Frequently Asked Questions about Fences

I live on a highway. What fencing can I use to serve as a noise barrier?

Answer: Fencing intended to serve as a noise barrier or “sound barrier” often uses thick tongue-and-groove boards, in order to form an impervious barrier. These boards are nailed to heavy rails, which in turn are supported by heavy posts. The operative word for noise barriers is obviously “heavy.” That’s because, as a rule of thumb, mass dampens sounds best — so fencing serving the purpose of muffling sounds needs to be heavier than most other fencing. [Source for information on noise barriers: Lawrence Winterburn,]

What are the pros and cons of vinyl fences? I am exploring alternatives to traditional wood fencing…

Answer: While much fencing designed for privacy or decoration is made of wood, vinyl fences (or “PVC fences”) are garnering an increasingly large share of the market.

The pros of vinyl fences are as follows:

  • Vinyl fences offer low maintenance — never paint or stain again.
  • At a distance, some high-quality vinyl fences do resemble the traditional wood fence designs for which they are substitutes.
  • Vinyl fences don’t splinter, making them a child-friendly alternative.

The cons of vinyl fences are as follows:

  • Since PVC does expand and contract as temperatures fluctuate, this material becomes more brittle in the cold, making it susceptible to damage.
  • Up close, a vinyl fence is a vinyl fence, any resemblance to wood from afar notwithstanding. For the true lover of the look, smell and feel of wood, no substitute will do.

Another drawback is the price. Vinyl fences are more expensive than their wooden counterparts in terms of upfront cost. However, you may save money in the long run, after maintenance costs for wood are considered.

Why is chain-link fencing the best material for security fences?

Answer: Considering cost as well as effectiveness, chain-link fencing provides homeowners with the best option for security fences. When using chain-link fencing for security fences, strive for a height of 6’ or greater and a thickness of at least 9-gauge. Avoid solid barriers when erecting security fences. For, while a visual barrier is desirable when erecting privacy walls, it is counterproductive for security fences, affording trespassers a place to hide. Thus the virtue of chain-link fencing: it is strong, yet see-through. Wrought iron also makes for fine security fences, for the same reasons. But while wrought iron is much more attractive than chain-link fencing, it is also much more expensive.

What Are the Advantages of Aluminum Fences?

Answer:  Just as vinyl fences attempt to mimic the look of wood fencing, aluminum fences are often thought of as a substitute for wrought-iron fencing. Wrought-iron is the tougher material of the two (it won’t dent as easily), but it will rust without significant maintenance on your part. Aluminum fences are less prone to rust. If a thick gauge is selected, aluminum fences may excel even vinyl fencing in durability, since this metal does not become brittle in cold weather.

When you shop for an aluminum fence, check to see if it is painted or powder-coated. Powder-coating is considered a superior way to weatherize the product. Powder-coating is available in a number of colors.

Aluminum fences are a popular choice as a protective barrier around swimming pools. Vinyl is more popular in most areas for privacy fencing. Nonetheless, where privacy is not paramount, many people may prefer the satisfying feel of metal afforded by aluminum fences.

I want my fence installation to run smoothly. What preparatory work should I do?

Answer: Before rushing into fence installation, you need to do a little homework on possible restrictions to fence installation based on where you live and what’s already underground where you propose to dig. For help with this homework, please see below….

Building codes and local zoning ordinances may restrict your fence installation, both in terms of height and design. No one is unequivocally happy about restrictions, but some of the restrictions in this case are sensible. For instance, fencing on a corner lot should not be so high as to obscure drivers’ views at the intersection of the two roads your property abuts — this would create a safety hazard. Here are some matters to check on prior to fence installation:

  • In some locales, you will need to obtain a building permit prior to the fence installation.
  • Have a surveyor determine precisely where your property boundary lies, unless you’re already positive about this. Alternatively, just make sure the fence lies well within the confines of your own property, rather than near the border.

Contact your local utility companies to help you determine the location of underground gas, water and power lines. The service is usually free. Whereas if you damage a power line while making a fence hole, repairing that damage most certainly will not be free!