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Fence Materials

Jim Mallery | Improvement Center Columnist | December 14, 2011

Fences serve many purposes. They can screen you from nosy neighbors, stop intruders, decorate a landscape, define your property or restrict access to a pool. Whatever your home needs, you will find many choices of fence materials.

Vinyl fencing

Vinyl fence materials are often made to mimic other types of fencing, such as stone and brick. Vinyl has the advantage of needing very little maintenance. Better vinyl will be colored with fade-resistant pigments, so your fence should never need painting.

You will, however, find a wide range of quality: the thicker the better. Also, the vinyl should have UV-inhibitors that will reduce degradation caused by sunlight.

Wind is an enemy of vinyl. Choose manufacturers that guarantee their fences against winds of significant strength. Speeds of greater than 100 miles an hour are usually the benchmark.

Vinyl fencing is mostly sold by the panel. So, if a piece is broken, you will generally need to replace the entire panel. Panels of six feet to eight feet in length are the most common. An eight-foot panel with posts costs, on average, from $120 to $160.

Wood fencing

When it comes to fence materials, wood is the old standby. It can be used for any type of fence.

Most woods are cheaper than other materials, but the trade-off is maintenance. Wood needs to be painted or stained every few years, so even if you are using pressure-treated wood, it will have to be replaced in time.

Because of its natural preservative characteristics, cedar is the most common wood for fence boards. Pressure-treated fir or hemlock are also common for 2-by-4 rails and 4-by-4 posts.

For cedar fencing, an eight-foot section of 1-by-6 boards should cost around $75 to $100 for the boards, rails and post. Pressure-treated timber costs vary considerably by region and type.

Aluminum and steel fencing

Metal often is used for picket fences, both decorative and around pools. Aluminum is cheap and durable. Steel fencing is stronger, but more expensive and subject to corrosion. Metal fence costs vary considerably, depending on design and coating. They're almost always pricier than vinyl.

Chain link fencing

Chain link fences won't win awards for aesthetics, but they are quite common, particularly for commercial purposes and homes with pets. They are a cost-effective way to define property lines, especially on large plots of land. Chain link costs around $10 a foot.

With so many fencing options, it's common to have quite a few questions. Get the answers you need by speaking with a contractor. To find local fencing contractors, fill out the form on this page.