Choosing the Best Materials for Building Fences

Tips to help you decide on a design and assemble supplies

Bike-rim inserts (image) can be used to decorate fences. But not privacy fencing!
David Beaulieu

When it is time to build a fence for your property, you may be overwhelmed by the number of options from which to choose, both in terms of materials and design. Those two factors are intimately related (the choice of one affects the choice of the other), so materials and design will be considered together in this FAQ.

In the planning stage of building a fence (or having one built by a professional), most homeowners will want to give equal consideration to the following:

  1. Form (that is, stylistic considerations)
  2. Function (that is, what practical purpose the fencing will serve)

The links below will take you to answers to frequently asked questions about what the best materials and designs are for erecting fencing. As a pictorial aid to use in conjunction with this FAQ, you may want to look at fence pictures to inspire your decision.

Final Thoughts

Before concluding, let's address a couple of other issues that homeowners sometimes raise on this subject: 

  1. What if I am undecided between building a fence myself or hiring a professional?
  2. Is aluminum ever used as a material for building fences? If so, what are the advantages of aluminum fences?

If you are undecided between building a fence yourself or having a professional installation, be aware that it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Lawrence Winterburn (owner of explains, as follows:

"You can also mix and match between building a fence the do-it-yourself way and hiring professionals to help you. The most difficult part of building a fence is setting the posts in the ground properly. But you could have the posts erected by a professional, then finish off the project yourself. Prefabricated units can be purchased at home improvement centers. These units are then trimmed to width and secured between the posts. In some cases, brackets are used that make installing the prefabricated units even easier.

"This compromise between building fences yourself and opting for complete professional installation saves you money. It saves you aggravation, too, since you're having the pros handle the most aggravating part of fence building (erecting the posts)."

As for aluminum fences, they are not as common for fencing along property lines in most areas as are those made of other metals, or of wood or vinyl. But they are valued for their low-maintenance quality, as are their vinyl counterparts. Just as PVC 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, they 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.