Vinyl Fencing – A Serious HOA Contender

Or: Just when you thought your HOA didn’t like vinyl fencing!

Throughout history, products come and go.  Some are instant hits like Coca-Cola, Pet Rocks, and the menu at the Golden Arches.  Others take a minute to develop like WD-40, bubble-wrap, Wheaties, and surprisingly . . . vinyl fencing.  Some of these failures are due to an uneducated buying public and others are because of a product flaw that was either re-engineered or re-purposed on its way to success.  (Bubble-wrap was introduced as textured wallpaper and most people know the story about how it took 39 formula failures to create WD-40.)

Vinyl fencing falls into the re-engineered category.  At first, vinyl fencing’s molecular structure introduced problems over time like chalking, cracking, splintering.  Originally, vinyl was too rigid and susceptible to cold that made it brittle and reduced its utility.  That was people’s first taste of vinyl fencing, and it left a bad enough taste to allow people – especially HOAs – to restrict or in some cases, ban its use all together.  We think it is time to rethink vinyl fencing.

Take a look at the pros & cons of vinyl fencing and see if any of it makes sense to you:

Pros:

  • Ease of installation – Whether you DiY or hire professionals, vinyl fencing is fast & easy to install. Even amateurs can install a vinyl fence with the right tools, careful measurements, and handy instructions.  Most parts are prefabricated to slide or snap easily into place.  Best of all, you don’t have to seal, paint, or stain it after installation.
  • Ease of Maintenance – Vinyl fences are resilient; they won’t rot or blister, making them child-friendly. Vinyl does not oxidize or rust.  You will never have to worry about maintaining the finish.  Although you may want to hose it off from time to time, vinyl will remain attractive and durable without any help from you.
  • Long Lifespan – Depending on the level of care you give, a vinyl fence should last between 20 & 30 years. Some manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty.  Not only does it reduce your time-investment on maintenance & repair, it’s much easier on your wallet.
  • Variety – Vinyl is available in many style choices and comes in several classic colors like white, tan, and gray that never needs to be painted. Manufacturers offer a range of styles with decorative post-caps to match.  Vinyl is available with a simulated wood grain, giving you the look of wood without the maintenance.
  • Durability – Vinyl fences are resistant to fire and impenetrable to pests and offer excellent longevity. The material won’t chip, crack, peel, or blister, which means you’ll never worry that your fence makes your home an eyesore.  Due to its synthetic makeup, it won’t attract wood-destroying pests.  Advances in technology have introduced stronger vinyl materials so you don’t have to worry when a storm heads your way.
  • Safety – Vinyl fencing is naturally pest resistant so you don’t have to worry about termites reducing your fence’s stability. Vinyl does not produce splinters, which means fewer opportunities for injury.  It doesn’t require preservatives to maintain its appearance or quality.  Also, vinyl is fire-resistant, which means it does not ignite readily and is considered, “self-extinguishing.”
  • Features Plus – Vinyl privacy fences act as a sound buffer and a deterrent to high winds. Vinyl fencing is designed to last a lifetime and most come with protective warranties.
  • Repair – What was once a con that vinyl can be more complicated than just replacing a board or two and sometimes leads to replacing an entire section for a proper solution, has evolved into a pro in that vinyl is easy to work with and install. The parts are easily set into place and sometimes use tongue-and-groove joints and snap-into-place parts to help.

Cons:

  • Cost – Expense is considered to be the biggest disadvantage to vinyl fencing. However, when you consider that once it’s installed on your property, the cost just about ends.  So, over time, the cost is recouped and can even prove to be less expensive than a wood alternative.
  • Mildew – Like in any situation where materials are located in the shade, mold and mildew can be a problem. Since the surface is nonporous, the mildew can be easily removed with a garden hose, Clorox formula, and a brush or broom.

Since cost is really the only downside to vinyl fencing, let’s take a look at the 5-Year Rule.  Basically, you’re looking at a 5- to 7-year window to absorb the extra cost.  The math is pretty simple:  A normal wood fence will cost you around $11.50/linear foot to install.  Then, you’ll have a $5.50/linear foot cost to stain or paint the wood.  So, wood comes in at around $17/foot for the first 5 years vs. the $24/foot cost of vinyl.  At the end of 5 years though, you’ll have to re-paint or re-stain as well as replace a few boards here and there which means you’re right at the cost of vinyl when you apply that second coat.  After the tenth year, you’re losing money on a wood fence vs. a vinyl installation.

The cost vs. longevity equation is the main reason vinyl fencing works best for HOAs.  If most homeowners are only interested in getting in and out within 5 years and opt for wood, the HOA is going to be left with a bunch of eyesores after just a short passage of time.  Vinyl fences improve the overall look and performance over time which means it should get a higher rating by HOAs than its wood counterpart.  Consider Exhibit A.

Vinyl Fencing

Ten year old vinyl fence on Whitesburg Drive facing Southeast.

Vinyl fencing

Ten year old vinyl fence on Whitesburg Drive facing Northeast.

Exhibit A:

One of the first vinyl fence jobs we did at Tennessee Valley Fence was in April of 2009 and it is on display daily at Whitesburg Drive between Airport Road and Jones Valley Road in Huntsville, Alabama.  We stopped by unannounced and snapped a couple photos to show how vinyl fencing is by far the best long-term solution when compared to a wood fence.  These photos are absolutely un-retouched and taken with an iPhone.  They were taken on November 27, 2018 to show you two things:  First, these images show you how beautiful vinyl is at the decade mark with little or no maintenance.  Secondly, the photos show you the absolute privacy vinyl fencing adds to any property.

To sum it up, be sure to look at vinyl as your long-term fencing material.  We are happy to work with homeowners and HOAs to help educate and inform as to the benefits of vinyl and how vinyl fencing will help maintain property values for years to come.  Contact us with any questions you may have regarding fencing materials, labor, and cost.  We look forward to helping with your fencing solutions.

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