Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All Fences Are Not Created Equal...

Pre-fabricated Fence
by Pauhl Gazlay

Many wooden fences are built to fail. Does this statement surprise you? It shouldn’t. Planned obsolescence is a concept which is at the heart of many of the products which we use every day. You need look no further than the car in your driveway to see an example of this. Automobile makers have designed cars to fail relatively quickly for decades. Why? Because they sell more auto parts and new cars that way, which leads to bigger profits. If they built cars that lasted for 30 years they would soon run out of new customers.

 The same is true of the prefabricated fences which you can purchase at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other big box stores. They are designed and built to fail just a few years down the road, at which time, your options are to live with a dilapidated fence or…buy a new one. Here are the top reasons a pre-fabricated fence is doomed to an early demise before it ever even reaches your yard.

  • Gravity- Pre-fabricated fences are installed on the side of your fence posts. Over time simple physics demands that the fence’s own weight will make it lean outward.
  • Materials- prefabricated gates are made with the cheapest, lightest materials available (5/8 inch thick pickets and 2 x 3 runners).  
  • Staples and nails- the fastest, cheapest way for manufacturers to assemble a fence is by shooting it together with staples and nails which, ironically, make them fall apart faster.
  • Exposure- The most vulnerable open wood grains at the tops and bottoms of the fence pickets are unprotected from the sun (top) and up-splash (bottom).
 At gardencarpentry.com we often install, repair, or replace pre-fabricated fencing because sometimes you just need a fence. Any fence. But for those clients who have an eye on long term usefulness and value we always recommend a custom, center hung, sandwich fence. Here is why…

  • Gravity- Framework is hung centered, in between posts so there is no leaning.
  • Materials- Custom fences are constructed of  ¾ inch thick pickets, and runners are made with durable 2 x 4 lumber.
  • Everything is screwed together so natural wood expansion and contraction won’t loosen and pull connections apart (as with nails and staples).
  • Exposure- custom fences are protected from the elements by decorative 2 x 6 top and bottom sun and splash rails.
Custom Center Hung Sandwich Fence

The bottom line is that pre-fabricated fences may be a good short term solution to fencing needs. But remember, they are designed not to last so that you will have to continue buying them. In the end that will cost you more money than a long lasting and more beautiful custom built, center hung, sandwich style fence.