Not all vinyl fences are created equal. Be sure to choose a fence that looks good and that is made to last for many years.
1. Reinforced Walls
Many vinyl fences on the market now come with reinforced walls. These typically have a metal ribbing inside that provides additional structural support. The benefit of wall reinforcement is that you won't have to worry about impact damages or cracking as much since the fence panels aren't hollow. Sagging and cracks are also less common on reinforced vinyl panels, as the interior reinforcement helps distribute the panel weight more evenly.
2. UV Resistance
One complaint about older vinyl fences is that they can look dingy or faded as they age. The problem is UV light from the sun, which slowly breaks down the surface of the vinyl and causes this fading and discoloration. Fortunately, it's much easier to find vinyl fencing with built in UV resistance. These fence panels are formulated to resist fading and sun damage, so they won't become worn looking from daily exposure.
3. Panel Length
Vinyl panels typically come in 6 or 8 foot lengths. Longer panel length means that less post holes are needed, but there is one thing to be aware of. If you opt for vinyl made from recycled materials, make sure the panel lengths are 6 feet long. Recycled fences do require additional support, so more posts are necessary. Only go with 8 foot panels if the fence is made from all new material. Otherwise, both recycled and new material fences are a good option.
4. Panel Attachments
Panels should attach to the posts via routed channels. The top and bottom rail slide into the post and lock into place, often via a U-channel that runs the length of the post and panel. Avoid bracket attachments, as these are not very secure and the brackets will eventually break. This method uses "L" brackets to secure the panel to the exterior of the post, placing all of the weight of the panel on only a couple of flimsy brackets.
5. Post Construction
The final thing to watch for is the post construction. First, vinyl posts need to be at least 5 inches square, and tall enough to be installed well below your local frost line. Posts can be made of solid vinyl or they can be a thick vinyl sleeve over a metal reinforced core. Avoid posts with thin vinyl over wood, as the vinyl will eventually crack and the wood core will rot.
Contact a vinyl fence company to learn more about your vinyl options.