When it comes to fencing, wood is widely-accepted as the traditional option for the material. Recently, plenty of new and more modern alternatives, such as vinyl and aluminum, have since emerged. They have been found to provide all the benefits wood provides without the usual downsides. But which of the two materials is the better choice? In this article, let’s dive into the pros & cons and key comparison points of a vinyl vs. aluminum fence.
Comparing and Contrasting Aluminum and Vinyl Fences
Aluminum Fencing Pros
Aluminum fencing delivers a neat yet sophisticated design, resembling wrought iron and other metal options.
The following are known benefits of opting for an aluminum fence:
Aluminum fences are more affordable compared to vinyl and iron. Building an aluminum fence will cost around $3700, and similar to vinyl, the upfront costs are higher than wood.
Aluminum fences are usually made from recycled material, making them environmentally friendly. You’re effectively cutting down waste by going for an aluminum fence while lowering your carbon footprint.
Versatile and Durable
If you’re meticulous when it comes to design, aluminum is an excellent option. It’s available in different styles and shapes to match your home’s exterior and various colors to cater to your unique tastes.
Easy to Maintain
Aluminum is easy to clean and doesn’t require painting or additional finishing to withstand various weather conditions.
Regular cleaning using a garden hose during the warm months will generally suffice, while deep cleaning with soap and water at least once a year will help keep your fence looking great.
Has a Long Service Life
Aluminum generally lasts a lifetime. It doesn’t crack, chip, or corrode like iron or wood.
Unlike other metals, it’s resistant to rust and durable enough to withstand extreme weather conditions.
Aluminum Fencing Cons
Lack of Physical Protection
Some of the main reasons people install fencing are to add to their privacy and prevent damage to their property, especially if they’re located in an active community. Fences made from light materials such as aluminum can only offer so much protection and won’t do well if an intruder rips the fence or a stray car bumps into it.
Installing aluminum fences can be a meticulous process. Most homeowners can install a vinyl fence DIY since their posts don’t require anchoring and their panels snap together on their own. On the other hand, aluminum fences need to anchor in concrete which takes at least 3-4 days to set.
While an aluminum fence looks great, its design doesn’t add much to your privacy. So if you’re looking to keep prying eyes at bay, there are other more viable options to consider.
Vinyl Fencing Pros
As you know, not every fence material available on the market is the same. Some offer to boost your property’s curb appeal with its regal look. Meanwhile, others are known for the excellent privacy and security they provide.
Here are the upsides of selecting a vinyl fence for your yard:
Only Requires Simple Cleaning and Maintenance
Vinyl is a relatively smooth, easy-to-clean material similar to aluminum. You won’t need anything more than a garden hose and standard cleaning agents, like white vinegar, dish soap, or bleach to eliminate stains.
The plastic material used to create vinyl fences can be recycled, making it a better option for the environment.
Traditional wood fences splinter and rot, while metal fencing chips and rusts. You don’t have to worry about any of these with vinyl. It can withstand weather and time, won’t degrade like other fence materials, and will still look great even with minimal care.
Can Resemble Other Materials
Are you after the rustic appearance of wood but are having second thoughts because of its susceptibility to rotting? With vinyl, you can now achieve the look you want minus the disadvantages. It doesn’t look like plastic and can resemble other fence materials, such as wood.
Excellent Decorative Option
Similar to aluminum, you can also choose from a wide variety of colorful vinyl fence options. With an extensive array of decorative vinyl options, you can beautify your yard and give it an entirely new feel.
Custom Privacy Option
Finally, you can also customize vinyl fences according to your preferred level of privacy. You can opt for a vinyl fence with fence slats right next to each other or request for more space between the slats during installation.
Vinyl Fencing Cons
While vinyl is a common fence material that offers a lot of benefits, there are also downsides you need to consider. They are as follows:
Prone to Weather Damage
Since vinyl is made of lightweight material, it can be prone to weather damage. Natural phenomena such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and severe thunderstorms can all ruin your vinyl fence, while hailstones can dent and pock its surface.
Can Get Moldy
Another downside of having a vinyl fence is that it’s likely to develop mold spots. Areas with a wet climate are more prone to this problem, and most of the time, you don’t deal with molds alone but mildew and algae as well. Sure, the spots can be removed, but that’s extra time and maintenance you have to put in.
While vinyl fences are generally sturdy and require minimal upkeep, it doesn’t mean that the need to repair them won’t arise. The bad news is that vinyl fence repairs can be costly. It’s possible that a mere crack will require the replacement of the entire panel.
Vinyl may not be your best option if you’re looking to save on your home improvement project. Including the materials needed plus labor, the total cost of having a vinyl fence installed can be around $3600.
While there are less-expensive vinyl options, you’re almost sure they’re thin and unreliable.
Given that a vinyl fence can provide long-lasting value and easy maintenance, it’s never that simple to find inexpensive yet quality materials.
Vinyl vs. Aluminum Fence: Summary of Key Comparison Points
Strength and Security
When choosing between vinyl vs. aluminum fence, aluminum is the runaway winner if the sole criterion is sheer strength. It also takes first place when it comes to security.
Are you looking to secure a larger area like an office building or apartment complex? You can’t go wrong with industrial and commercial grade aluminum alloys that offer an even better and stronger fence.
Unquestionably stronger than vinyl but durable and low in weight, you can certainly turn to aluminum to safeguard your family and dwelling place for decades to come.
When it comes to privacy, it’s another draw for a vinyl vs. aluminum fence.
Vinyl is ideal for front and back yards, with fence heights up to 6′ in its solid sheet shape. It’s also perfect for pool fencing and overall perimeter security or if you’re building on top of existing walls to add to their height.
Meanwhile, aluminum fences can deliver the same level of privacy, especially when solid panels are added to them.
Usually, a new fence in your home will cost you thousands of dollars. Since it’s a rather hefty investment, you obviously want your fence to last long. The good news is that vinyl and aluminum fences stand out in terms of durability. You can count on both to add to your home and property’s security for years to come.
Vinyl fences can last for up to 30 years, and if you take good care of them, they can remain on your property even longer. Meanwhile, aluminum fences last for a lifetime. Although constant exposure to direct sunlight will affect their appearance over time, you can easily remedy that by repainting them once their color starts to fade.
Ease of Installation
Given how expensive materials for a new fence can get, it’s understandable if you want to save on installation costs. You’d be happy to know then that you can install vinyl and aluminum fences on your own.
Often, manufacturers include the step-by-step procedures you need to finish the installation of these materials. The key differences are:
- Vinyl and aluminum fence panels are packaged differently. You still have to assemble the former, but it’s easy enough since the panels are designed to snap together on their own. The latter often come pre-assembled, so that’s one thing already checked off your to-do list.
- As we mentioned previously, installing aluminum fences is a bit more complicated. Most vinyl fences don’t require anchoring, while aluminum fences need to anchor in concrete and require 3-4 days to set.
While other fence materials have intensive maintenance requirements and even require special treatment to retain their appearance, both aluminum and vinyl fences only require regular cleaning.
Also, you don’t have to procure special cleaning items of any kind. Often, the use of soap and water will suffice.
Since looks are subjective, we cannot say which between an aluminum or vinyl fence gets the nod in this area. As the property owner, you’ll have to decide which one will look best around your yard.
Both vinyl and aluminum resemble other materials frequently used to build fences. In the case of aluminum, it can look a lot like an iron fence. Meanwhile, vinyl can be crafted to bear a close resemblance to a wooden enclosure.
While both don’t look exactly like the other materials they’re supposed to mimic, vinyl and aluminum are still excellent aesthetic additions to your yard. You should consider both if you want to give your home a timely makeover.
Colorful fences aren’t common, but various color options are available for aluminum fences. They usually come in black, blue, gray, brown, silver, and white shades.
While that isn’t exactly what you can call a wide selection of colors, they still outnumber the available options for vinyl fences. You’ll have a hard time finding a vinyl fence in dark colors with white as the main color option and a handful of slight variations from that.
This lack of color options can be disappointing to some and can limit the situations you’ll go for vinyl even if you find its other qualities to be outstanding.
Finally, there’s the matter of associated costs. Although vinyl fences are generally less expensive compared to aluminum (with a difference of about $500 or so), you can still argue that aluminum fences are the wiser investment.
Keep in mind that while vinyl can last for a long time, you still have to replace them at some point. Aluminum fences can last for a lifetime, so even if getting them installed has a higher upfront cost, you can end up saving more in the long run.
Vinyl vs. Aluminum Gates
In instances wherein you also need to install a gate with the fence, aluminum is the clear-cut choice. For one, it’s a much stronger material, and vinyl doesn’t meet the material conditions, particularly for driveway gates.
Also, the standard requirement of most homes is a wide gate, but vinyl is usually manufactured in sizes from 3’ wide single-swing gates to 16’ wide double-swing gates. Aluminum gate sizes are usually much wider than vinyl.
Finally, it’s way easier to accessorize aluminum. Gate operators, access controls, magnetic locks, self-closing hinges, and even pool latches can be easily added. But if you’re in a nice neighborhood where motorized gates aren’t necessary, a vinyl gate is more than enough.
See Related Article: Aluminum vs. Steel: Which is the Better Metal Fence?
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Fence Strength Do You Need in Common Residential Settings?
There are more than a few neighborhoods wherein vinyl fences, although not as strong as aluminum, remain in excellent condition after many years of service. Vinyl fences will suffice in a typical residential setting, especially if the residents value their property and crime isn’t commonplace.
On the other hand, the strength of aluminum is preferable on busier streets and rougher neighborhoods where abuse is more likely to take place.
How to Dispose of Old Fence Panels?
Once you get the new fences installed on your property, you’ll need to dispose of your old fence panels. How exactly can you do that? One option you can consider is to use them for something else. While the panels can no longer serve as a fence, the individual planks may still be in good shape. In this case, you can consider several ideas to repurpose them. You can:
- Use them to make planters or raised beds
- Paint and integrate them into your home garden
- Turn them into furniture with a rustic look, among others
If you don’t have enough time or are not the creative type, you can look for someone who might view your old fence panels as an upgrade to what they currently have. After all, it’s a cheaper alternative to buying new ones.
Lastly, you can dispose of the old fence panels by calling your waste management company or hiring a private disposal service to pick them up.
By now, you already know that both vinyl and aluminum fences offer very distinctive styles, require little to no maintenance, and differ in price only slightly.
Ultimately, it will boil down to the following:
- Which style do you want your fence to have?
- Do you prefer a bit more privacy or the ability to take in the view around you?
- Are you after the texture of wood without its maintenance requirements?
- Do you want a classic, relatively more elegant style that’s less flexible?
In the end, there are no hard and fast rules that determine which fencing type is better. The vinyl vs. aluminum fence winner may come down to looks, and it’s up to you.