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Good fences make good neighbors

What type of border is best for you?

Posted: February 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Vinyl picket fencing with “swoops” is one option for fencing in your front yard.

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Maybe the recent winds have blown your old, rotten wood fence down, or maybe you have new neighbors and you realize you now need a tall privacy fence so you don’t have to watch the guy sunbathe in his Speedo.
Or maybe you are tired of fence maintenance in general and want a fence that remains sturdy and good looking without any effort on your part.
According to John Sloan of John Sloan Fencing in Agua Dulce, vinyl could be your solution.
Vinyl is becoming the most popular fencing option for most homeowners.
But you can still get a good fence in wood, wrought iron or chain link.
And now thare is a new composite material.
It all depends on the conditions, terrain and your budget.
Sloan has been putting fences, animal pens and even elephant enclosures up all around the SCV for 27 years, and he knows what will work and what won’t for each set of conditions.

Vinyl lasts
Vinyl has a number of advantages over other fencing materials. But Sloan cautioned that you need to go with a contractor that has the proper tools and expertise to install it correctly. (For the record, those tools are very expensive.)
As indicated on the Sloan Fencing website: “Unlike common wood fencing, vinyl fencing material is guaranteed for life, with virtually no maintenance required.
Vinyl fencing will withstand exposure to high temperatures, humidity, rain, snow and wind. It will not crack, chip or peel. It never requires painting. It will not ‘rot out’ like wood when exposed to prolonged overwatering.
The only maintenance required is to wash it off with your garden hose if it gets splashed with mud or dirt. (Sloan even said crayon scribbles can be washed off with common household soap).
“Vinyl fencing is extremely sturdy. To date, we have not had one incident of children or livestock ‘breaking out’ of a yard fenced in vinyl, although we have done a repair or two when someone tried to drive their SUV through it. (Sloan added that if a 1,000 pound horse jumps on vinyl fencing, it’s going down.)
“Add a layer of 2” x 4” welded wire or chain link to your vinyl ranch rail fence and keep your pets in and unwanted ‘guests’ out. We can also add ‘pool legal’ chain link/wire and you’ll have a safe and beautiful enclosure for your backyard swimming pool and keep your inspector happy at the same time.
“Vinyl fencing is available in many styles and in several different color choices — ranch rail, picket, full privacy, semi-privacy, banisters, awnings, gazebos, decks, patio covers, benches, planters, mail boxes and more.”Delete - Merge Upbodycopy

Different grades
Sloan said that the cost of vinyl fencing varies depending on the type, but it is “within dollars” of the cost of quality wood fencing, and emphasized “vinyl is guaranteed for life.”
“But there are different grades of vinyl,” he said. “The cheap kind will yellow or sag in a year. Spend a few dollars more to buy something you’ll never have a problem with.”
Sloan said that the price of installed vinyl fencing runs about $10 per linear foot for two-rail, $12 to $18 for three-rail (the most popular type), $16 to $20 for three-rail with welded wire, and on up to $35 to $45 per linear foot for privacy or picket styles.
“I think the economy is keeping prices down,” Sloan said. “While costs for some things, such as fuel, are up, costs for other things, such as cement, are down.”
Sloan said fewer customers are requesting wood fences these days, but it is still a good option. Wood fencing will run anywhere from $30 to $40 per linear foot, depending on the type of wood, the quality of the wood and how high the fence is.
He noted that using thicker redwood is better, as it will warp less than thinner wood, and that the wood used in the frame should be good quality as well, for the same reason.
Sloan said redwood fencing can last as many as 30 years or as few as five (average 10 to 15 years), depending on the conditions.
If your sprinklers are constantly soaking your fence, the lifespan will be shortened significantly. 
Wrought iron
Wrought-iron fencing will cost from $35 to $45 per linear foot, depending on what you want. Sloan said a wrought iron fence, four-feet tall, with top and bottom rails, runs about $25 to $30 per linear foot if it is straight.
“If you start curving it, it’s going to add $5 a foot,” he said. “With any fence, anything you add to the basic design will add to the price.”

As with wood, the lifespan of wrought iron depends on the conditions and the quality of wrought iron installed.
If the iron is constantly getting wet from sprinklers, or being splashed with pool water, it will rust away faster.
If the posts sit in water they can “rot out” from the inside.
Sloan said the average lifespan of wrought iron is 10 to 15 years, and that rolling gates are usually made of it.

Chain link
Sloan said chain link fencing runs about $14 to $20 per linear foot for a five foot tall fence.
“The material is going to make a difference,” he added.
The thickness of the wire, or the gauge of the wire, is the determining factor.
He said the standard gauge for residential applications is 11. But for schools and water catch basins the thicker nine-gauge is used.
Chain link is often the best material to use for fencing in rugged terrain. But, as with wrought iron and wood, chain link can be damaged by constant exposure to water.
Where things are relatively dry it lasts a long time, maintenance-free.
“We’ve got some out there 25 to 30 years,” Sloan said.

Post holes
While you might not think about post holes and reinforcing when you make your fence plans, Sloan explained why post installation is important.
“The average post hole is going to be two feet deep,” he said. But he added that the soil makes a difference. With sandy soil you have to go deeper.
“How big around the hole is depends on what you are putting in,” he said. For chain link posts the hole is usually six inches wide. For 4”x4” wood or 5”x5” vinyl, the hole is usually eight inches wide.
Sloan said that most fence posts need cement in the hole, but there are two methods of applying it. With wrought iron and chain link posts, you mix the concrete beforehand and pour it into the post hole around the post.
With vinyl and wood, Sloan usually uses the “dry pack” method, which shoves the concrete out into the soil and makes a bell-shape that provides more stability. (Sloan noted that he explained this “dry packing” last time we did this story, and this tip is the thing most people remembered.)
For vinyl gate posts, Sloan said he also fills the inside of the post with concrete and rebar. This provides greater support for the gate.

Animal pens
“I do a lot of animal enclosures,” Sloan said. He said that typically this is for horses and dogs, “but I’ve fenced elephants, kangaroos, monkeys, lions, tigers and bears.”
He noted that deer can do some damage. “A deer will take nine-gauge chain link and make a pretzel out of it, twisting it with its horns,” he said.
And he related one incident where a bear, using one paw, twisted up six-gauge chain link, which is about as thick as a pencil.

Composite fencing
Sloan said a new fence material is becoming more popular, and people are using it quite a bit for outdoor decks. “It’s the new kid on the block. I don’t know much about it, so have stayed away from it,” he said. But he added that Home Depot and Lowe’s are carrying it. The material is a composite that appears like redwood, and Sloan said people like it because of its dark color. But he noted that only time will tell whether or not that dark color fades.

John Sloan Fencing is located at 13428 Wild Country Way, Agua Dulce, CA 91390. The office phone is (661) 298-1987 and John’s cell phone is (661) 510-6255 (he’s out on the job quite a bit). You can e-mail him at The website is And, by the way, Sloan is also the membership and entertainment chairman for VFW Post 6885 on Sierra Highway in Canyon Country.


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