Vinyl Vs Wood Fencing: Which Is Best for You?

If you’re planning to install a fence in your back or front yard, the chances are good that you’ve already given at least some thought to what purpose it will serve. That doesn’t mean you’re ready to have a team of fence installers out working in your yard tomorrow. You’ll still need to take some design factors into consideration, including what materials to use.

Vinyl and wood are just two of many potential choices for residential fencing materials. However, they’re also two of the most popular of them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re considering only vinyl and wood, or the entire world of fencing materials is still wide open in your mind. Getting an idea of their benefits and drawbacks can help to clarify your next steps. Find out what you need to know below.

Start By Defining Priorities

There is no one right choice when it comes to wood vs vinyl fencing because every family’s priorities are different. It’s worth taking the time to sit down and clearly define yours. Knowing what you want to accomplish doesn’t just clarify what you’re looking for in fencing materials. It also makes it easier to work with a Knoxville fence company to complete the perfect residential installation.

If you’re like most people, you have a few reasons for wanting a new fence. Write down all of them. To get you started, note that most homeowners’ priorities lists include a combination of:

  • Increasing privacy
  • Improving security
  • Adding curb appeal
  • Defining property lines
  • Keeping pets or small children safe
  • Blocking views of the street
  • Increasing property value

Figure out which of these or other reasons apply, and keep them in mind as you read on to learn about how wood and vinyl fencing stack up and determine which is best for you.

Aesthetics of Wood vs Vinyl

Everyone has seen at least one drawing, painting, or photograph of an iconic American white picket fence, and those fences are made of wood. While it’s common for vinyl fence manufacturers to mimic the shape and color of wood picket fences, they have yet to create a competing product that isn’t obviously artificial in appearance.

Wood fencing is generally more versatile when it comes to appearance, as well. Both are available in a range of shapes, sizes, tones, and textures. However, wood fences can be painted or stained, allowing you to change the appearance of your fence whenever you want. If you’re looking for something more rustic and want to install decorative farm fencing, both wood and vinyl are suitable options.

Although wood remains a perennial favorite when it comes to aesthetics and curb appeal, some people do prefer the more modern, sleek appearance of vinyl fencing. Just keep in mind that exterior remodeling and landscaping projects will have to conform to the color and design of the fence because you won’t be able to change it to complement new entrance doors, hardscaping structures, or trim.

Customizability of Vinyl vs Wood Fences

So far, we’ve only mentioned white picket fences. Picket fences are far from the only design available, though, and they’re certainly not right for everyone. If you’re installing privacy fencing, for example, or want to block views of the road, pickets will do little to accomplish your goals. Instead, you’ll want tall, solid panels, lattice, close-together slats, or a combination of these choices.

Vinyl fence manufacturers provide all of the above-mentioned products for use as privacy fences, and panels are available in multiple heights to accommodate different needs. Vinyl rail fences are also available. No matter what style of vinyl fence you decide on, though, you’ll need to choose from a range of premade components. Wood, on the other hand, can easily be altered to suit your needs and aesthetic preferences.

You’ll also have a range of materials to choose from if you install a wood fence. Most homeowners opt for affordable options like pine, spruce, or fir, but cedar and redwood fences tend to be more durable and can provide a better return on investment. Vinyl fences can only be made to resemble different kinds of wood or other materials. The underlying substance is always the same.

Durability and Longevity of Wood vs Vinyl

Your new fence will spend 24/7 outdoors, so it needs to be able to withstand the elements, and it needs to do so for as long as possible to provide a good return on investment. Whether wood or vinyl wins out in this category depends on several factors:

  1. What type of wood we’re comparing.
  2. How well you maintain your fence.
  3. The budget available for ongoing maintenance and repairs.

Most types of wood are susceptible to rot and decay when subjected to rain and snow, especially if the panels or pickets reach all the way to the ground. It can also warp in response to changing humidity levels. More expensive wood such as cedar is much less prone to these issues than common options like pine and fir. Vinyl is not susceptible to insect or water damage, although it can become brittle and develop cracks or chips over time as a result of sun exposure.

There are ways to prevent the issues that sometimes plague wood fences, such as repainting or restaining the fence every few years and using creative landscaping techniques like incorporating crushed stone rather than dirt, mulch, and garden beds at the base of the panels. You’ll need to devote a significant amount of time and money to keeping your wood fence looking good for as long as possible, though.

Short-Term and Long-Term Costs of Wood vs Vinyl

We’ve already mentioned the fact that wood requires more maintenance than vinyl to keep it looking good and make sure the fence lasts for as long as possible. As a result, wood fencing generally costs more in the long run than vinyl. However, unless we’re talking about custom cedar fencing, vinyl requires a larger initial investment. If you’re working with strong budgetary constraints, that could be a problem.

It’s also worth noting the cost of repairs associated with both wood and vinyl. They will vary depending on whether you hire a professional or take a more DIY approach because wood fencing can take longer to repair, incurring more labor costs. The cost of the materials required to replace damaged slats or panels plays a larger role, though, as both wood and vinyl fencing repairs are relatively simple once homeowners or fencing contractors have the materials.

The reason wood fence repairs tend to be cheaper overall is that they’re usually smaller and the materials are much more accessible. If you need to repair a wood fence, whether you hire a pro or take care of it at home, you’ll only need to pay to replace the damaged planks, slats, or posts. Because vinyl fences typically come in large panels, you may have to replace an entire eight-foot section to repair one small crack. This can be a particularly expensive proposition if the fence style has been discontinued, as you’ll need to order custom-made parts.

Return on Investment of Vinyl vs Wood

It used to be the case that most people purchased family homes, then stayed in them for decades or even the rest of their lives. These days, people often buy starter homes, then upgrade to larger or more conveniently located properties as they progress in their careers. As a result, homeowners often view the importance of return on investment (ROI) differently.

As a general rule, vinyl provides a better long-term ROI than wood because it lasts longer without the need for maintenance. Most wood fencing begins to lose its value after around five years. Vinyl fencing maintains its value better over time, providing a better ROI for homeowners who plan to sell within five to ten years but not immediately.

Not everyone views ROI as a strictly monetary metric, either. If your top priorities are a natural aesthetic and purchasing sustainable materials, for example, vinyl provides no practical value at all. Depending on where you live and what others in the area prioritize, this may also apply to resale value. If it seems like all of the homebuyers in your area are going green, installing a vinyl fence may not wind up providing the best ROI, after all.

The Importance of Professional Installation

What both wood and vinyl fencing have in common is that it will only live up to its full potential when it is professionally installed. Plenty of homeowners perform their own maintenance, washing down vinyl fences or repainting wood. Some can even perform basic repairs if the damage occurs after their warranties have expired. Even if you fall into this category of handy homeowners who can handle minor repairs and home improvement tasks, fence installation is not a DIY job.

Whether you’ve already chosen the perfect material, style, size, and color or you’re still on the proverbial fence about how to proceed, don’t be afraid to reach out. We offer free quotes on professional residential fencing installation.

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