Vinyl Fencing Review: Pros and Cons

Is Vinyl Fencing Right for You?

A white PVC vinyl fence

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Are you exploring alternatives to traditional wood fencing? Then, a vinyl fence could be the answer for you. There are several advantages and disadvantages to vinyl fencing. This plastic-based material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is generally low-maintenance and won’t crack or splinter like wood can. Buyers tend to like that it doesn’t rot, have problems with insects, or ever need refinishing. Plus, it comes in several colors and styles, from short picket fences to tall privacy fences. It can even be textured for a wood-like appearance. However, the initial installation costs can be high, and extreme weather can warp or otherwise damage the material. Still, for many people the pros of this material outweigh the cons.

Pros
  • Low-maintenance

  • High-quality vinyl can resemble traditional wood

  • Won't splinter or rot

  • Easily cleaned


Cons
  • Extreme weather can damage the material

  • Not a natural material

  • High initial costs

  • Algae, mold, and mildew can cause staining

Vinyl Fencing Cost

The average cost for a vinyl fence in the U.S. is around $3,600. For about $20 per linear square foot you can get a picket fence style. And for roughly $40 per linear square foot you can put up a taller privacy fence. Labor costs between $35 and $50 per hour on average. In comparison, the average cost of a wood fence is around $2,800, with materials and labor ranging from $15 to $45 per linear foot. 

Some add-ons that will further raise the price include fence post caps, texturing, lattice effects, and gates. Plus, the thickness of the material itself will affect the price. Cheap vinyl fences generally are thin and can easily be dented or otherwise damaged. It’s typically worth splurging on a thicker vinyl for a stable fence that requires less maintenance over time. If you want to save money, go with a simple design rather than a lower-quality material. 

Maintenance and Repair

Vinyl fences are typically very easy to maintain. They don’t ever require painting or staining, their surface doesn’t scratch easily, and they’re easy to clean. Vinyl is nonporous, so if your fence ever gets dirty you typically can just spray it with a hose to clean the surface. It’s also a great product if you have pets or kids, as you won’t have to worry about splinters like you do with a wood fence.

Occasionally algae, mold, or mildew will start to grow on a vinyl fence, especially if the fence sits near a sprinkler that keeps the area damp. But it’s typically not difficult to clean off this staining. Simply hose your fence to clean the majority of the stain, and then scrub it down with a solution of water and dish soap. Rinse the fence with your hose, and the stain should be gone. 

Repairs can be a bit tricky with a vinyl fence, though they shouldn’t be a common occurrence with this sturdy material. If a part of the fence ever breaks, you might have to replace the whole fence panel depending on how the pieces fit together. With a wood fence you typically can just replace one broken board or post instead of the entire panel. The cost of repairs widely varies depending on what’s damaged. For example, a single picket might only cost around $5, but a more expensive update where entire panels need to be fixed can cost between $250 and $800 for materials and labor on average.

Design

Vinyl fences come in many designs. You can get tall privacy fences with the slats close together to block sight lines. There are also various types of picket styles with slats that are more spaced out. You’re also able to add accents, such as lattice at the top of the fence, a scalloped top, or decorative post caps. There are even vinyl fences designed to look like ornamental iron fences with narrow, rounded slats that have pointed tops. Most people opt for a fence in the 4- to 6-foot range, though there generally are taller and shorter options available.

Moreover, vinyl fencing typically comes in several color choices. There are neutrals, such as white, tan, brown, gray, and black. And some styles come in bolder colors, such as green, blue, and red. In addition, the vinyl often can be textured to look like other materials, including natural wood and stucco.

Vinyl fencing can be installed anywhere you need to segment off a portion of your yard. For instance, you can use a tall fence for security and privacy around your backyard. Or you can put one around a pool for safety. Plus, you can use short vinyl fencing around garden beds or other parts of your lawn that you want to accent. 

Vinyl Fence Installation

It is doable to install a vinyl fence yourself; it generally takes an intermediate skill level. Vinyl fencing typically comes in a kit of interlocking pieces. Short picket fences are easier to install than tall privacy fences. For the picket fences you usually just have to pound anchor pipes into the ground with a sledgehammer, add the fence posts over the pipes, and then fit together the rails and pickets. But for a taller installation, you often need a special post-hole digger and quick-set cement to hold the posts in place. That job is often best left to the professional fence companies

Because you’ll be digging into the soil, this is not a project to do when the ground is frozen. In general, the project should last one to two days, depending on the area you’re fencing. Make sure you acquire proper permits and have utilities marked first. Some of the biggest challenges of putting up a fence are working around utility lines and other existing structures, including trees. That’s why it’s important to map out the exact line your fence will take before you begin.

There really aren’t any shortcuts to installing a vinyl fence either. You’ll be most efficient if you take the time to make sure all the components were included in your kit and then follow the instructions. Improvising with materials can get you into trouble and result in an unstable fence.