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Fencing Materials

Kim Kinrade

The main use of a fence has not changed considerably since the Stone Ages: protection and keeping in animals (Although you could add "keeping in children" with that.). And many of the styles of fencing are also similar to those of by-gone days.

The protection aspect of fences is more prevalent commercial uses but homeowners are also keen about the security of their properties. Since a fence is usually a barrier it must be made of strong materials that can reach heights of 8-10 feet with compromising strength. Fences have to withstand heavy winds as well as other lateral forces, such as body weight and animals, so should be made of strong materials.

Wood Fencing

Except for stone the oldest, and certainly the most widely-used, fencing material is wood. The old split-rail fences of the pioneers were either poles or long planks that could be erected quickly and with few extra materials. They were a barrier against domestic animals getting out and denoted a person's property. In other words any hunter or traveler coming to a split-rail fence knew that the property on the other side was private.

Wood is still a popular building material as it is relatively-inexpensive and easy for construction. You don't need any specialized clips or other materials just a hammer and a saw. However, older wooden fences were susceptible to rot and would generally not last longer than 15 years before parts of the system rotted. During the past couple of decades the pressure-treating process - which drives a preservative chemical into the wood fibers – has made wood a long-lasting fence material which can be stained, painted or just waterproofed for a natural look. In addition wood can be fashioned into almost any shape or design you choose and it's strong enough to withstand high winds.

Cedar fecnes are popular in some areas of the country but require no maintenace and are allowed to weather to a silver color. Built properly these fences should last 30 years or more.

Chain Link Fencing

A staple in commercial use chain-link fences have also found a home in residential fencing applications. The usual finish used to be galvanized-steel but this is now coated in a wide variety of colors with a vinyl product. Many home owners like to hide the fence in amongst their shrubs and so choose a verdant green color. A daycare in California chose a festive yellow-and-red combination to highlight their business. To add privacy there are also strips that can be inserted diagonally into the links.

Besides security chain link fences provide safety, especially around swimming pools. This prevents children, both from the neighborhood and in the home from wandering into the pool area unsupervised. Chain link fencing is easily installed by a qualified crew and the posts can either be placed in cement footings or pounded in to the earth. Because they are galvanized the posts will last as long you own the home.

Composite Fencing

Besides decking, fencing is another product where composite wood is commonly used. The material is actually recycled saw dust and plastic waste like shopping bags and plastic milk containers which contain PVC or pure vinyl. It comes in either solid or hollow core pieces, the latter to cut down on the weight but it is still strong and imprinted with a natural wood grain. because it comes in a variety of colors composite fencing never needs painting. In addition, it won’t rot, splinter or warp and, because it is not treated with preservatives, does not hurt the environment.

Vinyl Fencing

Vinyl is another material which is replacing wood. The fencing has 5 times the strength of wood and is more flexible. Although the upfront cost is higher than either wood or chain link you don't need to paint or stain it and maintenance is as simple as a household cleaner and, for heavy dirt, a pressure washer. In addition the posts are made of 100% vinyl so will never rot, shrink, warp, peel or rust like a wood or iron. It is imprinted with wood-grain and comes in a variety of colors so painting is not necessary.

Aluminum Fencing

Powder-coated aluminum has revolutionized the railing systems for decks and swimming pools and is doing a great business in fencing as well. The metal is coated with a powdered plastic which is then baked on in an oven making it almost impervious to weathering. Not only is the material light and strong but attaching panels to posts is done with brackets and so does not require welding like steel ones. Most of the fences are easy to assemble because the posts are set up and then the panels are put into place and fastened. Aluminum also comes in a wide variety of colors and styles which can compliment almost any architectural form. Even realistic-looking split-rail fences are fashioned from aluminum.

Steel Fencing

Like aluminum, steel makes a great decorative fence. Most of the fences now are galvanized and then powder-coated to make them weather-resistant. Steel is stronger and more dent-proof than aluminum and is much better for security. Wrought-iron fencing with the same treatment is also popular in period homes where the architecture requires a more traditional look.

Fiber-Cement Fencing

Like the siding products, fiber cement is also great for fencing. Reinforced with plastic fibers the portland cement mix makes a strong and realistic picket or rail fence. This product is absolutely impervious to weather and sun.

Cement Block

For the utmost in security and privacy many home owners opt for a cement block fence. Many of these fences are reinforced with steel and go up as high as ten feet. It also blocks the sound from the surrounding properties. This type of fencing is popular in large city locations.

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