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Fencing Made Easy

Low-maintenance fences are becoming must-haves for homeowners. Consider these fencing tips for your next building or remodeling project.  

Once only considered a structure to define or enclose a property, today's residential fences are gateways to creativity. Builders and remodelers who capitalize on the trend toward lower maintenance can add value to a property, and keep their services in demand.

Whether homeowners want privacy, containment or aesthetic enhancement, they definitely don't want to spend valuable time mending their fences, says Janet Arden, editor of Fencepost Magazine, the official publication of the American Fence Association.

"The biggest trend in residential fencing is vinyl. It's growing faster than any other category because it's virtually maintenance free," Arden says. "Vinyl has gotten better looking over the last couple of years. Every time a new product is introduced, it has a nicer texture and more colors and styles to choose from."

According to 2004 estimates by Catalina Research, the petrochemical-based polyvinyl coating (PVC) segment of the yard fencing market has been growing steadily since the late ’90s and is now a leading material purchased for U.S. fencing.

Fencing Materials Clients Want

Noticing this shift in consumer preferences, savvy contractors have been able to increase their marketability by learning how to do vinyl installations. But there are limits, as some clients aren't willing to balance the higher initial cost of vinyl products with the projected maintenance expense of other options.

"The only problem with vinyl is many homeowners don't want to spend the extra money," says fencing contractor Zac Zaccaro of Freedom Fence and Construction Company, Sacramento, Calif. "The median average of home ownership is seven years, so there's a very small percentage of people who think long term."

Arden says determining the type of fence to build depends greatly on the location of a client's property and their goals, which typically include privacy, enhanced appearance, physical boundary, security or safety around a pool.

Styles and names of fences vary depending on regional factors and manufacturers. There are color vinyl-coated or galvanized chain-link fences that also may have metal or plastic slats for privacy. Other styles include lattice, crossbuck, basket weave, post and rail, stockade, picket, flat panel, Victorian, shadow box and tongue-and-groove. Modern fences also can extend a property's theme with accessories such as decorative rails, posts and caps.

To begin creating a project profile, initial planning discussions should focus on:

  • Function
  • Style/material
  • Architectural and landscaping compatibility
  • Maintenance

Zaccaro points out that the most important factor in the success and structural integrity of any fence goes beyond the style or the type of product. "If you upgrade to steel posts,” he says, “then in 20 years, whatever you built on those posts is still going to be there." 

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