it resistant to rot, decay, and termite infestation. With a properly installed fence, there generally isn’t an issue of the chemical compounds leaching into the ground, in contrast to a raised flowerbed which may have the wood directly in the ground.

If you don’t like the idea of chemical compounds being used on your wood, you can choose wood like cedar and redwood which are naturally resistant to rot, insects, and moisture.

Vinyl fences

Vinyl fences@2x

Vinyl fences are a good alternative for those who don’t want to worry about regular maintenance and some of the downsides of a wooden fence. However, vinyl does lack the natural appeal of a wooden fence. Furthermore, they’re pricier upfront in comparison to a wooden fence. Overall, vinyl is a good choice for those who don’t mind a wood alternative and want something that has a general low upkeep and long lifespan (at least 20 years in ideal conditions). Keep in mind that while vinyl fences are less likely to warp, it’s still a possibility when exposed to extreme elements like excess humidity or cold.

Aluminum fences@2xAluminum fences

Aluminum fences are another low maintenance alternative, though they’re also more expensive upfront. Privacy is also a possible downside as aluminum fences generally use open designs that allow for space between the slats. However, aluminum fences are tough and resistant to the elements, and will last at least 20-30 years. You won’t have to worry about rust and it’s easy to clean these fences. For someone who’s looking for a modern style and low upkeep, aluminum fences could be a good choice.

Designs

Dog-eared fence@2xDog-eared fence: This is a classic fence design that uses non overlapping boards that have curved tops. Because it’s a basic design, it’s typically not as costly as other options.

 

 

Good neighbor fence@2xGood neighbor fence: This fence looks the same on both sides. Rather than having posts on stringers on one side and the panels on the other, it uses overlapping boards to create an identical look on both sides. It is typically a good choice if you are sharing costs with your neighbor.

 

Fence with lattice@2xFence with lattice: The lattice on top of this fence not only adds an aesthetic appeal, but also enhances your privacy.

 

 

Picket fence@2xPicket fence: The picket fence won’t do much when it comes to privacy, but it can certainly add charm to your front yard and home.

 

 

Horizontal slats@2xHorizontal slats: This design has the boards running horizontally rather than vertically. This is a common choice for aluminum fences and creates a nice modern look.

Comparisons

Here’s a chart to help you compare materials based on a few criteria.

Wood Vinyl Aluminum
Appearance Natural look

Variety of different lumber, designs,  and stain/color options

Lack of color options

Sagging is a possibility if fence isn’t correctly installed

Limited styles and variety, often lacking in privacy
Lifetime Potential for rot, warping, insect infestation

Lower general life span

Typically lasts at least 20 years in ideal conditions Typically long lasting, at least 20-30 years on average
Initial Cost Typically cheaper initial cost Typically more expensive Typically more expensive
Upkeep Regular upkeep required Low upkeep Low upkeep
Durability Varies between choice of lumber Low quality vinyl has more potential for problems, but generally durable Strong and durable

The needs of your house and your own taste will ultimately decide what kind of fence you choose. However, you can always reference this post when you want to compare popular fencing options.

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