The latest marketing trick in vinyl fencing to sell fence is to tout how thick ones fence is compared to another. I am frequently asked how thick is your vinyl fence, as if it is the ultimate deciding factor of which Fence Company a person will purchase their fence from. I have recently found more and more companies making claims that their fence is the thickest and how the competition is not as thick and therefor inferior. The reality is the thickness difference between most vinyl fence suppliers is hardly enough to make a difference (for example a post that is .135 and one that is .150 thick is just one hundred fifty thousandths difference). Having said this, you don’t repel from a mountain with a string, and you shouldn’t put a paper thin post in the ground to support a privacy fence.
My first ten years in the industry were in the harsh Arizona climate and I have seen many different suppliers product withstand the sun, and some have failed miserably. Amongst those that failed, where some very thick, and some very thin. So what makes a vinyl fence the type that a consumer should purchase? Is it the thickness that should be the deciding factor? In my opinion, it’s not necessarily whether it is 100% virgin vinyl or whether it has been made from recycled products. It’s not necessarily how thick it is either. Sure the product needs to be designed to withstand the impact and structural tests a fence should, and the reality is, almost all legitimate fence suppliers (those that actually manufacture the vinyl fence, not just re-sale) sell a thick enough fence for the applications they market them for. In these cases, the longevity of the fence is not thickness, but other factors.
So if most companies sell a thick enough fence, what should be the determining factor?
What most companies fail to discuss is that one of the most important factors in whether a fence will look good for years to come is actually the thinnest part of the fence. The technologies of today allow vinyl fence to be co-extruded which means that if you look at the end of a vinyl fence post or rail that you will see two different layers. The outer layer or top-coat (a very thin layer) is what contains the chemicals which keep the fence looking good for years to come. The inner layer (the thick part) is also important as it contains impact resistors and other longevity chemical. The outer layer chemicals are very expensive and a product that is mono extruded and thick is likely to have less of these good chemicals if the extruder is trying to have a good price point. So it’s not necessarily how thick a vinyl fence product is, but what chemicals have been compounded into the product, and where. The extrusion process is technical and requires constant monitoring to make sure the right chemicals are going in the right place, in the right amounts. It’s all about quality control. Anyone can throw some resin compound in a extruder and produce vinyl, but will it last? I have toured several extrusion facilities and have been amazed by the differences in quality control processes that each of these company followed. Some seem to just run the product and bundle it. Others spend lots of time and energy monitoring the quality of the product and testing it for impact, color, and longevity. Bottom line is that you need to make sure you are purchasing from a reputable company, one with a good track history, many years in business, perhaps one that is used to supplying products in harsh climates and you are less likely to end up purchasing a so-so product. For example, a company that extrudes and markets their vinyl products in the Southwest is much more likely to be following strict compounding and quality control procedures than a company that extrudes product in a place that doesn’t have extreme weather issues.
To conclude… on its face, don’t believe every claim a company makes about their vinyl. Spend time to learn about the company that is making the claim. Learn about the company, and you will likely learn about their product. Where are they located, what do they sell, did they call me back promptly, how many years in business, and how do they answer my questions. If the company is credible, their product is likely going to be credible as well.