By Patti Pellock
Wood has traditionally been a leading material for pool and spa privacy fences, known for its low upfront cost, versatility and wide availability. Today’s homeowners are still enchanted by the classic look of stained or painted wood and its pronounced grains. However, many of these homeowners are beginning to understand all that goes into to maintaining this look over the years and that wood isn’t always the most environmentally friendly choice.
Chemicals used to protect the wood fence lumber from rot and decay can be hazardous to the environment if they leach out into soil. In addition, the quality of pressure-treated southern yellow pine — the most widely used pool fence lumber — has gone down in recent years, due to excessive logging. Imperfections and blemishes on lumber are now more common. Today’s homeowners want a more eco-conscious fence material that requires less maintenance, yet they don’t want to sacrifice the timeless visual appeal of wood.
In response to this dilemma, many are now choosing fences made from wood alternatives, such as vinyl, which accurately emulate the look of wood, but offer superior performance, lower maintenance and lower environmental impact. As manufacturing technologies continue to evolve, vinyl fencing is able to more closely replicate the look of wood, with the help of new wood-inspired colors and even authentic wood grain surface patterns. Vinyl simply offers a better all-around choice for homeowners than wood in the areas of performance, aesthetics and sustainability.
The disadvantages of wood fencing
Pressure-treated lumber is the least-expensive fence material, but with the ongoing maintenance and occasional repairs needed over the years, property owners can view the higher wood alternative material price as wise investment in longevity. Wood fences are traditionally kept up with power washings and applications of a weather-resistant sealant, usually every two to three years. Without this maintenance, they are easily prone to splintering, rotting, warping, fading and termite infestation. The average fence lumber is also prone to shrinking and cracking after repeated cycles of saturation and drying. These acts of nature are accelerated when wood fences are exposed to the harsh, salty air in coastal climates.
In response to the demand for better performance, lower maintenance and eco consciousness, manufacturers are introducing several fencing products made either partially or completely of plastic. The vast majority of these replicate the look of wood, and this emulation becomes increasingly accurate with the help of new and developing technology. The most common type of wood alternative material used in pool, spa and patio fences is vinyl.