By Tawny Maya McCray

January 24, 2013 5 min read

There are many reasons to put fences up in your yard. They allow you to enjoy your outdoor areas and often are used to provide a sense of privacy or security or to enclose pets and small children. And although there are a number of options, styles and materials to choose from when erecting a fence, some materials work better than others, depending on where you live.

Maria Prior, trade show manager for the American Fence Association, says that in places where the weather changes dramatically with the seasons, cedar wood or chain-link fences are typical. "You're dealing with the fence post expanding and constricting because of the cold and hot weather," Prior says.

In places where there is water and sea salt, Prior says common fence materials are vinyl, aluminum and ornamental iron.

She says glass fences, a new trend in fencing, also are popping up in areas along the seaboard or near lakes. "It's very pretty, so a lot of places that have marinas (are) going with glass panel fencing to give it that aesthetic look," Prior says.

Desert conditions lend themselves well to composite, vinyl, ornamental iron or aluminum fencing, Prior says.

She adds that just because certain materials lend themselves to certain regions doesn't mean people can't choose the exact fence they want. "Look at the different styles and the different options that are available to you, and most importantly, ask for a sample of what it is that you're going to be getting," she says.

Some fence materials, such as vinyl, can be used just about anywhere. "(Vinyl is) good for all weather. That's what's good about the fence," says Monica Schraidt, a sales representative for USA Vinyl. "You don't have to ever replace it. Once you put it up, it's there to stay."

Schraidt says USA Vinyl manufactures its vinyl with titanium dioxide, which acts like a sun blocker. "It doesn't fade. It's not going to get that yellowish color that other kinds of fencing will get from the sun," she says.

Schraidt adds that there is also little maintenance required on vinyl fencing. She says people can opt to power-wash it once a year to keep it looking nice.

When it comes to choosing a fence installer, Prior says you should go for somebody who is affiliated with an association. "Those people are the best in the industry," she says. "You can rely on them to follow some code of ethics."

Prior says it's also good to check to see whether a company is licensed, insured and bonded.

And most importantly, she says, check references. According to Prior, if the fence is for a residence, you want to get two residential references and one commercial reference from a fence contractor. If the fence is for a commercial property, you should get two commercial references and one residential reference.

"I can't tell you how many times we get calls from consumers after the fact," Prior says. "And it's like: 'No, I didn't use an AFA fence contractor. No, I didn't check his references. No, I didn't know he wasn't bonded. And the fence that they put up is completely wrong. I'm short 2 feet, and my dog keeps getting out. What can I do?'"

It's good to check references to avoid that sort of situation. "That way, you can weed out and find out: If something wasn't done correctly or to their satisfaction, how did that fence contractor correct the problem?" Prior says.

Prior says that if you go through an association, such as the AFA, which has more than 900 member companies and 29 chapters in the United States and about 17 members internationally, many times if there is a problem, the association can go back and try to correct the situation on the company's behalf.

If you were to use a non-member company and things went awry, your option might be to follow through with the Better Business Bureau and make a complaint against the company "so that they don't do it to another individual," Prior says.

She says that if a fence contractor can't provide at least three references for you to check, it's best to eliminate it from the running.

"The biggest thing is to make sure you're not being taken advantage of," Prior says.

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