Vinyl Fence, sometimes referred to as PVC fence, while a part of the fencing landscape for well over a quarter century, can still be considered the relative newcomer of the more popularly installed fence product lines. Vinyl fence is virtually maintenance free and comes in a wide variety of styles, colors, textures and finishes making it the perfect fence alternative to the standard wood or ornamental aluminum fence.
While the initial up front cost of a vinyl fence installation can be more than a similarly looking wood fence, there are some substantial differences between wood and vinyl fences that make this initial investment a huge benefit that pays off in the long run. A quality manufactured and installed vinyl fence will look virtually as good for decades to come, as it did the day it was installed. No warping, no checking, no graying…a virtual fountain of fence youth. As with any fence installation, location and application usage should always be considered when installing a vinyl fence. Raw materials, extrusion type, material specifications, as well as warranty offered, provide good information as to whether you are looking at a quality product line, or not. If you are unsure, ask your contractor. The saying “You get what you pay for” really does apply when purchasing a vinyl fence.
We at Infinity Fence Inc. do much of the homework for you, making sure we offer quality, established lines of Vinyl Fence and Vinyl Products while providing our customers with detailed estimates.
We know, that with so many, seemingly, look-alike products on the market, there is much to be considered. We are here to help you, and look forward to working with you on your vinyl fence installation project. Please feel free to give us a call (919-846-2229), email us or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment for an estimate or to discuss your vinyl fence needs.
To see pictures of our vinyl fence installations please visit our Gallery
For more product information and links to manufactures web sites please visit Product Resources
Vinyl fence sections, while offered in a variety of styles, generally are available in heights from 3′ tall and up to 12′ tall and come in standard 6′ or 8′ widths .
Vinyl privace fence sections are generally constructed using a 1-1/2″ to 2″ wide x 5-1/2″ to 7″ high horizontal top and bottom rail. The rails are skived or walled to accept the pickets. Pickets are tounge and groove and range from 7/8″ thick x 6-12″ wide. Accent Toppers of lattice or spindles are also avaialable.
Most vinyl spaced picket styles of fence have the upper horizontal rails routed through to allow the pickets to slip through them and then slide into and rest inside the bottom rail. The pickets are notched at the bottom to guard against easy removal of the picket. The horizontal rails of a picket fence usually will be 1-1/2” to 2” in width and 2” to 6” in height. Pickets sizes are quite varied ranging from 1″ x 1″ to 7/8″ x 6″. Different picket tops are available for the pickets if the section does not have a top cap rail.
Vinyl fence sections that are 6′ in width or less, normally will not have an aluminum or steel stiffener in the bottom rail, though the option is available and will significantly increase the sections vertical load. Sections that are wider than 6′, normally will have a stiffener due to the extra width of fence, though this can vary depending on manufacturer and specification of material being used.
History of Vinyl Fence
While vinyl fencing is the relative new kid on the block, it actually has roots dating back over 100 years. In the late 1800’s European researchers used a gas called vinyl chloride in a mixture that resulted in a rigid material. They discovered this process made the material very rigid, however, at the time, there seemed to be little commercial value. In the 1920’s, a rubber scientist named Waldo Semon, was working for the BF Goodrich Company looking for a way to bond rubber to metal. The result was plasticized polyvinyl chloride, what today we call PVC. While once again there seemed to be little commercial value there was a definite future for Dr. Semon’s work, as the 30’s saw commercial applications begin to take hold leading to further experimentation with vinyl formulations.
The 40’s saw vinyl become an important commodity as it became the alternative for an ever shrinking natural rubber supply. It was used extensively to replace rubber, as the primary insulator for electric wires. Continuing physical property advancements during the next decade brought new markets. The 50’s saw the introduction of rigid PVC which was, and is used for irrigation pipe. This advancement is what eventually led to the development, in the late 70’s, of the vinyl fence product line.
The early days of vinyl fence saw product initially provided by a small number of companies who offered a limited amount of basic styles of both privacy and picket vinyl fence. These fences were white in color and most styles were constructed resembling their wood counterparts with the pickets being attached to horizontal rails by method of gluing or back screwing (screwing through the rail, into the back of the picket, then plugging the hole in the rail). Today, there are a plethora of vinyl fence manufacturers and providers offering vinyl fence in a wide variety of styles, colors and finishes with end variations numbering well into the hundreds.
The Extrusion Process
Today there are multitude of companies extruding vinyl, as well as companies purchasing extrusions to make their own vinyl fence product lines. Unfortunately, while many of these products look the same, the truth is there can be some considerable differences. Not all vinyl fences are made the same, that is why it is important to know where your materials come from as well as the specifications of that material.
First off, it is important to make sure you look into the thicknesses of the materials being used. Thicker materials will generally mean that you will be spending more for the product but it will also mean you are getting a sturdier fence that will hold up much better over time. We all have experienced the differences in thick and thin plastic products. At Infinity Fence Inc., we give you the specifications of the products being used in the construction of your vinyl fence on our estimates so you know exactly what you are purchasing. It is not always enough to know what the manufacturers specifications are from a brochure as similarly sized parts can be interchanged with different wall thicknesses.
Secondly, knowing where your material is coming from is of great importance when purchasing any PVC or vinyl fence product. Products from outside the US may contain lead. Lead is commonly used as a stabilizer in PVC compounds and many foreign companies who extrude vinyl choose to use lead as it is cheaper and easier to process than the high-quality safer alternatives. There is currently no US law that restricts the use of lead in vinyl products.
Which now brings us to the extrusion process. The basic plastic extruding process is where plastic is first melted into a viscous, semi-liquid state. After it softens, the plastic is pressed through a contoured opening. The plastic then emerges from the opening in a long shape which can be of varying shapes and sizes in order to manufacture specific parts. There are many extrusion processes but the most common for fencing are is mono-extruded and co-extruded.
Mono-extrusion: This is the way vinyl fence was originally produced and still is by a rare few manufacturers. Mono-extrusion is a process that injects a UV protector in the entire profile, having 100% coverage. Mono-extruded products generally have a higher material cost as they are UV protected completely though, whereas co-extruded products have an exterior layer of UV protection.
Co-extrusion: The co-extruded fence profile is made out of two concentric streams. The outer stream is called the capstock and contains the UV protector. ASTM’s “Specification for Rigid PVC Exterior Profiles Used for Fencing” (F 964-94) requires that the cap stock layer be a minimum of 00.015″ thick and a maximum of 20% of the overall thickness of the profile wall. Some companies look for greater cost savings by not meeting these cap stock specifications.
The inside stream is called the substrate. The substrate is made up of material with reduced ultraviolet protection. Some companies and manufacturers using the co-extrusion method, to achieve greater material cost savings, use a reground material (rework) for the inner post (substrate). This leaves in question, the quality of the material that makes up the main structure of the post. They may emphasize that only waste vinyl fence products are used, but it is impossible to control the content of this material. It cannot be determined how many times the material has already been reprocessed. Multiple reprocessing usually results in a more brittle and inferior product.
These two streams are chemically attached, bonded under great pressure and temperature. Despite the extrusion process being more complex, the use of the substrate saves on material costs thus lowering overall costs.
A quick look at the two processes leaves one with the assumption that the Mono-extruded process is superior to the co-extruded process but that is not so. If the co-extrusion process is done properly, meeting all approved manufacturing specifications, there is no difference in quality or longevity of the material. The key lies in using quality materials, processes and reputable manufacturers.
Fence posts for vinyl spaced picket styles of fences will normally range between 3-1/2″ – 5″ square with wall thicknesses ranging from .135 – .160, while posts for privacy fence normally range from 5″ square and up, and have wall thicknesses of .130, .135, .150 & .270 (heavy wall post).
Vinyl post wall thickness usage is determined by fence application, height and anticipated wind load. For example, it is recommended that an 8′ high privacy fence use a .270 wall on the entire job, whereas a 4′ high privacy fence might only require a .130 wall thickness. Basic post guidelines for a 6′ privacy fence would be to install using a 5″ x 5″ x .130 post or better, though we here at Infinity Fence Inc., we use a minimum post wall thickness of .150 on all standard style privacy fences (where avaialble).
Aluminum stiffeners should be used for gate hinge posts as they provide much needed stabilization assuring a long lasting properly functioning gate. They can also be used in all posts if the fence is being used in extreme wind applications. The latch posts for gate can also have an aluminum stiffener, though in most cases a standard or heavy walled post is more than sufficient.
When installing posts, all posts should be set in concrete footings. Concrete should be mixed in a wheel barrow or mixer, with water, prior to being placed in the hole, properly activating the concrete product. It seems more and more fence installation companies installing footings by dumping dry concrete into a hole and then adding water to the top (commonly called dry packing). We can not stress this enough, this IS NOT, a proper way to pour concrete footings and in most cases will void the manufacterers warranty on the product..
Oh….and never forget to cap your posts. The most common cap is the standard fla cap, also called an exterior pyramid cap (becuase of it’s very slight rise to a point), but there are a plethora of post cap styles out from Horsey Head caps to Solar Lighting Accents so do not hold back, go have some fun and express yourself.
Vinyl fences generally have an upper and lower horizontal rail, and depending on style and height, may have an additional mid rail. The top and bottom rails of a vinyl privacy fence will have a channel molded or cut into into the horizontal rails that allows the picket to rest within. Picket fences generally have holes routed into the rails in order to accept the pickets.
The horizontal rails of a vinyl fence usually will be between 1-1/2″ to 2″ in width and 3″ to 7″ in height. Rails for privacy fence are generally 5-1/2″ to 7″ in height and and come in a few different rail profiles.
Many companies install privacy fence using a standard rail (skived), though here at Infinity Fence Inc, we use premium, double walled pocket rails on all our standard vinyl privacy fences styles (where available).
Section bottom rails, that are longer than 6′ in length should have an aluminum or steel insert. This rail insert will provide proper structural integrity to the panel being installed.
The wall thicknesses of the rails can vary from company to company. Remenber, the key to a better quality product, is to make sure you use larger wall thicknesses on your rails as well as the rest of the materials used for your vinyl fence. We are often approached by companies offering better pricing on product lines with the trade off being thinner wall thicknesses.
While there are still vinyl fence styles designed using the back-screwing or gluing technique, insertion of the pickets through, or into, the rail have become the favored installation method. The process of routing the rails and inserting the pickets into or through the rail eliminate the need to glue or screw the pickets in place. This vinyl picket installation method resutls in a stronger, cleaner looking vinyl fence installation.
Picket size dimensions are the great variable as they come in vast array of sizes allowing for a multitude of looks. Pickets used for spaced picket fence styles are generally tabbed (notched) so that the are not easily pulled out of the rail routing. Picket tops are then added to the pickets (if not using a top rail) as unlike wood pickets, one can not cut a picket top on a vinyl picket that is hollow. Sections of 5′ in height and more generally have a mid rail that is routed to allow the pickets to pass through.
Here are the standard picket tops avaialble:
For privacy fence,pickets are tongue and groove and come in varying widths and patterns, the most common being a 6″, 7″ or 11.3″ tongue and groove picket. Sections of 7′ and greater height have the opttion of being installed with or without a mid rail.
Just like anywhere else, wall thicknesses are a big key as to the how well the pickets of a fence will hold up. Some manufacturers use a privacy picket with wall thicknesses as little as .035, where our standard tongue and groove pickets have a .050 wall thickness.
Vinyl gates, which can be quite useful in order to get in and out of our fenced areas, are generally fabricated to match the style of fence that is being installed. There are four different ways in which vinyl gates are commonly manufactured; Inside Socket, Riveted, Welded or constructed with an Internal Steel Frame. While the first three methods suffice for most applications, the internal steel framed gate is ideal for larger and commercial application gates.
While many choices exist for gate hardware usage, the most common ways to hinge your gate is using either Stainless Steel Std. Hinges or Tru-Close Hinges. Latches can be as simple as gravity type latch or you may opt for a Lokk Latch from D&D Technologies. For privacy vinyl fences, The Lokk Latch Deluxe has a key lock and allows you to open the gate from both sides, for picket vinyl fences there is the single sided Lokk Latch Standard.
Vinyl Fence is Offered in 5 Standard Colors:
(please be aware that monitor settings may vary affecting actual product color)
And Available in 3 Finishes:
Infinity Fence Inc. offers installation of a wide variety of vinyl fence syles. We also have the ability to have most styles customized to meet both esthetic and landscaping challenges.