Advice for Fencing, Decking, and Siding En Garde!

Nature's elements can take a toll on almost anything man-made, particularly exterior surfaces like fences, decks, and siding materials. Given the temperamental seasons here in the tri-state area, it's important to consider not just aesthetics, but longevity and durability when you or your association is in the market for new fencing, or trying to decide on what kind of brick to use on the footpaths through the community gardens.

Before You Even Start

The most important aspect of deciphering the proper approach to maintenance of fences, vinyl siding, brickface and patios is knowing what causes aging, and how long each product involved in the project should ultimately last. Equally significant is preparing for any new construction, according to David H. Vahsling, an engineer for the Becht Engineering Company, Inc., headquartered in Liberty Corner, New Jersey. "Proper drawings before and supervision during construction are very important," says Vahsling, because what you're envisioning for your expansive new deck or cobblestone walkway may not jibe with the limitations of drainage, the climate, or your budget.

So before you rush off to your local Home Depot to pick out materials, and start digging holes in the lawn, you need to have at least one high-level conference with your contractor, your architect, and your landscaper to vet out the design for your project and to make absolutely sure all the elements will work together.

Once you get the go-ahead for your project, your options regarding building materials (and prices per-square-foot) may be dizzying, but your basic choices usually boil down to wrought iron, wood, and aluminum—with a couple of space-age polymers thrown in for variety.

PVC vs. Wood: A Slick Alternative

In recent years, the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other wood resin substitutes has gained momentum in the construction field. Vinyl fencing has been available since 1984, and has five times the tensile strength of wood and four times the flexibility. Maintenance-free vinyl is impervious to weather, and will never require painting. Vinyl products will not peel, chip, rot or discolor.

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