Fences have a lot of different uses. They define property boundaries; provide privacy and security; add beauty and value to a property; and help to contain children, pets, or livestock. Wood fences have been the top choice of homeowners and builders for many years, but they do have their drawbacks. Wood rots, cracks, and warps over time and requires periodic maintenance (painting, staining, or treatment with a wood preservative every few years) to ensure long life. Most exterior paints, stains, and wood preservatives have toxic ingredients that pose a health risk to whoever is applying them or exposed to them during a short period afterwards. If you’re thinking about replacing a worn-out fence or installing a new one, consider installing a maintenance-free recycled plastic material.
Why Choose Plastic Fencing?
Many recycled plastic fence components are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), resulting in a durable and weather-resistant product that can withstand extremes of weather. It won’t crack or split, even at temperatures well below zero. The material also won’t splinter or warp over time and is resistant to insects, such as termites and carpenter ants. It also resists damage from water (and acids from animal waste), and will never rot like wood or rust like metal. Plastic fence posts can also be used with electric fences to contain horses and other livestock. They don’t require installation of insulators. (Horses also reportedly don’t chew — a problem referred to as cribbing — on plastic fences, like they do on wood fencing.)
Many plastic fence materials are made to look like wood. Moreover, recycled plastic fences don’t fade — or fade only very slightly after years of exposure to the elements — because the color is embedded in the plastic/composite material. Plastic fencing never needs painting, staining, or treatment with chemical preservatives. Another benefit to urban homeowners and business owners is that many types of paint used by graffiti “artists” won’t adhere to the high-density polyethylene in recycled fence materials. Because recycled plastic fence products are so durable, most manufacturers offer a 20-year warranty.
Plastic fence also offers many environmental benefits. For one, it reduces the amount of trash sent to landfills since it has a long life, which reduces fence replacement. Recycled products also require less energy to fabricate than those made from virgin materials, and less energy use means less air pollution. Manufacturing materials from recycled plastics also helps expand a strong market for recycled wastes and creates jobs.
This article was excerpted from Green Home Improvement, by Daniel D. Chiras, PhD, available through RSMeans.