Plastic Fence Vs Wood Fence: A Comparison

a side by side comparison of a plastic fence and a wood fence

We’ll be the first to admit it: There is something rustic and beautiful about a (well-maintained) wood fence. But that beauty easily fades when the fence becomes weather-worn, damaged, or rotten. Advances in new engineering materials have now made the modern plastic fence (or vinyl fence) a worthy alternative.

But is a plastic fence right for you? How does it compare to a traditional wooden fence when it comes to things like beauty, construction, and home value?

It’s time we did a head-to-head comparison of: Wood vs. Plastic/Vinyl fencing.

Wood Fencing: Pros and Cons

a wood fence that shows signs of degrading

Wood fencing is a traditional way to go, and many older houses sport this kind of fencing. It offers a variety of styles, but if you want something outside of a few industry-standard styles, you will need to hire a carpenter to do a custom job.

Pros: Advantages of a Wood Fence

For all the nostalgia tied up in wood, there are only a few benefits for a home owner or property owner:

  • “Rustic” look that some people appreciate and enjoy
  • Close-picket styles of wood fence offer a little more privacy
  • Ability to customize

Cons: What Makes a Wood Fence Difficult

Many of the cons of a wood fence have to do with the material and its maintenance:

  • Needs painting or staining to get the color you want
  • Quickly rots/degrades if you don’t paint or stain immediately
  • Pain or stain will need to be reapplied every few years
  • Is prone to warp, shrink, and/or crack with the weather
  • Easily damaged with severe weather or collision
  • Prone to pests (such as carpenter bees)
  • Prone to splintering and exposed nails
  • Repairs frequently needed because of the above
  • Can be rather costly, especially if you are getting a custom style

Plastic Fencing: Pros and Cons

beige house with a plastic fence with a view of a street

Today’s plastic fencing is not like the plastic fences of your father’s generation. Most have lost that “cheap vinyl” look and can now mimic the shape and feel of wooden fencing. This makes plastic fencing a good overall compromise between budget and beauty.

Pros: Advantages of a Plastic Fence

There are different brands and types of plastic fence, but they all share a few qualities in common:

  • Do not need painting or staining (they come pre-colored, with a variety of colors available)
  • Come in a variety of popular styles; some even mimic the look of wood
  • Resist the elements (including intense sun, rain, snow, etc.)
  • Do not warp, bend, or shrink (significantly) with temperature
  • Do not rot with moisture
  • Resistant to pests
  • Easy to wash/clean
  • Does not splinter; fasteners are not exposed
  • Costs less than most other fencing options

Cons: Why Some People Still Resist the Plastic Fence

Much of the reason why you don’t see more plastic fences has to do with psychology. People associate “plastic” with “cheap” or “fake.”

But here’s the industry secret: Many of the fences you see nowadays are actually plastic or vinyl. People simply don’t notice that, the fences look so good! So there really are more plastic fences out there than you might think.

Here are some reasons people give for still resisting plastic fences:

  • Less sturdy/strong than decorative steel or aluminum
  • Much harder to get unusual custom styles
  • Homeowner still knows that it is not a “traditional” wood fence

Is a Vinyl Fence the Same Thing?

In a word, “Yes.”

These days, most “plastic” fences are made of a substance called PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, resin. This is the same material they use to make modern plumbing pipes, sign material, and a number of other products that need to be strong and maintenance free. The PVC resin is combined with a number of other key ingredients that improve its sturdiness and weather resistance, making it an ideal fence material.

So, if a company offers you a vinyl fence, they are using the industry name for what most people call a plastic fence. (So beware the company that tries to “upsell” you a vinyl fence over their plastic one! Either the plastic fence is low quality, or they are trying to charge you more for the same product.)

Thinking About a Plastic Fence Installation

If you feel ready to give plastic or vinyl fencing a try, you can start by picking out a style that works for you.

If you live in the St. Louis area, we hope you will contact us here at Maintenance Free Outdoor Solutions to handle the installation of your fence. We do not use subcontractors, but instead bring in our own team of fencing experts to give you the best service possible while also being sensitive to your budget. We are also proud to have earned– and kept– our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Our team will work with you to choose the right products, and then help plan out your fence before construction begins. (We done this so often, we’ve written about planning a fence for the general public.)

For more about installation with us, see our FAQ. Or better yet, contact us for a free onsite estimate!

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