Vinyl Fencing Properties
About 15 years ago, my wife and I drove to Lexington, Kentucky on her birthday. She wanted to go to the spring horse meet at Keeneland Race Track. We went early so we could drive the country side so she could dream about horse farms. Kathy said how nice it might be to live on one.
That night all I had were nightmares. I kept having this dream of me painting this never ending white rail fence. I would get to the end of a fence thinking I was finished. I would look up and the fence had turned a corner and disappeared into the distance. If you own a painted wooden fence, I'll bet you experience this reality every 4 - 5 years.
Vinyl fencing was born from the PVC pipe industry. These individuals had already figured out that vinyl was an interesting product. However, their first vinyl fence products were horrible. In fact, this toddler industry is still suffering from an image problem. The pipe guys forgot that PVC pipe rarely sees sunlight. It gets hidden in walls. Ultraviolet light (UV) contains energy that breaks down untreated PVC.
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It didn't take long for the manufacturer's to determine what they had to do to slow the sun's destructive work. They simply had to add enough high quality titanium dioxide (TiO2) to the PVC. But there was a problem. The TiO2 was expensive. In addition, it didn't have to be dispersed throughout the entire thickness of the product. the TiO2 only needed to be up at the surface. Here it could absorb and deflect the energy of the UV rays.
This posed a problem. Pipe and early vinyl fencing was simply extruded through a single die process so to speak. New technology had to be developed which would allow two formulations of vinyl to be co-extruded at the same time and bonded molecularly to one another. Well, several of the major players figured out how to do this. The result is the high quality, long lasting vinyl fencing that you can now purchase.
OK, OK, I know it's plastic. But there are advantages of vinyl when comparing it to wood. For instance, did you know that vinyl has 5 times the tensile strength of wood? This means you have to work harder to stretch it or tear it apart. Vinyl is 4 times more flexible than wood.
Vinyl requires no maintenance other than cleaning. The color is solid through the entire product. It can be embossed to resemble wood.
What? You say it isn't perfect. You're right. Vinyl moves....it moves a lot. It expands when heated. Furthermore, if you get it up to about 170 degrees F or above, it performs like taffy. This is why you don't see vinyl in dark colors. Vinyl easily stores the sun's radiant energy and this causes the product to be hotter than the air temperature. If you made dark brown vinyl fencing, installed it in Phoenix, it would probably be like a wet noodle. Heck, it probably would just bend over and lay down on the desert floor.
Recycling is good for the environment. However, it isn't the best thing for vinyl fencing products. Some vinyl fencing products contain vinyl scraps from mystery sources. There is a possibility that you could buy a fence post that once held your neighbor's milk. Quality control of materials is hard to maintain during the recycling process.
The top line vinyl fence products contain either virgin vinyl or recycled scraps from the factory regrind of vinyl that just came out of the extrusion machine. If you are thinking of buying a vinyl fencing product that boasts of being made from recycled goods, you had better ask some tough questions.
When you go shopping for vinyl fencing, you had better be prepared for a little sticker shock. It can cost double the price of a wood fence and 7 times the cost of chain link. However, look at the big picture. If you make the right choice and select a top quality product, you make a one time expenditure. No scrapers, no primers, no paint.
What's more, just wait until you see the styles and types you can buy. Your yard will be the envy of your neighbors, I can assure you of that! Wait and see. I'll bet that vinyl fencing takes the fence industry by storm during the next 10 years. Best of luck on your project!
I received the following email and photo from a visitor to this column. Ed Shapiro works for Prizm Vinyl Fencing and offers these comments.
In your article you stated that dark colors are not available in PVC. I would like to refer you to our company, Prizm Vinyl Corp.
We have tested dark brown PVC fence for 3 days at 110 degrees temperature, and the fence panel deflected less than 1/16".
This same dark brown material has been installed at Hickam Air force Base for over 7 years, and they continue to purchase the material to replace their wood fence.
While you are correct that dark colored PVC will move like taffy in heat, our chemistry has a heat reflective component that keeps the temperature below the 170 degree threshold. I would be happy to discuss this subject in more detail with you."