Is all vinyl fence the same? 

This is a question that can be asked and answered in so many ways. is-all-vinyl-fence-the-same

  • How does vinyl fence hold up in hot weather?
  • How does vinyl fence hold up in cold weather?
  • Does vinyl fence fade?
  • How long will vinyl fence last? 
  • How does vinyl fence hold up in areas with frequent high winds?
  • How does vinyl fence hold up in areas with heavy rainfall or snow?
  • How does vinyl fence perform in coastal climates? 

The phrase “vinyl fence” in the questions above can give a false assumption to a consumer that all vinyl fence must be made the same. That assumption could not be farther from the truth! All vinyl fence is not made the same. Therefore, how vinyl fence will hold up is ultimately determined by how it was manufactured on the extrusion line, and then what profiles are used on specific styles and how that profile is fabricated into fence. These are two major questions that have to be asked when answering the question of “how long vinyl fence will last”. Let’s get a little more specific on what questions have to be asked to be able to truly give a good solid answer to the questions above. 

How was the product manufactured?

For example, what is the wall thickness of the product, what is the substrate make-up, what level of UV protection was applied to the cap stock? Several companies in the marketplace benefit greatly from a customer’s assumption that all vinyl fence is manufactured the same. They omit certain details and say the right things and provide a false sense of security through half-truth marketing and high prices. If it’s expensive, then it must be good right? Well, not always.

How was the product fabricated? 

Let’s start with vinyl privacy fence as an initial example:

Wall thickness of the 5X5 post? 

This will play a major factor in the wind load. If a vinyl fence post has a thin wall it will buckle at grade level when exposed to high winds. A .135 wall post is a very common thickness in post for privacy fence. I would consider this wall thickness good as long as it is a virgin vinyl substrate and it has the proper cap stock make-up. 


This is two small 1” strips that go on each side of every panel. U-channel has been eliminated over the years by many fabricators saying, “Oh, all you need to do is just cut the last picket with a table saw nice and straight and you won’t have to deal with extra cost and labor associated with installing u-channel (3 self-tapping screws and 30 seconds is worth it when it comes to u-channel). The truth is that u-channel is not just a trim piece that covers a bad cut; it is very important to the integrity of the panel. The elimination of u-channel has very little to do with an “easier” install but lots to do with charging the same price as another company offering u-channel, preying on the customer that doesn’t do research and pocketing an extra $4.00 on every panel. U-channel not only offers a cleaner look but will increase the strength and longevity of each panel.  

Horizontal Rail Top & Bottom Rail 

This one gets me every time. In my mind, there are two types of rails on a privacy fence: a pocket rail and a ripped rail (reference the image below). Once installed it would be hard for even an experienced installer to tell the difference. However, the difference between the two is significant. How a professional fence supplier would think marketing a ripped rail as standard and acceptable is beyond me. A pocket rail is extruded specifically for privacy fence. It comes off the extrusion line with a pocket design for the vertical pickets to slide into. It is usually deeper, stronger and fits better. Furthermore, it is much easier for a DIY homeowner to install. A ripped rail is a rail designed for ranch rail fence that is put in a machine and has a 7/8” or 5/8” gap ripped down the middle to fit a vertical privacy picket in it. The rail is generally thinner and not designed by the manufacturer for privacy fence. You have to ask yourself the question of why would a fabricator go to all of the trouble of ripping a rail when they could buy a pocket rail already extruded with a pocket for the vertical picket. Answer: They save a ton of money and most people would never know the difference. The ripped rail sold undisclosed to a customer as a standard privacy rail is misleading. 


Rail Comparison JPEG

Tongue & Groove Pickets

Good would be a 7/8”x12” Picket or 5/8”x12” Picket. The best picket is a 7/8”x6” Tongue & Groove. It will have a higher wind load rating, will be a stronger fence, and will have more flexibility for racking a panel. The 6” picket generally has more ribs. The 12” picket was designed to save money and install quicker but still provide the same look. 

Bringing it back to the beginning—If it’s expensive, then it must be good right? Well, not always. You get what you pay for, right? I usually do agree that you get what you pay for. However, if you don’t do your research you could be paying the “best” (highest) price and receiving the “good” product or, even worse, something bad that definitely won’t last.  In every market when it comes to products there is always a good, better, & best option. Way too often in the vinyl fence industry, I see customers paying for the best & getting less than good. If you follow these guidelines above, it will help you avoid this scenario. Vinyl fence is a fantastic product and will add value to your home and property. Do your research and ask lots of questions. Is it worth paying a little more if necessary? Paying a little more and doing your research may be the difference between a fence that will last for many years to come and a fence that will only last a few years.