As you know, fences are uniquely American. Since we were a baker’s dozen of colonies, we have been fascinated by fences. They not only serve to keep us safe, but also give our homes and landscapes a touch of class and beauty.
In the going-on 300 years since colonial fences took root, there have been some major advances in fencing materials. In addition to classics such as wood and iron, you now have vinyl and aluminum. Each is more or less an attempt at improving on the other.
Vinyl vs. Wood
Wood is the traditional choice for picket, rail, or privacy fences. It is versatile, can be painted or stained any number of colors, and durable (if cared for). Vinyl, compared to wood, is the teenage upstart; the younger, faster guy who wants your job — and just might get it. Vinyl, which usually comes in one of several picket designs, is durable and virtually maintenance-free. Among vinyl’s inhibitions, however, is its lack of an extensive color palette.
Aluminum vs. Wrought Iron
Both aluminum and iron fencing fit under the broader heading of Ornamental fencing. This type of fencing is prevalent in both commercial and residential markets because it provides custom elegance and valuable security. Wrought iron is the ‘godfather’ of ornamental fencing. Aluminum, because it is cheaper and durable, is not as strong as iron but is assembled (as opposed to welded), less rust-prone, and now dominates the residential, ornamental fencing market. In fact, even in the commercial market, most new wrought iron fences are hybrids containing both steel and aluminum.
These materials are just the four most common. It is hard to write about fencing without at least mentioning chain-link fences. But if you would like to learn, in more detail, about the ins and outs of these fencing materials, then go to CalFinder’s Remodeling Library and learn more about materials, placement, and fencing designs.