Shopping for the right vinyl fence can be a cumbersome task, especially if you do not know much about vinyl (PVC) fencing. There are several items to look for when shopping for a vinyl fence. First and foremost, stay away from the big box stores vinyl fencing like Lowes and Home Depot. These fence panels are typically low in quality and cost the same as a contractor’s higher grade building material.
Let’s start with the PVC or Vinyl component itself. One way that manufacturers try to reduce the cost of producing vinyl fencing is to use recycled plastics in their vinyl extrusion process. Imagine a crab cake full of bread filling. When these recycled plastics are used the strength of the vinyl is degraded. Take notice that these fence panels are often set on six foot centers rather than eight, meaning more posts and more holes to dig, adding additional labor to the cost of the project.
Often customers ask the question, “Should our vinyl fence posts have wood post inserts in them?” If a vinyl fence product requires a wood post insert, this is sure sign that the vinyl product itself is not strong enough to hold the weight of a fence panel in strong weather conditions. In addition, Wood posts are exactly that. They rot just like a wood fence defeating the purpose. Our vinyl fence posts and panels are engineered and manufactured with the strength and durability to stand alone for a lifetime under severe weather conditions.
In short, adding recycled plastics into the vinyl fence mix leaves it brittle and subject to cracking much easier than 100% pure virgin vinyl.
Paramount Fencing Inc installs only 100% pure virgin vinyl fencing by Illusions. Benefits of Virgin Vinyl.
Another way that manufacturers reduce the cost of vinyl fence is by simply using less vinyl. Be sure to look at and compare the wall thickness of your posts and vinyl fence panel products. This is the thickness of the vinyl itself not the size of the component.
Size does matter. Vinyl posts should be 5”x5” square and be at least 50% longer then the height of your fence. So, the length of your 5”x5” fence post for a 6’ tall fence should be 9’. Basically, 50% of what is above ground should be in the ground as a rule.
Pay attention to the fence components. If you see fence panels being attached with brackets, just run. These brackets are most often plastic or painted steel. Plastic brackets cannot withstand the stress of high winds and metal brackets often rust defeating the purpose of a maintenance free vinyl fence.
Often people say that they are doing something but we all know that often when things get busy shortcuts start to be taken in order to make deadlines. If you want to be sure that you’re vinyl fence manufacturer is doing what they say they do, look for the VMA Certified seal on your vinyl fence product. You can read all about the VMA at VMA Certified. The skinny of it is the VMA is like the vinyl fencing industry police department. Anyone can say that they follow and adhere to the standards set in ASTM F964-09 Vinyl Fence manufacturing standards, which by the way is considered the standard to beat in the industry, but who is watching.
The Eastern Fence Illusions Vinyl fence product line is tested consistently throughout each day. A piece of fence from every batch of vinyl is taken and tested throughout the manufacturing process. Every component of fence that is shipped can be traced back to the batch, day, date and time. In the event of reported failure a recall can be issued on an entire defective batch. This testing is all done internally. The VMA basically comes in to audit the auditor. The VMA ensures that manufacturers are clearly stating what their process is and then sends in external auditors to verify that that process is being followed to the T. No shortcuts here.
Since you do not want to your vinyl fence material to be so brittle that it cracks or allows small projectiles like rocks from your mower to go through it, one of the tests performed is “flexibility”. You want your vinyl fence to be strong, able to absorb impact rather than crack. All of this works when there is no weight bearing load. If you think about the construction of a vinyl fence whether it be a picket fence, a semi private or a privacy fence, the entire weight of the fence sits on the bottom rail. Well, with the bottom rail being made of the same flexible material as the rest of this fence this causes an issue with sag in the bottom of the fence.
A quality vinyl fence should have a heavy duty galvanized steel reinforcement in the bottom rail to mitigate the issues of a sagging.
Take a long hard look at your manufacturer’s gates. Some fence contractors will simply take a section of fence, cut it down to size, add a cross support and call it a gate. Look for an all welded gate construction with some sort of additional internal reinforcement. An all welded construction gate ensures that the gate itself will never sag. In an assembled style gate, screws or rivets are used to place a section of fence into two posts to construct the gate. These screws and rivets loosen over time and all of the sudden your gate latch does not work. A steel reinforcement in your hinge post is also a necessary component to a sag free gate but this gets into the topic of fence construction which is another topic entirely.
Last but not least, look at your manufacturer’s warranty closely. Any good quality fence should be backed by a lifetime warranty. Read these closely and pay attention to the details. Some manufacturers warrant a fence panel for life, but their gates are only warrantied for 3 months. This is the most expensive component in your fence. Other things to look for are fade warranty. The color of your fence could also affect the warranty. I have seen manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on “white vinyl fence panels” only. Be sure that your vinyl fence manufacturer credentials meet what they are offering. A lifetime warranty offered by a company who has been manufacturing fence for 3 years really does not
Happy Shopping and best of luck with your fencing project!