Upgrading a yard by adding a fence is more than just a matter of aesthetic preference. The types of materials that homeowners choose can also impact the amount of security and privacy they enjoy.
What kind of backyard fence is best? It all depends on what homeowners are after, but looking at the different materials is an excellent place to start. Here are some key insights.
Types of Fencing
Like all fence installations, aluminum fence projects begin with posthole excavations. After these uprights have been put firmly into place, installers can mount the panels that make up the aluminum fence.
Aluminum fences offer a low-maintenance alternative to wrought iron with the same open style. Although both options are known for resisting weather and abuse, aluminum takes way less work to maintain.
Aluminum’s prefabbed design makes it best-suited to straight runs and right-angle intersections. When it comes to privacy, however, homeowners need to look elsewhere: This kind of fence does little to stop prying eyes. Aluminum is also extremely lightweight, so its security advantages are minimal.
The wood fence installation process varies. Although digging postholes is still the first real step, these fences can include panels or isolated beams that fit through the holes in the posts. This makes it simple for homeowners to customize their projects according to their budget constraints: Taller fences that demand more materials have bigger price tags, but it’s possible to save money by taking a DIY approach to tasks like painting and staining.
Some wood fences are great for providing privacy and security, while others just keep people out and pets in. Depending on the types of wood they choose and how diligent they are about upkeep, homeowners can expect these fences to last anywhere from a few decades to a lifetime.
Vinyl and PVC
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly referred to as PVC or vinyl, is among the cheapest fencing materials around. After placing wooden uprights, installers cover them with durable PVC sleeves that increase rigidity and provide stable mount points for the PVC crossbeams or panels. From there, everything gets secured with screws.
PVC fencing is attractive thanks to its low cost, color variety and minimal maintenance. It’s also extremely flexible and durable. Many people like the fact that it comes in a range of straightforward panel heights that make it easy to erect a medium-security privacy barrier quickly. On the other hand, it’s not exactly ecologically friendly, and although it can last for decades, it’s been known to fade from UV exposure.
Many wrought-iron installations are indistinguishable from aluminum until viewed from up close. With their ornate scrollwork and welded joiners, these fences are typically associated with opulence and high class. They’re solid options that compensate for their open lack of privacy with an imposing rigidity that makes people think twice about trying to come inside. Unlike other fences, they often replace posts with masonry footers.
Wrought-iron fences are some of the most expensive options on the market since they typically require custom design and fabrication, but a homeowner’s size and style choices may mitigate some of the cost. While they can last for centuries, these fences may not be best for the hands-off homeowner: They need regular sanding and repainting to stay in prime condition.
Chain-link fencing is actually a type of metal-based fabric. The “links” are composed of woven steel wire that has been galvanized or coated in a polyethylene plastic. This mesh is an affordable, high-security option that can be upgraded with exterior-rated cloth coverings to increase privacy.
Chain-link installations typically involve placing uprights and attaching the mesh to one post at a time. Installers stretch the fence as tightly as possible before affixing it to the other uprights with durable aluminum wire. Since these meshes and posts are lighter than solid wood beams and panels yet heftier than PVC, they provide a nice set of mid-price-range characteristics that make them hallmarks of security-oriented yard upgrades.
Concrete fencing is ideal for those who want to create an imposing look without installing an actual wall. Like some wrought-iron fences, they forego standard posts in favor of heavy footings that resist motion and serve as high-security fixtures. After the footers are installed, precast concrete panels get hung in place to create a stout wall.
Concrete fence panels can be cast in a variety of designs, but the most common style is replica stone. This material’s weight means that installations involve heavy-duty equipment, such as cranes to lift the panels. While the upfront installation costs can be higher than they are with other fences, the longevity, minimal maintenance and easy paintability of concrete are worth it to some homeowners. People can also choose shorter fences to save money.
Installing a Fence
Want to try the DIY fence route? Countless homeowners create stunning installations each year, but it’s critical to follow the right steps. Here are a few pointers that apply to all kinds of fences.
Successful fence installations require careful preparation. Before getting started, it’s critical to plan the project out on paper and inspect the target installation site for irregularities that may cause problems. For instance, some hills and other graded areas demand additional leveling or excavation to create suitable fence surfaces. Those who decide to go over or around these landscape features should count on needing extra materials.
Another essential aspect of build preparation involves laying out locations for the upright fence posts that support the structure. In addition to marking spaces at regular intervals to produce even-looking results, it’s critical to test the ground. Rocky soil can be a real back-breaker, so it’s best to check for such conditions well before the project is underway.
Getting to Know the Tools
Since the appearance and longevity of a fence are entirely dependent on how well the posts are installed, it may even be worth practicing making holes with a special posthole digger or augur. While people can use regular shovels to excavate postholes, it’s important to remember that stability is king: Wider holes created by broad-headed spades tend to let posts wiggle around, so keep things as tight as possible.
Since chain link behaves like a mesh cloth, it needs to be hung with high levels of tension to produce straight, secure results. Using a purpose-made fence stretcher is a must.
Scheduling Sufficient Time
Not all fence installations progress at lightning speed. Even experienced professional crews understand the value of taking extra time for certain tasks. For instance, when waiting for the concrete to harden in a hole filled with a newly placed upright post, it’s critical to check the alignment regularly with a bubble level. Sagging can have disastrous results at this early stage, so keep an eye on things before leaving them to set.
Remember that it’s often recommended to let concrete set for at least a few hours before applying additional stress to fenceposts. Waiting until the next day to hang the actual fence can prevent the added weight from transforming a once-straight project into a crooked, wiggly mess.
Finally, remember that there’s nothing wrong with contacting a professional. Not everyone is as handy as some DIYers, and fences can be reasonably substantial investments. If unsure, do some local research to find the best fence installers.