Make Your Fence the Best on the Block

Good fences make good neighbors—we all know that old chestnut. But they also make good springtime home additions by shoring up borders before overgrowth sets in to create privacy and security for the extended daylight hours ahead. And these days, there are more (and better) options for colors and textures than the flat white vinyl of yore.

March is the beginning of the fencing season and truth be told, the applications have been pretty standardized for close to two decades. “The majority of what gets installed, and it’s been that way for 10-15 years, is pretty much a six-foot tall vinyl or PVC privacy fence. The reasons are: it doesn’t deteriorate and doesn’t rot,” said Carl Petrucelli, installation manager for Wayside Fence in Bay Shore. But like most things, it’s not so hard and fixed. Homeowners can always apply for a variance for additional height. And there is also varying municipal laws concerning where heights need to drop from six to four feet (near a sidewalk or in the backyard, for instance).

The news is in the aesthetics. The biggest decision for consumers to make is the materials and those have come a long way in recent years. “The vinyl colors and the textures are new. [Before] it was either wood or chain link. A cedar fence was either stockade or custom wood,” Petrucelli said. “And vinyl can kind of emulate that now…and it’s got the color down to where it really looks like wood.” Brands like ActiveYards, which Petrucelli recommends and Wayside uses exclusively, blend an acrylic into their vinyl fencing so the color won’t fade. Petrucelli also warns consumers to be leery of overseas products, which may not contain additives like UV inhibitors that not only help resist fading, but cracking from the sun as well.

More recent is cellular PVC, specifically industry leader Enduris and their new Endwood product line. “It probably looks the most like wood, it’s more like a composite…and the boards and rails are solid through. The downside is that it’s about three times the price [of regular PVC],” Petrucelli said, adding that he can’t yet fully endorse the product because it is still too soon to tell how well it holds up, though he’s optimistic.

For higher-end applications, custom cedar is still the go-to choice. In this arena, thickness and width are key. Take stockade for example, which is a basic, inexpensive wood fencing. The better grade of stockade is ¾-inch thick, with pickets that are three inches wide. But what is more often seen is stockade that’s slightly thinner, ½-inch thick. It will be appreciably worse for ware, usually with knots and holes, and it warps, chips and cracks more easily.

A lot of higher-end residences also often use aluminum fencing around borders, which is called estate fencing. But Petrucelli said it also has a much more common use on Long Island: security for keeping people out of the pool. “With a pool code fence, which usually is aluminum, it doesn’t rust and you can see through it to make sure nobody’s in the pool.” Again, codes vary, but in general, if it’s a two-rail fence, it has to be four-feet tall. If it’s a three-rail fence, with two at the top and one at the bottom, then it has to be 54-inches tall. And the space between the rickets can’t exceed four inches; the space under the fence can’t be more than two inches.

And what about keeping something in, namely little furry creatures? There’s aluminum fencing called puppy pickets that essentially doubles the number of bottom railings, halving the space so tiny dogs can’t squeeze through and bigger pups won’t get their heads stuck (hopefully). Petrucelli also recommended getting a good, sturdy vinyl or PVC fence, particularly tongue-and-groove locking because it creates a solid, unified surface. But what if your precious is a 120-lb beast that could conceivably bust through vinyl, were he so inclined? “Well, he won’t know he can run through, so you’ll be fine.”