Like vinyl windows and siding, which are routinely used in homes, vinyl fencing offers significant advantages to the acreage owner. Also known as polyvinyl chloride or PVC fencing, it's easy to take apart, it's durable, and it will look good for many years (most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty). Vinyl fencing is versatile; it can be used to enclose a pasture or paddock, define property lines, contain livestock, or create a training ring for horses.
Vinyl is the fastest-growing component of the fencing industry, says Jim Sweet, president of A Vinyl Fence Co., a distributor in San Jose, California. "It has been growing at 30% a year for the past eight years," says Sweet.
Safer for horses
Compared to other fence materials such as wood, aluminum, wrought iron, and steel, vinyl is far superior, Sweet says. "Wood rots, gets termites, needs to be painted frequently, and it splinters and breaks. With horses, wood is incredibly dangerous because it can injure the animal."
Unlike iron, a vinyl fence won't corrode, says Mary Willard, marketing manager for Kroy Building Products, a manufacturer in York, Nebraska. Vinyl discourages horses from cribbing (chewing) because they don't like the feel of it on their teeth, Willard says.
A vinyl fence is also more resilient than wood and will "give" under extreme stress. The rails may disengage from the posts, but they won't break.
Initially, vinyl fencing costs about one third more than wood and about the same as steel. However, the investment will pay off in about seven years because virtually no maintenance is required. To remove dirt, mold, and mildew, just hose off the fence or pressure-wash it with a mild detergent.
The color, like the material itself, is very durable and won't fade, chip, or peel. In comparison, wood requires regular painting and repair in addition to the initial cost.
One disadvantage of vinyl fencing is that it's usually not available in darker colors. White, light tan, and light gray are common choices. "As much as people want forest green and chocolate brown, those are colors that vinyl manufacturers stay away from. They tend to absorb heat and cause the vinyl to bow," says Denny Yoder, president of Royal Crown Limited, Milford, Indiana.
Manufacturers often debate the merits of 100% virgin vinyl versus co-extruded vinyl. In the co-extrusion process, two layers are bonded together. The inner layer, or substrate, absorbs impact while the outer layer is treated with UV inhibitors and other chemicals to protect it from the elements. The inner layer gives co-extruded vinyl added strength, whereas thin-walled virgin vinyl can be damaged by flying stones thrown by lawn mowers or cars.
Watch for recycled material
While there's nothing wrong with co-extrusion, consumers should be aware that some manufacturers use recycled material for the substrate. "I don't want to tell you that everybody puts junk in the substrate, but there are some companies that do, and that's only to reduce the cost and make a cheap fence," says Yoder.
Post and rail vinyl fencing is easier to install than wood and metal fencing, Yoder says. No fasteners or welding equipment are required. Drill a hole in the ground, drop in the vinyl post, compact the earth around it or set it in concrete, and insert the rails inside the posts.
Vinyl expands and contracts with changes in temperature, so the rail and post should allow for movement without letting the rail fall out.
Willard says posts must be at a depth below the frost line. He recommends anchoring them with both concrete and rebar for added stability, especially gate posts because gates are constantly being opened and closed.
Yoder says it's critical for the tops of the posts to be at the same height as they follow the contour of the ground. Unlike wood, which has inherent imperfections, every piece of extruded vinyl is exactly the same, so a difference of even 1 inch in height can ruin the fence's appearance. Proper setting and anchoring of the posts are the keys.
Many styles are available, although two and three rail are still the most popular ranch fences. Willard recommends purchasing a fence with 5x5-inch posts and 2x6-inch rails for durability. For cattle, an electrified four-rail fence is recommended. The fence can easily be electrified by drilling a hole in each post and stringing a hot wire through the holes. In general, the greater the quantity you buy, the lower the cost per foot.
Vinyl is the fastest-growing segment of the fencing industry, with sales climbing 30% a year for the past eight years.
Acreage dwellers like the low maintenance of vinyl. Horse owners like it because it discourages horses from chewing -- they don't like the feel of vinyl on their teeth.
Vinyl fencing is available in many styles, but the colors are generally limited to white, light tan, and light gray. Darker colors tend to absorb heat and can cause the vinyl to bow. To clean vinyl fencing, simply hose it off.
Vinyl fencing sources
Distributor: A Vinyl Fence Co., Inc.
San Jose, California
100% virgin vinyl fencing in a variety of residential and ranch styles. Lifetime warranty. Price: $3.98 per foot
Manufacturer: Nebraska Plastics, Inc.
Solid-wall, 100% virgin vinyl. Over 30 styles for residential, farm, ranch, and equine. Warranted for 20 years. Price: Company does not sell directly to consumers; contact local dealer for quote.
Gardner Fence Systems, Inc.
Extruded, rigid PVC fence. Rails available in 16-foot lengths. Limited lifetime warranty. Price: $4 per foot
Genova Products, Inc.
Solid vinyl fencing. Posts are made to slip over existing 4x4-inch posts. Hollow boards and rails allow standard-size lumber to be inserted for extra strength. Offers lifetime warranty. Price: Company sells through dealers only. Three-rail fence with 5x5-inch posts is approximately $4 per foot
Heritage Vinyl Products
Manufacturer: Outdoor Technologies, Inc.
100% virgin vinyl. More than 30 residential and commercial styles. Transferable lifetime warranty. Price: Company does not sell directly to consumers; contact local dealer for quote.
Kroy Building Products, Inc.
PVC fencing available in many styles, including ranch rail and an equestrian fence that combines vinyl with Bayco wire. Gold Series posts are warranted for 20 years; virgin vinyl posts carry limited lifetime warranty. Price: $5 per foot
Manufacturer: Royal Crown Limited
100% virgin vinyl fencing available in many styles, including a round post/round rail style. Patented rail lock system eliminates need for screws, nails, and brackets. Lifetime warranty. Price: Triple Crown sells (through authorized dealers) three-rail fence from $4.75 to $5.75 per foot, depending on quantity purchased.
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