Gone are the days when fencing options consisted of either field stone or split logs. Type "fencing" into an online search engine and get ready for a flood of choices: cedar, treated pine, steel, wrought iron, aluminum, vinyl, stone, concrete, plastic and even bamboo.
However, unless you're building a freeway sound-proofing wall or a razor wire prison fence, chances are you're going to be considering the relative merits of wood over chain link, vinyl or possibly iron. Let's take a quick look at each.
With hundreds of materials, densities, shapes and sizes to consider, cost estimates vary widely, even before accounting for terrain challenges, gate options, or custom fittings. The numbers below are "ballpark" in nature, reflecting what most Rogue Valley contractors would bid.
Do-it-yourselfers can save on labor costs, but fencing installation gets tricky sometimes. Contractors are worth the added investment, almost always. Properly licensed and bonded professionals produce a quality finished product every time. Ask for estimates from at least two firms before deciding.
standard chain link $12 - $14 per linear foot
cedar privacy fence $15 - $18 per linear foot
vinyl fence $23 - $25 per linear foot
wrought iron $25 - $27 per linear foot
bamboo - check online for prices
While we may marvel at the ancient stone fences still intact in places around the world, today's homeowners most often prefer cedar as the lumber of choice for either accent fencing or full privacy screens. Cedar boards and posts are attractive to the eye and their natural oils promote resistance to both rot and insect invasions. Warranties, however, usually extend no further than 10 years.
As to popularity, Superior Fencing's Craig Robinson in Medford says, "We do mostly wood fences, it's our specialty. But there's still a lot of chain link going up in the Valley."
An icon of playgrounds, sports fields and public pools for many decades, galvanized steel chain link fencing remains a staple product of proven durability. Most manufacturers offer three or four color options and warranties in the 10 to 15 year range. For those seeking privacy, solid slats may be inserted through the links to fill the gaps. This treatment also affords greater coloring choices to a homeowner.
Chain link pricing remains attractive to budget conscious buyers, but it may not be much longer. An ever-growing world-wide demand for steel is driving prices ever higher. Some local contractors will not guarantee the price of chain-link fence installation bids.
According to Kevin Johnson, owner of Custom Fence of Southern Oregon, "Once vinyl fencing is in ... it's done." Clean it every once in awhile with a pressure washer or mild detergent and that's about all the maintenance you'll ever need to keep your vinyl fence shiny as new, assuming you choose a quality manufacturer.
As in so many other purchases, you get what you pay for in fencing, including vinyl. The better products feature an outer coat of titanium dioxide for maximum ultra violet (UV) light resistance (think of it as SPF 1,000) and they carry lifetime, non-prorated warranties against defects like fading, splitting, cracking or rotting.
Quality manufacturers use only commercial grade, virgin polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a petroleum-based product. While not normally associated with green building materials, PVC fencing eliminates the need for repeat applications of toxic paints, stains or sealers. It's also kid and animal friendly in that it won't peel, chip or splinter
Vinyl fencing prices are relatively stable at the moment, but the ever-rising cost of crude oil may change this. For now though, quality vinyl fencing commands a premium initial investment over wood or chain link. However, given vinyl's nearly indestructible durability, it takes the prize for most cost effective in the long run.
Upscale consumers might want to consider wrought iron fencing. Pricing for standardized sections is only slightly higher than vinyl, and with a powder-coat finish, iron can be just as durable and maintenance-free.
Industry watchers are focusing on an entirely new material for fencing: composite boards. Already in use as decking material, polymer blend fence boards seem to offer the best of all worlds. Pre-colored, milled to fit without gaps, impervious to the elements, and cheaper than vinyl, composite fencing may become the number one choice.
Another material — more earth friendly but less readily available, is bamboo fencing. Not yet available locally, it's made from environmentally sustainable wood. Cured, fire straightened, capped, and internally threaded together with galvanized steel wires, it come in various heights but always 8 feet wide. For now, look for it online.
Only time will tell as manufacturers continue optimizing their composite ingredients.
For all the choices you'll confront today, don't overlook a centuries-old favorite. Walk into the nearest home improvement store and chances are you'll find cedar split-rails and posts, pre-cut, pre-drilled and ready to accent your finest landscaping. Some concepts never go out of style.