September 5, 2023

Differences Between Fencing Materials: In-Depth Guide

But did you know that there are also important differences between fencing material subtypes? Choosing the right material subtype, for example, a particular type of wood, is just as important as which material you settle on. By choosing only the best materials, you’ll be protecting your investment – and your fence – for decades to come.

A close-up photo of a wood privacy fence in the backyard of a home in Indiana

You already know that there are differences between fencing materials, such as wood, chain link, and vinyl. That’s obvious by just looking at them.

But did you know that there are also important differences between fencing material subtypes?

Choosing the right material subtype, for example, a particular type of wood, is just as important as which material you settle on. Let’s say you decide to DIY build or contract a sturdy wood fence, but you or your fencing contractor purchase a brittle and fragile type of wood. All the long-lasting durability you were hoping to get by choosing a wood fence goes out the window in that case. You may also have to replace it sooner than you expected, which means more of your money down the drain.

The same goes for every other type of fence material. That’s why we’re dedicating this in-depth guide to educating you on the differences between materials and their subtypes that you should be aware of when planning your residential or commercial fence. By choosing only the best materials, you’ll be protecting your investment – and your fence – for decades to come.

Let’s get started.

Why Does the Subtype of Fencing Material Matter?

The biggest reason why the subtype of your fencing material should matter to you is its impact on your investment and the longevity of your fence.

Let’s imagine that you’re a DIYer and you’re at the home improvement store, looking for wood to build your fence with. If you don’t know which subtypes are the most durable, you could end up choosing a wood that is low grade and flimsy. On the other hand, you could choose an expensive wood that is way out of your price range, not to mention overkill for the type of fence you want to build.

But what if you’re not a DIYer? Materials still matter.

Imagine hiring a fence contractor. You pay them a hefty fee, expecting high quality work, only for them to use less durable materials and install a fence that wears poorly. But if you had known about the materials and what was best for your needs ahead of time, you could have made that clear to the contractor from the beginning and ended up with a fence that was worth investing in.

Knowing what type of wood, chain link, vinyl, or privacy fence best suits your aesthetic, budget, and lifestyle will not only protect your investment but also ensure that you have a fence that meets your needs for years to come. That’s why this guide is so important!

ARK Fencing’s Guide To Fencing Material Subtypes and Their Differences

Our guide covers four types of fences and the various material subtypes they include. Those fences are wood fence, chain link fence, vinyl fence, and privacy fence.

Wood Fence Subtypes

Wood fences can be made out of just about any wood, but you’ll find that there are six materials that are the most popular.

Pine Wood Fence

Pine wood is one of the most affordable subtypes of material suitable for a wood fence. It comes in a light yellow or greenish color and then turns gray as time passes. Pine wood is pressure treated, stained to repel water and insects, and highly durable, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that its cheap cost is a bad thing.

Pine is less stable than some of the hardier woods, which we’ll get to in a moment. But overall, it’s still a great and affordable wood subtype.

Fir Wood Fence

Like pine, fir wood is a low-budget material that is pressure treated and can stand up to a lot of wear and tear. However, it’s stronger than pine, and ranges from light brown to yellow in color.

Spruce Wood Fence

Rounding out the more affordable woods is spruce. This light gray wood will hold up well for a while, but keep in mind that it will turn darker as it ages – unless, of course, you paint or stain it. It is also more prone to warping over time than the more high-quality woods below.

Cedar Wood Fence

Cedar is a slightly more costly, but still not overly expensive wood fence option. It has a lovely brown color which can be preserved or enhanced with proper staining, and it possesses natural oils that repels insects. It is also naturally resistant to water rot, and will last you up to a couple of decades if properly cared for.

Cypress Wood Fence

With cypress wood, we’re getting more into the territory of expensive wood fence subtypes. It has a beautiful light brown color, and it’s recommended that you stain it regularly to maintain that shade long-term. It’s durable, and like cedar, it contains a naturally occurring chemical that keeps the bugs away.

Additionally, cypress wood is resistance to rot and always an excellent – albeit somewhat high maintenance – choice.

Redwood Fence

Redwood is the most expensive wood fencing material you’re likely to find. But there’s a good reason for its price. It’s stronger, heavier, and more durable than cypress or cedar; comes in a stunning rich shade of brownish red; and will naturally resist both rot and insects. It’s also harder to acquire, which makes it more sought after.

As with most wood fences, you’ll want to stain redwood to keep that gorgeous color alive. But it’s worth it to have such a lovely result, especially if you make every effort to maintain it.

Chain Link Fence Subtypes

When it comes to chain link fences, there are two main types of metal that are used to build them: galvanized steel and vinyl-covered steel. But in addition to the material itself, we also need to address the gauge thickness.

First, though, let’s describe the two chain link material subtypes and what makes them different from each other.

Galvanized Steel Chain Link Fence

Galvanized steel is steel that has been coated with another type of metal, such as zinc, to make it stronger and make it more resistant to rust and corrosion. This type of fence doesn’t come in many colors, and the metallic finish will fade over time. However, it’s still strong, durable, and affordable.

Vinyl-coated Steel Chain Link Fence

Vinyl-coated steel is still that has been coated in vinyl, for much the same reasons that steel is galvanized: to prevent rust and corrosion and make the chain link last longer.

Vinyl does have one advantage over galvanization, and that is that it can come in a wide array of colors that will last a long time. It is just as strong and long-lasting as the other subtype of chain link, but it is slightly more expensive.

Now let’s talk about gauge thickness. Gauge is a term that we use to refer to the thickness of the metal wires that make up the chain link fence pattern. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire.

The most common gauges for chain link fences are 6, 9, 11, and 11½. For most residential applications, 9 gauge is perfectly suitable. But if you want a sturdier, securer fence, you may want to go with 6 gauge.

It’s worth noting that the thicker chain link gauge you buy, the more you can expect to pay per linear foot of fencing.

Vinyl Fence Subtypes

You would think that vinyl fences would be relatively straightforward. After all, there can’t be many subtypes of vinyl, right? Well, much like with chain link fences, the material itself is not as important as the thickness of it.

When you’re shopping for vinyl fencing material, pay attention to the thickness. The thinner it is, the more prone to denting and other kinds of damage it will be. So, even though it may seem like the more affordable option, you could actually pay more in the long run on repairs and/or replacement fencing.

In general, most residential fences use 0.35 mm or 0.45 mm thicknesses, and industrial and commercial fences use a more robust 0.65 mm.

To decide what thickness to use, be sure to consider your budget as well as the purpose of the fence.

If you’re looking for something that will stand up to harsh weather and hold its own around heavy equipment and lots of activity, then thicker is better.

But, if you want a fence that is more flexible while still being durable and providing you with either decorative or privacy features on a lower budget, then a thinner vinyl may suit you best.

Privacy Fence Subtypes

Speaking of privacy fences, it’s time to turn our attention to privacy fence subtypes.

You’ll typically choose between two types of privacy fences: wood and vinyl. Each material has its pros and cons, which will also vary depending on the subtype you select from each one.

Let’s go over each privacy fence subtype and their differences, just as we did with the other three fences in this guide.

Wood Privacy Fence

A wood privacy fence offers a few attractive advantages over vinyl.

First, depending on the type of wood you choose, you can get away with building the fence on a low budget. That’s important because privacy fences can be anywhere from 6 ft to 8 ft tall. That’s a lot of fencing to buy, and it can add up quick!

Second, wood offers a more natural-looking surface in comparison to the somewhat manufactured appearance of vinyl.

But there’s also a couple of potential disadvantages to wood.

For example, if you want a sturdy wood privacy fence that will remain beautiful (and upright) for years to come, you may want to choose a higher quality wood like cypress or redwood. However, even though these wood subtypes are resistant to rot, they still need to be stained to maintain their appearance. This can involve quite a bit of maintenance over the years.

On the other hand, a well maintained wood fence can increase the value of your property, which will be a big help if you ever decide to sell it.

You can, of course, go with a more inexpensive wood subtype like pine, fir, or spruce for your privacy fence. But, as we mentioned earlier, these aren’t quite as sturdy as the more expensive woods, and they also aren’t as pretty and weather resistant without painting, staining, or treating them periodically. The latter is a necessity if you want to avoid them rotting or turning an unattractive gray color as they age.

The bottom line? Wood is a great option for a privacy fence, but the material subtype you choose is highly dependent on your budget and willingness to perform the proper maintenance.

Vinyl Privacy Fence

Vinyl privacy fences are well known for their durability and lack of significant upkeep, but there is also a significant cost to consider. The materials and installation fees for putting up a vinyl fence are markedly more expensive in comparison to wood.

But the trade-off is far less maintenance and a life expectancy of 20-30 years – so long as you keep it clean and free of major damage.


As you can see, picking out a fence, let alone a material subtype, isn’t as simple as many homeowners may think. But it’s also perfectly understandable that you didn’t know about all the subtypes of fencing materials and the differences between them before reading this guide.

This is not a topic that most people are familiar with. It takes a fencing expert – or, in most cases, an entire team of fencing experts – to help homeowners make the best decision about their fence considering their budget, the weather in their area, the type of property they own, and their plans for reselling in the future.

Get a professional fence quote for your next project!

At ARK Fencing, our team of fencing experts have been guiding Indiana Tri-State homeowners to their ideal type of fence and fencing materials for over 17 years! Request a quote today!