How to Buy a Wooden Fence
Are you shopping for a wood fence? Viking Fence has put together this checklist to help you get the best value for your dollar when it comes to your fence project. There are several ways that fence contractors cheat consumers:
- Not specifying the exact grade of Western Red Cedar they are using. Many contractors purchase a lower grade board (perhaps a #3 grade) and sell it as a #2/Better grade. Some fence distributors are buying blended grades for their contractor customers (i.e. these distributors ask their mills to blend a #2/better grade and a #3 grade) so they can lower the price. Consumers don’t know the difference, so they get a lower grade fence. Most of these contractors attract customers with lower prices, but consumers get a lower value. Grading standards are defined by National Lumber Grading Associations. Because we are our own mill, we control the quality – apples to apples, we can’t be beat. See our Western Red Cedar page for info on our grading standards.
- Using treated pine posts and treated pine rails for framing. Treated pine is treated to act like cedar and it is much cheaper than cedar. The problem is that it twists and warps. We like straight fences, so we specify cedar rails and cedar or steel posts. If a consumer is adamant that they want treated pine posts, we will install, but we will not warranty their performance.
- Most contractors don’t specify what grade of nail/fastener they are using. There are three different grades of fasteners: (1) Highest Grade is Stainless Steel, (2) Middle Grade is Galvanized, (3) Lowest Grade is non-galvanized. Stainless steel costs the most but is the only fastener guaranteed to not run (i.e. oxidize and bleed and create black marks on your brand new fence). Some contractors even sell customers on the fact that they are using screws instead of nails, but they don’t disclose what grade of screw. We only use a stainless steel rink shank nail that will fasten tightly and is guaranteed not to run.
- Many contractors quote steel posts to consumers as part of their low price offering, but don’t specify what grade (i.e. thickness of steel) they are using. There are basically three grades of steel fence posts: (1) Schedule 40 – used for industrial applications, (2) Schedule 20 (aka as BSS or .095) – used for residential/small commercial applications, and (3) Tubing (aka known as .065 or thinner wall pipe). .065 Wall thickness pipe is the absolute minimum someone should install on a fence project. However, many contractors install .055 wall thickness or even .047 wall thickness (the smaller the number, the thinner the steel) and don’t specify this to customers. Steel is sold by the pound, from mills, so thinner steel costs less. We recommend Schedule 20 (i.e. 095 wall thickness) on residential projects. We have seen situations where .065 fence pipe installed by others breaks under heavy wind-loads.
- Lastly, many companies offer warranties, but don’t honor them or don’t intend on honoring them. It’s easy to write something down on a piece of paper; talk is cheap. We always recommend reviewing a company’s record, how long they’ve been in business and their online reviews. Google, in our mind, has the fairest method of reviewing companies. Yelp, Angie’s List, Home Advisor and other similar websites are sites where companies pay for listings. Those sites aren’t interested in pointing you toward the best contractor. Viking Fence has had a brick and mortar location in North Central Austin for over 45 years and we have our own in-house quality control manager to ensure that if you ever have an issue with your fence, we will be there to support you.
We hope that these questions will make you a more informed consumer when it comes to your fence project. Remember, when you think Fence, think Viking!
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