Fencing Materials, From Vinyl to Aluminum

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Fencing is at the crux of American homeownership. The vast majority of homes, young and old, rural and urban, utilize some type of fencing on the property. Fences serve a variety of purposes, from privacy to security to landscape appeal. And just as uses for fencing vary, so do the materials available for fence building. Wood, vinyl, aluminum, and iron fencing are all popular fencing materials. Each material has its own range of styles and grades.

Vinyl Fencing

Vinyl fencing is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and has several benefits over other fencing materials. Vinyl fencing is more expensive than its competitors but has incredible longevity and is maintenance-free. It is only limited by a small range of available colors. Most vinyl fences are designed in the picket fence style but are also available in privacy, ranch, and pool fence styles.

Wood Fencing

There are three main types of wood fencing: privacy, picket, and rail fences. Conventional types of wood used include cedar, pine, redwood, cypress, and more. The availability of each will depend on the region.

  • Privacy fences serve to provide the homeowner with seclusion and an intimate setting in the back or front yard. Usually six to eight feel tall, privacy fences are common in both urban and suburban environments.
  • Picket fences, led by the white picket fence, are a truly American tradition. They are shorter than a privacy fence (3-4 feet tall) and are not intended to allow privacy so much as an enclosed yard and a colonial style. Styles of picket fencing include arched, scalloped, gothic, French gothic, dog-eared, and standard flat-top.
  • Rail fences are prevalent in rural areas such as farms and ranches, where animal containment is necessary. Rail fences consist of round, square, board, or split rails attached to posts. They allow an uninterrupted view of the landscape. Often, a mesh wire is combined with rail fence framing to keep smaller animals in or out.

Chain Link Fencing

Chain link fences are classic in both residential and commercial settings. They provide many years of security and privacy. Most chain link fences will have that standard, "silver" look to them, but they come in a surprisingly wide range of colors, qualities, sizes, and types. Chain link fences are usually coated with galvanized zinc, giving them that silver color, which protects them from rusting. They also come in a variety of gauges and post sizes. The rule of thumb here is the smaller the gauge number, the tougher the fence. Conversely, the wider the post, the stronger it will be. Wide posts are typically used at corners with smaller posts along the runs.

Iron Fencing

Iron fencing has long combined both beauty and function in residential, commercial, and industrial situations. Also known as ornamental fencing, it was originally made from wrought iron. Steel or aluminum are now incorporated into production. Most commercial and industrial fences are made using welded or assembled steel. Aluminum is more common in the residential arena. Iron Fences can be designed with pickets above or below the fence's top rail. Also, aside from its customized, ornamental appeal, iron fencing provides security by keeping unwanted prowlers out and pets and children in the yard.

Aluminum Fencing

Aluminum fencing, also an ornamental fence, is very similar to iron fencing but offers heightened durability and little or no maintenance. Modern ornamental fences are either hybrids, utilizing both steel and aluminum, or solely aluminum.

Aluminum fences are powder-coated for longevity and use brackets as post-to-rail connectors. This avoids the fragile, rust-prone welds so common with conventional wrought Iron Fences. Styles and designs for aluminum fencing include a growing range of colors, including black, white, bronze, and even green.

Similar to chain link fencing, aluminum fences come in different picket, post, and rail sizes. These differences will determine the strength of the fence. For aluminum, the larger the picket, the stronger the fence. Aluminum fences are much cheaper than Iron Fences because they are much easier to install. On a broader scale, aluminum typically falls somewhere between vinyl and wood fencing in terms of cost.

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