No more straddling the fence; find out how these fencing materials compare when placed head-to-head
Whether you're trying to get a little more privacy from your neighbors or you love the homey feeling that fences can bring, you're ready to find the perfect fence for your home. But with so many fencing materials available, choosing the best one for you and your family can get tricky. Let's look into the pros and cons of the most popular fencing materials to make this decision less overwhelming.
Pros and Cons of Wood Fencing
Fences made from solid wood are a favorite for homeowners because they’re traditional. They’re as elegant as they are original. But that doesn’t leave them without their own sets of faults. Let’s look at what makes them lovable and what you should be mindful of below.
Wood is an all-natural material that is biodegradable when it is not treated with bug and rot resistant chemicals. It’s a good eco-friendly option when you use wood that’s resistant to decay, like cedar, redwood, and reclaimed wood.
Wood fences are a relatively affordable fencing material compared to more expensive types, such as a vinyl fence, which averages $3,720. Installing a wooden fence typically costs $2,700. While pricing depends on factors like the type of wood, length, or if you’re looking to build a split rail, picket, or privacy fence, you can still get a fence at a budget-friendly price.
Do you want to see over your fence from your porch? That’s easy. Or a fence that prevents even the nosiest neighbors from peeping into your yard? No problem, because one of the perks of a wood fence is how much you can customize it.
You can design your fence to match your taste and choose from various colors and styles when purchasing. You can paint it after installation when you’re ready for a new look. If you decide you want a shorter length or want to decrease (or increase) the space between each picket, wood fences give you the leeway to adjust it to your needs during installation.
Vulnerable to Weather
Even the most well-maintained wood fences with sturdy foundations are vulnerable to the weather and surrounding environment. Some hurricane-force winds can potentially uproot them. And since wood is porous, even if it’s pressure-treated, it can still become warped and start to lean.
Wooden fences require a lot of maintenance to keep them a beautiful focal point of your yard. Some woods require less maintenance than others, like cedars with natural oils that repel insects. But others, like pine, require frequent TLC, including staining, washing, and painting.
With annual maintenance, a wood fence can last for 15 years on average. Some last 20 years or more, depending on the type. Without the proper care, the wood will start to fade and last for around five years before you need to replace it.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Fencing
Vinyl fences consist of plastic—polyvinyl chloride (PVC), to be exact—that’s versatile and can fit most homeowners’ needs. But while it has its pros, it also has some drawbacks.
Vinyl fences are reasonably easy to maintain. They don’t require frequent painting and staining to sustain their charm. It’s also a scratch- and warp-resistant material. Since vinyl is nonporous, it won’t require too much elbow grease to remove any dirt, debris, and grime. Spraying a vinyl fence with a hose should do the trick.
Vinyl fences can be shaped and colored into various styles. You can even request a vinyl fence that looks like a wood or iron one. Vinyl fencing can give you the private feeling you want without sacrificing appearance.
Easy to Install
If you’re relatively handy with tools and have moderate know-how, you can install your vinyl fence. You can slide and lock most vinyl fences into the post slots. The hardest part will be making sure that your posts have a good foundation to stand on. Consider using expanding foam or concrete fence post filler to secure your posts.
Vinyl is plastic—polyvinyl chloride (PVC), to be exact—so it’s not biodegradable like wood, but it is a recyclable material. Contact your local recycling center to find out what to do with your plastic. Recycling feels so much more satisfying than tossing it in the trash.
Vinyl doesn’t rot, splinter, rust, or chip, so vinyl fences are exceptionally durable. Unlike other fence materials, it’s not affected tremendously by time and the ongoing stress of weather.
The average price for a vinyl fence is $3,720. That’s more costly than other fence materials like wood. The cost depends on the colors, height, thickness, hardware, style, textures, and any decorative add-ons. And if you’re aiming for a high-end look, it can cost more than $17,000.
However, it’s worth noting that while the initial price is more costly, it can prove to be an investment when you consider the money you’ll save over its lifespan, since it won’t need frequent painting and staining.
Vulnerable to Extreme Weather Conditions
While they’re durable against light to moderate weather conditions, vinyl fences are vulnerable to extreme hot and cold temperatures and high winds.
Pros and Cons of Composite Fencing
Composite fencing is made from sawdust, wood chips, and recycled plastic. Composite fences provide a traditional yet modern aesthetic. While this material does have its share of benefits, it has flaws that homeowners should consider.
Since composite fences are made from a mixture of wood and recycled plastic, there’s very little to maintain. You won’t need to stain or paint a composite fence regularly—soap and a hose should work fine to clean off any dirt and debris. They’re also highly resistant to rot and mold, so you won’t have to worry about consistently replacing panels to maintain your curb appeal.
One pro of having a composite fence is that it’s eco-friendly. Because it's made from wood and recycled plastic, it’s not prone to insect infestations like wood fencing. Hence, there’s less need to use preservatives and repellents, meaning that composite fencing can be recycled again at the end of its lifespan.
Composite fences are less likely to rot, have mold or mildew problems, fade, and be severely impacted by the weather. Plus, it doesn’t crack or splinter. So, a composite fence in good shape can last at least 20 years, with some higher-quality ones lasting more than 50.
Available in Many Styles
The plastic component makes it easy for homeowners to get the style of composite fencing they want for their home. It comes in different colors, styles, and finishes.
While composite material can be an excellent fencing material for homeowners, its durability depends on the manufacturer. The material that the manufacturer uses will determine how many hits from a baseball or football it can take before it shows. And it’ll also impact how strong it is against the wind and weather.
If you’re concerned about the quality of a composite fence, research manufacturers to see what material they use and their process. Or you can contact a fence installer near you to give you an overview of the different composite manufacturers and their materials.
Expensive Upfront Cost
One of the offputting things about composite fencing is the installation price. The average price for a composite fence is $5,000 for 200 linear feet.
Pros and Cons of Aluminum Fencing
Aluminum fencing is an elegant, timeless fencing material made of mostly recycled aluminum. Its beauty can sometimes seem unmatched, but besides looks, there are some cons to consider.
Ample Design Choices
Aluminum is low-density and malleable, so it’s easy to mold into various styles. You can also choose from different colors; while black is the most popular, aluminum fences also come in bronze, gray, and white, to name a few.
Great for Slopes
Aluminum fences are screwed together where the pick and rail intersects, making it easy for them to follow the grade of your yard. If you have a sloped yard, your fence will line up with the slope without leaving gaps between the bottom of your fence and the ground.
Like vinyl, aluminum fences don’t require painting and staining to keep up their appearance. It’s rust-resistant and can withstand weather better than wood fences. You’ll only need to rinse your aluminum fence with a hose to clean it. Use warm, soapy water to deep clean it in the spring.
Since aluminum is so malleable and lightweight, it’s easier to bend and separate the panels. Aluminum isn’t as strong as other metals, and if an object hits it with enough force, it’ll likely leave a dent. So, if security is an important factor to you, this might not be the best material for your fence.
The average cost of an aluminum fence is $3,780. The price depends on height, style, metal strength, and location. It’s more costly than wood but cheaper than other metals, such as steel and wrought iron.
While aluminum fences are beautiful to look at, they don’t offer very much in the privacy department. Their standard design has noticeable gaps between each fence slat, meaning your yard is visible to passersby.
Wood vs. Vinyl vs. Composite vs. Aluminum Fencing: Which Is Better?
We know what makes each fencing material unique and where they fall short, but how do they compare to each other on important factors to homeowners? Let’s see where they stand.
If you’re on a budget and looking to install a new fence or replace your old one soon, consider a wood fence. Here are the typical prices that homeowners pay for popular fencing materials:
Wood fence: $2,700
Vinyl fence: $3,770
Composite fence: $5,000
Aluminum fence: $3,780
Of course, pricing depends on the fence design, height, material used, and style, among other factors. Keep in mind that while wood is a budget-friendly option upfront, its average lifespan is shorter than vinyl or aluminum.
Most cost-effective: Wood
Wood fences are high-maintenance and require regular sealing, painting, and staining to protect them from the surrounding environment. In comparison, vinyl and composite fencing require very little maintenance. But aluminum requires the least amount of maintenance, mainly because there’s not much material to maintain. Plus, it’s fade- and moisture-resistant, meaning that you don’t have to paint it to sustain its original luster.
Least maintenance: Aluminum
While there are multiple style options available for aluminum and composite fences, wood comes in a wider array of design options based on the type of wood and customizable height and width. Vinyl fences come in different colors and can mimic the look of other fencing materials like stone and wood.
Most design options: Wood and Vinyl
A well-maintained vinyl, composite, or aluminum fence can easily last 20 years. Though the upfront costs for each are higher than that of wood fences, their low maintenance requirements and long lifespan make them a good investment.
Longest life: Vinyl, Composite, and Aluminum
Vinyl fences don’t rust, chip, rot, or splinter, so they’re durable against everyday weather and winds. Aluminum can also hold its own against time and moderate weather. However, how much force they’re able to withstand depends on the strength of the material.
Most durable: Vinyl and Aluminum
Most popular fencing materials today are environmentally friendly in some way. Wood is eco-friendly when it’s not treated with wood preservatives like alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ). Composite is a blend of wood and recycled plastic, and vinyl fences can be recycled after serving their purpose.
But overall, aluminum is the best eco-friendly fencing material. It’s mainly composed of recycled aluminum, can be recycled again at the end of its lifespan, and doesn’t require chemical products to maintain its charm.
Most eco-friendly: Aluminum