A Message To Consumers


A wood fence is a wood fence, right?  Nope.  If you are considering a wood fence, you will soon discover-after, gathering estimates, how confusing the wood fence market has become as of late. 

Complicating the already complicated, new fence companies and products are popping-up monthly as the economy rebounds.  Each new company brings with them their own standards and opinions and their own methods and marketing strategies.  As a result, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction; however, as in life, the answers will be found through research. 

The Comprehensive Wood Guide is a educational tool which is designed as a resource for both consumers and competitors a like.  The guide is based on scientific research, independent sources, and field experiments and findings. 

As you read, there will be parts of the guide that are incomplete. I apologize in advance, there will be a few grammatical errors because we are constantly adding new information at the request of consumers.

Last-if you have any suggestions or have a particular question, please email me at Kip@paramountfencing.com. I'll will make sure your question is answered and place within the guide.

Happy Reading,
 

Kip HudaKoz
President Paramount Fencing, Inc.   

A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO PURCHASING A WOOD FENCE IN THE CENTRAL FLORIDA MARKET PLACE. 

Table of Contents:

  1. Wood Selection.
  2. Pressure Treating Code.
  3. Building Methods.
  4. Pros and Cons of each Method.
  5. How to ask the right questions, and get the right answer.
  6. How to select a fence company.  
  7. How to make sure installation goes smoothly.
  8. How to take care a wood fence after installation.
  9. Understanding four basic business models which dominate the Central Florida fencing industry. 
  10. The pressure treating code.    

FACTOR ONE:  WOOD SELECTION.

In the Central Florida Market Place, there are two prominent types of wood used to construct wood fences: (1) Pressure Treat Pine or (2) Cypress.  At time,  a combination of both types of lumber are used. For example, one fence company might build using all pressure treated and another might build using (PT) Frame work and Cypress pickets.      

So which wood is better pressure treated Pine or Cypress?  That is question at hand.  There is no simple answer, only a long explanation with variables such where the tree was harvest from, it's age, the manner in which it was milled, and used in the market place.  

When comes to fencing, both cypress and pressure treated pine have similar if not equal benefits; however, if used incorrectly-both types of wood will reap any substantial return on investment.  The best place of understand began at the heart the matter--the tree from which the wood was harvested.

In this section, the information provided will focus first on the tree species and  establish a baseline understanding such as what make tree function in the natural environment and the attributes which remain once harvested and milled. Along the way, field study will provide real time data.  As always, it's important to understand the environmental impacts that is associated with harvesting of trees to the final resting place, the fence line.   

We will examine Bald-Cypress first and Then Pressure Treated Pine.  By the end, you will know enough to make a well informed decision:

Bald-cypress: Taxodium Distichum:

The most common cypress tree harvested and mill for use of fence construction is the Bald-cypress tree: AKA Gulf cypress, red cypress, southern cypress, swamp cypress, white cypress and yellow cypress.   

Bald-Cypress is a slow growing, long living tree, which can reach height of 100 - 125 feet.  Bald-cypress exist mainly, "...a long the Atlantic Coastal Plain from southern Delaware to southern Florida, westward along the lower Gulf Coast Plain to southeastern Texas.  In the natural forest a Bald cypress can take upwards of 200 years to develop a significant about of heartwood which is necessary for high lumber-yields.  

True stability, strength, and resistance against insects and disease does not occur until a Bald-Cypress reaches an average age of seventy five or growth ring count per inch of 15-20.  The main reason is after 75 a chemical called Cypressence is produced as a result of sufficient amount of heartwood.

Traditionally speaking, Bald-cypress provides a natural level of protection against decay and insects once harvested were as pine must be pressure treated to achieve the same level of protection.  However, there is an on going debate and concern, within the industry, that 2nd-growth cypress does not provide the same benefits as 1st-growth cypress. 

The debate revolves around three issues: (1) The tree growth-ring count, (2) Cypressence Oil, and (3) The maturity of the tree itself. 

To understand what is causing the debate it's important examine what make bald-cypress so effective. As a bald-cypress tree matures, the growth-rings become closer and closer.  The tighter the rings heartwood is created and an oil called Cypressence is abundantly produced protecting the tree from insects and disease.   True stability, strength, and resistance does not occur until a tree growth ring count becomes 15-50 per inch which normally does not occur until  an average age of seventy five.  In contrast, the maturity old growth has minimum 24-80 growth rings per inch.

In today's market, cypress lumber with high growth ring counts exceeding 20 per inch is associated with reclaimed cypress (also know as sinker cypress) that sunk to the bottom of the river during transport in the early 1900's.  Sinker Cypress is very, very expensive.   The cypress trees harvested today for fence picket will have less than fifteen growth rings per inch, hence the debate. Is there protection or not?

Based on in house study and research reports, cypress provides the best protection against insects and decay when dimensional lumber grader than 1" or greater. The contributing factor drive findings was base on two factors:  Thinker Lumber is milled from more mature trees with a growth ring count of a minimum of 10 per inch or greater. See full studies and photos.  

It should also be noted in the study, there was no distinct advantage was discovered which would suggest that the commonly used 1/2" cypress pickets possess an longevity advantage, against fungal decay and bugs, over the commonly used 5/8" pressure treated pine picket. See full studies and photos.

Milling Method:

Once the Bald-cypress is harvested, the tree is sent to a saw mill where it is cut in dimensional lumber after air drying or kiln dried prior to milling dimensional lumber. If the tree is air dried, it is call Green Cypress.  If it tree is dried in a kiln it is known as Kiln Dried Cypress.

  • Green Cypress:   Cypress that is air dry naturally by air with a moister content of 65% remaining in the tree prior to milling.
     
  • Kiln Dried Cypress:  Cypress that are place in large kilns which reduces the moister content remaining in the tree to a range of 12% -18%

The advantaged Kiln dried cypress is superior.   The main reason is the moister is removed from the tree in slow and controlled environment which minimizes the shrinkage and structural damage cells with in the lumber.   Green Cypress other hand is milled while the tree is still highly saturated.  Once milled, the  board rapidly looses moister content.  As a result, damage can occur to the cells of the fiber causing massive shrinkage of board sizes and splitting. 

Most fence boards or pickets used within the Central Florida Market Place are Green cypress.  

Ecological Impact:

In recent study conducted by a commission established by the Governor Louisiana in 2005, (C-P and ULCWF), it was discovered the re-growth rate of Bald and Tupelo Cypress in areas where harvested is not regenerating consistently or at all.  The lack of regenerations is contributed to the disruption water levels, which do not allow the cypress seed with a cone to properly germinate.  Other factor include the lack of wild life once the area is harvested.  Certain species such as waterfowl, bunny, squirrel, even parrots are forced from the area.  As a result, the animals that naturally eat the seeds and disperse them or absent.

In other words, cypress s

It also been noted that the cypress forest serve a purpose of acting like a speed bomb for title surges, filter toxins from

Resources used for this section:
Texas Parks and Wildlife
United States Department of Agriculture NRCS
University of Florida IFAS Extension
Conservation, Protection and Utilization of Louisiana’s Coastal Wetland Forests: Commission report:
Cypress Wood Lumber  
Cypress Crack Saw Mill


FACTOR TWO:  PRESSURE TREATING CODE.

FACTOR THREE:  BUILDING METHODS. 

There are two basic methods of fence construction. They are prefabrication and onsite building/stick building.  Both methods require that a post be installed every eight feet. No exception.  In addition, each method will vary depending on the fence company, but the basics will hold true. We have added our method of construction to provide a contrast and to explain why we build to such a strict standard.  Below are the basic definitions of each building methods, the availability, aesthetics, and anticipated longevity:  

PREFABRICATED FENCING:  This building method consists of prefabricated eight foot sections of fence. These sections are often purchased by fence companies and homeowners at the big box stores and discount outlets.  They are pre-built using  2" x 3" x 8' rough cut runners, 1/4" x 4" x 6' rough cut dog-eared pickets. All pickets are attached to the runner with a small tack-nail or staple.  

At the point of installation, an 4" x 4" x 8’ rough cut line posts is installed every eight feet.  The section is placed on the post, and the runners are  secured with (1) 3" Galvanized penny nail. Finally a picket is added to cover the seams.   

The majority of Central Florida fence companies use this method of building. Why? The answer is simple: The materials are cheaper, the skill set needed for installation is minimal, and the method is highly profitable. 

When it come to aesthetics and structures, this building method receives a thumbs down!  Understand, the aesthetics will fade within 6 month; and the fence itself will only last 4 to 6 years. 

PREFABRICATED FENCING IS HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE THREE DISTINCT PROBLEMS, AND WE DON'T RECOMMEND IT OR INSTALL PREFABRICATED FENCES.  

ONSITE/STICK BUILDING:  This method of building requires the fence to be constructed piece by piece using 4" x 4" x 8' rough cut line posts, 2" x 4" x 8' number 2 primed runners, and 1/2" thick rough cut dog eared pickets.

At the point of installation,  4" x 4" x 8' rough cut line posts are installed every eight feet. The (3) horizontal runners are secured to the post using (2) 3" ring-shank nails, and each picket is individual attached with (6) ring-shank nail: A ring-shank nail has 50 reversed ovular rings which acts like threads on a screw when it punctures the wood. 

A small percentage of Central Florida fence companies use this method of building; however, more and more onsite builders are popping up in the market place. As a result, these newer builders make simple mistakes but ones that cost the homeowner dearly. Mistake such as using the wrong picket spacing, the wrong nails, or the wrong lumber.  So make sure the right questions are asked. 

When it comes to aesthetics and structures, this building method receives a hesitant thumbs up!  If it's not built correctly or someone cuts a corner, this building method is just as dangerous as prefabricating.  Understand, if build correctly, the aesthetic will last  3-5 years; and the fence itself will last 8-10 years. 

THIS METHOD IS MORE RESISTANT TO THE THREE DISTINCT PROBLEMS IF BUILT CORRECTLY.  SEE PRO'S AND CON'S.

PARAMOUNT 'S REINFORCED METHOD OF ONSITE/STICK BUILDING:  It all starts with the framework.  Our method requires the fence is assemble piece by piece using 4" x 4" x 10' number 2 primed line posts, 2" x 4" x 16' number 2 primed horizontal runners, and 1" x 6" x 6' rough cut pickets. To ensure all lumber remain secure, we use a serious of special treated nickel-alloyed, yellow tip, ACQ rated, ring-shank nails: A ring-shank nail has 50 reversed ovular rings which acts like threads on a screw when it punctures the wood.   

At the point of installation,  4" x 4" x 10' number 2 primed line posts are installed every eight feet. Then the (3) 16' horizontal runners are staggered and secured to the post using (2) 3" nickel-alloyed, yellow tip, ACQ rated ring-shank nails per runner.  Each picket is then individually secure with (6) 2" nickel-alloyed, yellow tip, ACQ rated-ring shank nails.  

Only one percent of Florida Fence Companies build to our standard.  WHY? The answer is simple:  The material requirements cost more, the skills needed for installation are greater, and the profit margin is low. It is just a fair exchange between homeowners and companies which promotes long term growth. 

Our method of building can last approximately 12 to 15 years in both  splendor and longevity. It just depends on how well the individual homeowner takes care of the fence. We give it two thumbs up!! 

OUR METHOD OF BUILDING IS RESISTANT TO THE THREE DISTINCT PROBLEMS! HOW YOU TAKE CARE OF IT WILL ELIMINATE THEM!

FACTOR FOUR: PRO'S AND CON'S OF EACH METHOD.  

Each building methods possesses different pro's and con's.  More often than not, the benefits and downfalls of a building method rest upon the materials used.  Understanding the specific types of lumber, and how the specific types of lumber effect each building method will prevent simple mistakes.    

PREFAB FENCING: ALL CON'S HERE.  If you’re still considering prefabrication, stop.  Understand the CONS and move on....

Runners Size: (CON).  Considering most prefabricated panels are constructed with 2" x 3" x 8' rough cut runners, which are milled from small sapling trees or the outer parts of large trees, the lumber itself is vary porous.  Not only is it porous, the pores are large and  low in numbers. Translation: they are susceptible to fungi and water damage.  

At the end of the day, the 2" x 3" x 8' runners will cup and bow at the slightest hint of moister.  The combination of the preservative and the tropical weather will force the lumber through a mini-recurring process each time it gets wet. As a result, the aesthetics and structural integrity will be nonexistent within two-three years. The key to remember here is: The thinner the lumber the more it will be susceptible to the three distinct problems. 

Post depth: (CON).  A prefabricated fence panel forces the 4" x 4" x 8' rough cut line post too far out of the ground.  As a result, the line post is set less than 27" deep. The basic issue here is leverage. 

At a minimum, the depth of the posts should be determined by the height of the fence being installed.  For example, a six foot in height fence should be supported by posts set 24" beneath the surface. As a result, a leverage ratio of 6:2 is created. 

In a perfect world the minimum works; however, this is Florida. Our soil content is mostly sugar sand, and each posts will naturally lose on average 5" to 8" inches of leverage. As a result, most prefabricators use concrete to achieve minimal leverage. 

Beware, concrete and the pressure treating preservative don't get along.  Concrete causes posts to stay moist which creates the perfect breading ground for wood rot, mildew, and termites.  Not to mention, the moister will cause the posts to twist, to split, or to banana.  

The fasteners: (CON).  A prefabricated fence panel requires the use of some type of small staple or galvanized tack nail.  Otherwise, the staple are tack-nail would split the thin porous lumber.  

Understand, Small tack nails and staples are manufacture from hard and heavier metal elements. As a result, the small fasteners are manufacture in galvanized formed and then coated with a protective barrier.    

Beware, the new pressure treating code has a high copper content and will eat through the protective barrier ins six months, and rust-out the galvanized nail within a year. 

The pickets: (CON).  Prefabricated fence panels are traditionally built with a rough cut picket less then a half inch thick.  Thinner pickets are used because thicker pickets would increase the weight making them to heavy to install.  

The problem with thinner pickets is the lumber from which they are milled.  Just like the runners, the pickets are milled out of small saplings trees or the outer edge of large trees.  Might not seem like a big deal, but the ground exposure will rot and decay them quickly. Translated: the thicker the picket the less susceptible they are to wood rot. 

Understand, it does not matter the type of wood: pine, cypress, or western red cedar. These types of lumber are resistant from rot when they are milled from large trees and pressure treated.   All the above mention woods are dependant on the long-term growth of 40 plus years. After 40 years, the rings get tighter; and the closer the rings the pores are closed. The covenant dark colored heartwood does not develop in most species for 70 years.  

Rough cut lumber is harvested from tree farms between 20 and 40 years old.  

ONSITE/STICK BUILDING:   If done correctly, onsite building is a better approach.  If done incorrectly, onsite building  can be a disaster!   

Runners Size: (PRO).  Most 2" x 4" x 8' runner; milled out of large mature trees and  cutout from the core. As a result, the 2" x 4" is called prime lumber; and It's milling grade 2. 

The advantage of the 2" x 4" x 8' number 2 prime lumber is the lumber itself is less porous.  There are three factors that provide the advantage or rough cut lumber:  First, large trees have tight rings. Second, the tighter the rings the lower the pore count. Third, the  method milling assist in closing the pores. When combined all three factors makes the lumber less susceptible to water and fungi damage.

The disadvantage of the 2" x 4" x 8' is all about installation. If the crown of the 2" x 4" is place in the wrong direction, the board will cup and bow. It does not stop there.  If the posts are not spaced correctly, the 2" x 4" will twist and  separate from the post. 

Keep in mind, 2" x 4" creates three open seams every post.  In return, the three seams creates week, and seams are dependent of the depth of a posts.  Use to short of posts. they will move. When they do, the three seams will separate and the integrity of the structure Will be compromised.   

Post depth: (CON)   Because most onsite/stick-built fence builder still use 4" x 4" x 8' rough cut line post, we must rate the standard method of building a con. 

Understand, stand the standard method of building forces the 4" x 4" x 8' too far out of the ground.  In most case, the post is less than 27" in the ground once installed. Considering Florida soil is based on sugar sand, the posts will lose on average 7" of leverage.  

To provide adequate leverage concrete is often necessary; however, it is not always the case. Most onsite/stick-builder won't use concrete. 

Regardless, concrete when combined with the new pressure treating code causes posts to warp, to rot, or to banana. 

The fasteners: (PRO and CON).  A onsite/stick built fences are built with thicker lumber than prefabricated panels.  As a result, the lumber require thicker and soft metal nails to hold it in place.  

WARNING: All fasteners must be nickel or chromium alloyed based ring shank nails not standard galvanized nails.  Use the wrong nail and your fence will be a complete loss.

Should a builder used standard galvanized nails, the fence will have the same issue as a prefab. All the nails will rust out and the pickets will pop within a year or two.  

The pickets:  Onsite/Stick-built fences are generally built with a thicker picket. Most are 5/8" or thicker.  The problem once again is the lumber from which the pickets are created.  Understand, all pickets are considered, rough-cut lumber.  As a result, the pickets are more porous then the number 2 prime lumber; however, the thicker the lumber the tighter the pores.  The tighter the pores the more resistant it will have towards rot and decay.  

Remember, It does not matter what type of wood the picket are cut from: pine, cypress, and western red cedar.  These type woods are dependant on the long-term growth of 70 plus years to develop heartwood.  Rough cut lumber is harvested from tree farms. 

WARNING:  the size of the picket is a nominal measurement.  For example, an 1" x 6" x 6' dog-eared picket is not the actual board measurement.  When a picket is milled, the final thickness is actually 3/4" x 5 3/4" x 5 3/4'.  It does stop there. Understand by the time picket is purchased the new pressure treating code cause the picket shrink.  As a result, the picket has shrank to somewhere around 5/8" x 5 1/2" x 5 5/8'.  Once, the picket cures the final measurement will be around 3/8" x 5 1/2" x 5 1/2.  

Translation: Don't let the label fool you. .

PARAMOUNT'S REINFORCED METHOD OF ONSITE/STICK BUILDING:  This is the best approach to building a wood fence under the new ACQ pressure treating code.  

The Runners: (PRO)  Unlike the standard method of onsite building, we use 2" x 4" x 16' number 2 primed lumber. We still install a post every eight feet, but we stagger them.  Our method of staggering longer runner, coupled with the longer posts, creates a long lasting the framework. In addition, due to the length of runner, the lumber is milled from the heart of large and mature trees.  The pores are tight or small or often closed.  As a result, warping and cupping are minimized and crown direction does not matter. .  

Post depth: (PRO).  Unlike the traditional 4" x 4" x 8' rough cut line post, the 4" x 4" x 10' number 2 prime line post rest 48" beneath the surface.  As a result, adequate leverage is provided to the structure as a whole: six feet above and four feet below equals a 66% leverage ratio.  When the posts are coupled with longer runners, both of them set the stage for a solid wooden wall.  As a result, there is no need for need for concrete and it counter the three distinct problems with the pressure treating code. 

The keys component of the 4" x 4" x 10' number 2 prime line posts are the length of post, lumber, and the milling.  Things such as tighter rings, close pores, pressure treated for below ground contact: a 40% saturation ratio.  

The pickets: (PRO and CON).   We use a variation of 5/8 and 1" rough cut pickets. It depends on style and budget.  There is no real alternative such as a Number 2 prime picket; however, the following principle can be applied:  the thicker the picket the tighter the pores.  The tighter the pores the more resistant it will have towards rot and decay. 

Remember, It does not matter the wood type.  Understand, pine, cypress, and western red cedar only work when they are milled from large mature trees.  These types of woods are weather resistant, but dependant on the long-term growth of a tree. Most species require 70 plus years to develop heartwood: a dark dense area of tight rings.  Most rough cut lumber is harvested from tree farms before 30 years. 

A SPECIAL NOTE:  There are no distinct advantages to use cypress picket unless you use number 1 grade kiln dry cypress post as well. Most companies using cypress pickets must resort to pressure treated pine frame work because kiln dry frame work (posts and runner) is not expensive.  They could us a green cypress; however,  it would have to be pressure treated.  Bottom line, cypress pickets do last two years longer than pine pickets, but what good will it be if the frame work is rotted and on the ground.  It's all about the frame work!!!!

FACTOR FIVE: HOW TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.  

You must understand the importance of asking the right question. The majority of fence companies located in the Central Florida area are not major corporations,  publicly traded, or bound by state ethics or a regulatory board. So if there is a problem, you have no recourse. 

Understand all you need is a tax receipt from your local municipality, and anyone can start a fence company.   The tax receipt is generally under a hundred dollars and issued over the counter.   As a result, think twice about who you call because that person knocking on your door could be the butcher, the baker, or the candle stick maker. 

The other thing to consider is the economy and the effects on fence company.  Prior to 2006 there were hundreds of legitimate fence companies in the Central Florida Area.  

You'll never know what someone is offering unless you ask the right questions. 

Below are a few questions you should ask:

  1. What type of wood are they using?
    1. Pressure Treated Southern Pine is the best for our climate. Cypress is available, but most of it comes from up north and might be more costly. Additionally, the cypress of today is not the cypress of yesterday.  Don't be fooled. 
    2. Avoid wood from other countries. Some home improvement stores purchase their wood from distributors whom import. If it's not tag from a local distributor such as Top Choice, Universal Forest product, Yellow wood, or Eco Life, Max Life you probably don't want it.
    3. Avoid wood mixed with plastic.  If you want long lasting fence, Vinyl will always look better, be low maintenance, and cost the same or less.
    4. Avoid prefab fence panels at all cost. Just take a drive around your area and look at the prefab fencing replaced since the hurricanes. You will notice pickets pulling away, excessive warping, splitting, cracking and cupping.  If someone tells you, it's built on site, but the sections are assembled at the shop, it still a prefab, run. 
    5.  
  2. What type of nails are they using?
    1. EXGV Double galvanized yellow tip ring shank nails or nickel alloyed ring shank nails, All .113 shaft.   Stainless steel ring shanks are the best, but are more expensive  
    2. The number one mess that we clean up is the use of regular galvanized nails or staples. Understand that with the new pressure treating codes, standard galvanized nails decay 10 times faster. Additionally, wood likes to move around, and if you don't give it a reason to stay in place, it won't.  
    3. Avoid staples and small single coated nails because they will rust quickly.  
    4.  
  1. What is the thickness of wood being used?
    1. When it comes to pickets anything under 5/8" thick is not good.
    2. Avoid 2" x 3" x 8’ Runners because they sag, bow, arch, and do not provide enough horizontal support.
    3. All gate posts need to be 4" x 6" x 10' at a minimum to prevent sagging of gates. This is the number one area, people generally experience problems.
    4. All Fence posts need to be 4" x 4" x 10' and avoid the 3" x 3" x 8' round landscape timbers. It may seem cost effective at first, but as the old saying goes; try to save a penny, plan to spend a buck to fix it.  
    5.  
  1. How many runners do they use; do they attach the runners to the post or go between posts?
    1. Avoid companies that use two runners. BAD, BAD, BAD!
    2. Avoid companies that go between posts because the fence will fall apart. It's Florida, not Georgia or up north.    
    3. Most companies building between the post will not take the time to either rout the post or use the correct fasteners.  Couple this with the fact pressure treated lumber shrinks, you could have a mess on your hands.   They try to use brackets or toenail directly into the posts. 
    4. The best is attaching the runners to the inside or outside of the post using ring shank nails, which will secure them flat to the surface of the post or rout the posts. 
  1. Ask how many picket are use to cover an 8 foot stretch of fence?
    1. It should be 24 for board on board, 17 for stockade, and 24 for shadowbox.  Any less is not good because pressure treated lumber shrinks. For example, 1" x 6" x 6' shrinks to 3/4" x 5 1/2" x 5 5/8' and if someone is using less that means they are stretching out the picket.  The problem is that noticeable gaps will develop.  
    2. If you using a Cypress picket or specially milled lumber the count per eight foot will be less.  What important is that you watch the over lap of each edge of the picket.  You want a minimum overlap of one inch on each side. Anything last is a disaster.
  1. Do they pay their people by the hour or by the foot?
    1. Avoid companies that pay by the hour. Nine times out of 10, the crews installing has limited skill set and a high turnover. The installers are paid equivalent to fast food workers and you will get what you pay for...
    2. Avoid companies that use illegal workers or have an out of state license or provide works that cannot communicate. 
    3. Companies that pay by the foot generally keep the best workers in Central Florida .  
  1. How long they been in business.  As the old saying goes, trust but verify. The following link will take you to the state of Florida business website where you can find a page full of links which will let you research the company: http://www.sunbiz.org/search.html  Next research them through the BBB or Referral Sights.  
  2. If you want to be creative, type in the following key terms into the google search engine: I hate (name of company). 
  3. If you just want to look up the company and see if they are a valid company, use the following link and type in the name of the company:http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/ByName You will either find the companies name or you will discover their status.  If the status of the Corporation is Active that good.  If the status is inactive, you need to send that company packing.  You will have no recourse if something goes wrong, none.
  4. Are they members of any organizations such as the BBB or Angieslist. 

UNDERSTANDING THE FOUR BUSINESS MODELS THAT DOMINATE  THE CENTRAL FLORIDA FENCE INDUSTRY.  

There are four general types of business models fence companies operated within the Central Florida Area. We have named them accordantly with title such as Back Yard Bargain Joe, The Discounter, The Traditional Company, and The Educator and Deliver.   Each business model is distinctly different. Each will offer a different combination of building methods and level of services.  It's important understand who you're dealing with at all times.  Most importantly you'll get a pulse on the  character of the company.   

1. Backyard Bargain Joe: These type of fence companies dominate the Central Florida Market Place.  They are usually one man operation whose main focus is based on delivering the cheapest possible products and method of installation. Understand, certain types of individuals are attracted to the Backyard Bargain Joe Model. Who they're and the definition is listed below: 

A New startups: An individual whom has started the process of delivery fence and service to the market place. They often meet the state and local licensing requirements, but lack appropriate insurances.   Use at your own judgment. 

B. Fly-by-nights: Individuals that participate in the fence market during a hurricane or time of need.  They do not meet state or local licensing requirements or insurance requirements.  Never use. 

C. Handymen:  These individuals are the jack of all trades, but masters of none.  They often meet the county requirement for handyman, but not for fencing.  Never use for fencing. 

D. Independent contractors:  These individuals have worked for a traditional fence company.  They often former employees or contractors.  Special attention must be pay to the word, "Former."  Understand, the downward economic trend has forced fence companies to layoff or firer installers.  As a result, they have flood the market. Most meet state and local licensing requirements; however, most do not carry the appropriate insurance. Use at your own judgment. 

E. A friend of a friend just trying to make a buck: these individuals have often installed a few fence for a friend or a family. They rarely possess any form of licensing or insurance.  

F. The conman:  we would like to identify them, but they are ever changing.  They are rarely have state or local licenses. Our best advice is to trust but verify. Understand, how they operate: they  tell their victims exactly what they want to hear, they change what the say, and spend a lot of time talking about themselves.  

Understand customer service is poor or none-existent within this model. If there's problem, it's rare for it to be resolved. As a result, these companies and individuals are short lived within the market but often at the homeowners expense. 

Quality of product is poor.  The main method of build is by prefabricated fence panels. It is rare to find the onsite/stick building method at work in this model.  

The business model pledged with cash flow problems.  As a result, It requires the customer surrender a deposit of half or greater.  Once the money is received, the wait for installation is often lengthy. Chances are the homeowner will end up hounding the individual or company to actual get the fence installed.  When fence is actually installed, it's often wrong or riddled with poor craftsmanship.  Understand this model accounts for 20% of all fence installed in the Central Florida market place.

This model is ultimately flawed, but easily identified.  There are always three dead giveaways:

A. The individual spends more time selling themselves then the product, the company or serves they offer. 

B.  Little attention is given to the details discuss, and those detail are rarely written down in true proposal format. Instead they are scribbled out on generic carbon copy estimate and are written with ambiguous and general terms. 

C.  The proposed price is rock bottom low.   

2. The Fence Discounters: Buy it cheap and maximize profit through volume.  Believe it or not this model is ran by 5% of the local fence companies; however, this model accounts for 40% of all fence installed in Central Florida . The primarily focuses on economy grade fencing but do carry a small lines of premium grade products.  Why one might ask? The answer is simple.  It's the time tested and approved retail philosophy: Carry a high price product, and the cheaper product will be more attractive.  Each time the customer will focus on price and not quality or longevity of a product.

The problem with the fence discounter is they often have their hand in every aspect of the market. The sale fence directly to the public, they offer some form of installation, and at the same time wholesale to all business models.

A. Big Box Stores: Any major retail store that sails home improvement products. 

B. Outlets: Retail locations sale strictly fence related products to the public. 

C. Large Regional and National Fence Companies: Establish fence that have office locations regional and nationally. They main focus is selling to other fence companies   

They bank on the do-it-yourselfer.  A customer show up retail location,  purchases material, and then it's delivered.  To keep it simple, The Fence Discounter sells prefabricated fencing systems and requires a large deposit. 

It hard to separate fact from fiction with The Fence Discounter. Product lines and services often get blurred. They often tell a customer what they want to hear, and little emphasis is place on education or quality of product. Instead, they often explain the advantage of premium fence but understand their solo purpose is to push economy fencing systems.  For example, a customer inquires about fence, and the representative explains the advantages of the premium fence. He give the consumer the price. The consumer is shock, but the reprehensive says, "Will we have this versions."  Hence the consumer swallows the bait: price over quality. 

If the discounter offer fence installation, the installation of the fence is often poor to adequate.  Remember, The Fence Discounter goal is to buys it low and sales in volume to make their profit.  As a result, the individual installing the fence is forced to work fast, longer, and hard to make a living.  As a result, their is a  high turnover ratio in their installation department. 

This model is flawed, but it works.  The problems is it ultimately burns the consumer.  Remember if you try to save a penny, you will spend a dollar to fix it.   There are always three dead giveaways:

A. The individual spends more time selling themselves then the product, the company or serves they offer. 

B.  Little attention is given to the details discuss. It all about what you want and when you want it at the lowest possible price. Details are written down in a proposal format; however, it written with ambiguous and general terms. 

C.  There advertisement often contains states like we will beat our competitors price or we'll do it for less.  They advertise large discounts and gimmicks. 

Understand, a discounter possesses some-level of customer service. It is a take or leave it approach to solving problems.  For example: If there is a problem, The Fence Discounter will fix it, but the solution will be based on minimizing loses. As a result, the customer suffers and must accept the offered solutions.  

3. The Traditional Fence Company:  They are around for the long hall. They will offer products and services that leave customer generally satisfied. If there is a problem with the products or the services, they will fix it.  The solutions proved will not be based on minimizing loses, but doing just enough. The reputations of a traditional fence company generally matters to the owner; however, it really depends on the owner.  Who are they: 

A. Business People: Individuals that see a need and fill it. 

B. Professional good at there craft: Individuals that have a passion for building. 

C. Families: Companies that are past down from generation to generation. 

The traditional fence company makes it money on satisfied customers,  but understand traditional fence companies are also all about the numbers. The operated on the principle of laws of average.  For example, if "X" amount of estimates are ran, "X" amount of jobs will be sold.  Run enough and the work will be plentiful. Treat enough customer right and the reputation will assist in obtaining new business. 

Don't be fooled. It is a dog eat dog business model in today's market place, and all of them are scrambling for only 35% of the Central Florida market share. So understand, all Traditional Fence Companies are not created equal.  Some will pride themselves on service. Other will pride themselves in fence installation, and a few will pride themselves on products.  It's rare to find all three running  hand in hand.  Which one, will depend on what they consider a competitive advantages. This is a great model, but understand problems still exist.

Problems often starts at the estimate level. Like most industry, the sales and estimating position possess a high turnover rations. The owner is then forced to constantly train new sells people.  So the information needed to provided outstanding serves, products, and customer service, comes and goes with the estimator. As a result, the primary focus of a fence company is sells. Once A sales person is trained there off to visits a property and promises things they barely understand. within the models.  For example, a company might carry a great product but have poor installation results.  This often caused hiring and firing employee based on workflow.  As a result, the experience comes and goes.  

Because so much time is spent on training estimators, the little details are often missed or sacrificed on the backend.  Simple things like communicating with the customer once the contract is signed.  Maybe it calling in the underground utilizes, pulling a permitting, double checking the scope of the project.  Regardless, something is often sacrificed.  will be  Most of time it because short live position on a company When it comes to estimating within a traditional and the morning of the fence installation an installer knock on your door and asks the customer where the fence goes. When the job is the customer is often left saying, "I like it, but."  In the end, the customer is forced to settle.   More often than not, a customer is left saying, "They were a good company, but...".  

4. The Educator and Perfection Fence Company:  This model focuses on long term growth of short term gains.  Strict focus is placed on educations and gaining satisfying customers.  

These company are often at the top of their industries and are reputation driven.  As a result, it is not necessary for these types companies to dump ten of thousands in to advertising which allow them use that money to increase the quality of their products or services. Should a problem occur, this type of company will not need to be told how to do the right thing.  

The Good news is Paramount Fencing is a educator and perfection fence company.    

Preservation of fence:  Regardless of which assemble method used the preservation of the fence will make all the difference.  Most damage to wood fencing occurs in the first six months to a year.  The culprit is the afternoon thunder storms.  Something as simple as an acrylic or oil based water sealant can make all of the difference.

Acrylic Based: Anything is better than nothing.  The downfall to Acrylic based water sealant is it needs to be done annually.  It can leave a pasty look and result in time consuming maintenance to restore the original beauty.

Oil Based: The best thing for your fence.  Oil base protections seeps to the center of the wood and dries from the inside out.  As a result, the maintenance schedule is simpler and further apart. 

MESSAGE FROM THE OWNER:  Since the hurricanes, I have noticed a few more stick builders out there.  As a result, we have been cleaning up a lot of messes, everything from companies using landscape timbers for posts, 1/2" pickets, staples, 2" x 3" x 8' runners and board on board fencing with gaps. Don't make the mistake and end up with a Popsicle stick experiment in your backyard.  The best advice would be to ask the following questions.

Final Note: Avoid any company requesting that the homeowner pull the permit.  If this is the case, the company may not have the correct insurance needed to conduct work within the municipality. Additionally, if a homeowner pulls the permit they assume all the liabilities for one year.  Lastly, make sure all of your underground utilities have been located or it could be a very expensive fence. Most fence companies have this capability and the service is free of charge.

Research Links:

Pressure treating study:

http://www.hpo.bc.ca/files/download/Report/ACQWood.pdf 

Lumber

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumber