The Fencing Industry – Material and Labor Shortages

The Fencing Industry – Material and Labor Shortages

Material and Labor Shortages in the Fencing Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to put stress on the construction industry, and the fencing industry is no exception. Soaring lumber, vinyl, and aluminum prices have held many off on projects for the past year, but homeowners are finding themselves now needing these projects completed.

Waiting periods for completion are growing longer and longer due to both material and labor shortages. Vinyl and aluminum manufacturers are finding the demand hard to keep up with many plants still closed, short-staffed, or working on limited capacity.

At Paramount, it’s important to us that our customers, and any other Central Florida consumer, are educated and understand the current situation facing the construction industry.

With many homeowner’s trying to complete jobs quickly, there has become an influx of new fence companies advertising high prices with quicker installs. Remember, a higher cost does not equal higher quality. Many of these installers are using materials purchased from common home improvement stores. Pre-fabricated panels are being marketed and sold at a high mark-up and advertised to customers as higher-quality than they really are. Not everything is as it looks.

Paramount Fencing uses high-quality fencing materials, coming from Homeland Vinyl and AlumiGuard. Both of these US manufactured companies are experiencing 12+ week lead times, but are worth the cost advertised. Be sure to do your research on the materials being installed in your yard before committing to a fence company. Ask, and if you don’t get a straight answer, ask again. It is a red flag if your new material does not come with a manufacturer name or a manufacturer’s warranty.

Understand the labor shortages right now are also a big strain on the industry. Fencing projects are taking longer to complete- it is hard to find skilled laborers. Don’t pay the price of a custom contractor when who has been hired is a handyman.

Paramount Fencing uses skilled contractors who have been trained to build your fence systems piece-by-piece, not just putting panels in the ground. Do your research when it comes to labor costs before committing to a fence company.

We understand that these are unprecedented times and that the material cost increases may keep going. We are unsure of what the future holds, but we at Paramount stand behind what we do. Our number one goal is to educate the consumer and keep them in the know about what’s going on in our industry. We strive to bring excellence in all areas of our work, from the administrative back-end processes to installation.

Paramount Fencing is here as a resource for all Central Florida fence customers. Give us a call and see what all the talk is about.

For a free estimate, call 407-341-2720

Unique Fences

Unique Fences

The façade of social media can be seen in all aspects of our lives. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter only show the good parts of life, but never the issues.

Think of the family vacation photos your friends share online- Mom, Dad, and the kids smiling at the beach. Like.

“What a nice vacation…” you think. But what are you not seeing behind the scenes? Kids fighting in the car, asking when they will arrive at the beach, and the all-too-familiar “don’t make me turn this car around” from Dad.

Instagram is full of pictures that will make you say “Wow, I wish I looked like that…”

But you aren’t seeing the hours of work that celebrities and influencers spend on posing for and editing their photos to make them look that perfect. The use of lighting, angles, filters, and FaceTune can make any person, landscape, setting, even house look too good to be true.

Pinterest

This is where Pinterest comes in. Pinterest is an online website as well as a mobile phone app that allows users to find and share ideas like recipes, crafts, home décor, and even home improvement ideas.

While Pinterest is a fun way for many people to ideas, it can be dangerous for homeowners to follow some of the home improvement ideas shown on the side.

During the COVID-19 quarantine, many potential customers reached out looking for quotes for fences they had seen on Pinterest. It quickly became clear that many of the fences shared on Pinterest are just like any of the other photos shared across social media platforms- too good to be true.

There are many reasons why these alternative fence styles won’t work in practical application, but the main points we focus on will be the regions the fences are being built in, the ability to permit the fence styles, and the craftsmanship of these fences.

First, the region in which a fence is installed will directly impact the success of the fence. Many wood fences on Pinterest show the use of red cedar, which is a bit of an unrealistic building material in Florida. Pressure-treated pine lumber is suggested in place of any other woods in Florida as is has been treated to withstand ground contact in a very wet state. What does this mean for the fence? Not much besides a different colored wood. To achieve the desired red color, it is advised to stain the fence once the wood has dried with an oil-based stain. Another popular fence floating around on Pinterest is the corrugated metal fence built on metal frames.

That corrugated metal fence brings up 3 large issues. First, the cost to customize such a fence is much higher than choosing another fence type. Remember what we said about the importance of your region? Metals that haven’t been powder-coated will rust fairly quickly in the Florida rains. That new custom fence you just had installed will look old and raggedy within a year. Lastly, pressure-treated wood often reacts negatively with other metals, resulting in more rust and the nails or screws backing out from the posts, requiring a lot more upkeep and costs than originally anticipated.

A corrugated metal fence built on wood frames.
The same corrugated fence, now rusted out.

The second issue that arises is the ability to permit some of these more unique fences. Every municipality has its own guidelines for what is allowed in regard to fencing. These building guidelines can be especially strict in Florida, where it is common for homes to have pools or be located on a body of water. Some cities may have a historic district, which will dictate what fence styles are and are not allowed. Some municipalities may require the runners of the fence to face a certain direction, which may not work with the fence design selected. Remember, your fence is a protective barrier for your property, so you do not want to pick a style with a high price tag for it to not do its job. Additionally, an unpermitted fence may be subject to high fines or your permitting municipality requiring it to be taken down.

Lastly, craftsmanship is often an issue with the Pinterest inspired fences. During the massive layoff wave that COVID created, many people began searching for any means of work, and many new fence companies and handymen entered the fencing scene. While they may be able to install pre-fabricated panels from the Home Depot, they are not fencing professionals and should not be trusted with installing a complex, and expensive, custom fence. Remember to be careful when choosing a fencing contractor. Any trustworthy fence professional should be able to speak with you about the concerns around these custom fence designs and should be able to suggest an equivalent alternative.

The posts on these panels are far too small to withstand an afternoon storm.

While social media sites like Pinterest are fun to use to gather ideas for food, fashion, and home projects, it's important to remember one thing- if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to using sites like Pinterest to collect ideas, remember to use it only as a guide, not the gospel.

DIY Fence Installation Mistakes

DIY Fence Installation Mistakes

A new fence -  it doesn't seem like it will be too difficult to complete on your own. You drive to the hardware store and get your materials - posts, pickets, rails, nails, but what now?

The installation itself can be intimidating if you are not experienced with this type of work. Questions swirl around in your head, and you begin to doubt yourself...

But the doubt can stop now! At Paramount Fencing, our #1 goal is to EDUCATE the customer. We have buyer's guides for any fencing material. We have advice, Q&A's, and of course- our support.

 

Take a look at some of the most common DIY Fence Installation Mistakes, and if you still have questions or need help, give Paramount Fencing a call. We are here for you.

1. Not Knowing Local Building Requirements

Know your municipalities building code prior to beginning an install. Research setbacks, easements, and fence requirements. Check if you have an HOA- many times they only allow certain styles of fence to be installed. All of these factors will need to be taken into consideration when applying for a permit. Building a fence that is not permitted and does not meet building requirements can result in fines, or need for a full replacement.

2. Ignoring The Style Of Your Home

Homes are built in different styles- Victorian, Ranch, Colonial, etc. Know your home's style before committing to a fence style. Take a look at your yard, do you have landscaping and lawn ornaments? Will those match the new fence? You don’t want to install a fence that will clash with the current style of your home.

3. Blocking Views

Many people want privacy fences, but end up disappointed when they can no longer see the lake or wildlands they just blocked. Be sure that you want to block those views before installing a fence. Blocking a neighbors view can also cause issues if you live within an HOA.

4. Incorrect Installation

Remember, not every fence is built the same. Fencing techniques used in the Midwest are very different than the techniques we use in Florida. Be sure to know your land when installing. Installation techniques differ based on geographical locations as well as fence materials. Learn how to set your posts, the posts are where most of the strength for your fence comes from. Check out our Buyers Guides for more information on fence materials.

5. Lack Of Planning

Know where the fence is going before you begin your installation. By this time, your permit should have already been submitted and approved. Be sure to follow the plans you drew up for the permit. Call 811 to have the utility lines in your yard marked.

6. Using Budget Materials

Using cheaper materials may initially save you a few bucks, but will cost you more in the long-run. Cheaper building materials are often lesser-quality or are not pressure treated. A budget fence may last a few years, but a fence built right using quality materials can last up to 20. You get what you pay for.

Should I Set My Wooden Fence Posts With Concrete?

QUESTION: I’ve heard both sides of the story for using cement on fence posts. How do I know which is correct? Cement with an upward slope to hold the post or no cement due to the rotting of the post?

ANSWER: Concrete or no Concrete is a hot topic. It doesn’t matter if the fence is in California, North Dakota, Taxes, or New York, their answers revolved around three different factors: (1) Geographical Location, (2) Environmental Conditions, and (3) Leverage Ratios versus External Force.
Based on these three factors, the answer should be simple; but it is not. It is as complicated as the Shakespeare quote: “To be or not to be…” That answer is complex and possesses endless meanings just like the use of concrete.

For example, let us examine the reference in the question, “Cement with an upward slope to hold the post.” On the surface, it seems like the company’s response makes sense. One would think, It could prevent the post from being pushed up or down or left or right. The realistic side is the upward sloping (Doming) of the concrete is a common practice in cold weather climates that experience sustained hard freezes. It is this practice of upward sloping or doming of concrete that prevents the permafrost from pushing the post upwards, ultimately disturbing the registry of the fence.
But permafrost does not exist in Florida. The upward sloping of concrete on a post is nothing more than a marketing ploy or way to get a customer to spend more. We have seen this time and time again, and believe me, Florida Fence companies can get creative. My personal favorite was the $5.00 cement collar which is very similar to upward sloping. It is less than one pound of wet mix concrete spread in a circular manner around the base of a post. It’s a big moneymaker if you understand (1) 60 lbs bag of concrete only costs $3.45 from Lowe’s.

Now let us address the second part of your question: Concrete and posts rotting. At the AFA National Convention, I heard a lot of theories as to why posts with concrete rot, but only one made the most sense. “In my state, the problem is farmers think they are fencers and fencers thank they are farmers,” said the owner of a third-generation fence company from Upstate New York. It sounded silly as I listened, but then he got technical. I soon realized he had a point, a similar point that Custom Fence Orlando and Paramount Fencing have expressed for 14 years. Everyone in Florida knows how to install a fence, they just don’t understand what they are installing. Moreover, it is not the concrete that rots the post, it is the fence company’s lack of knowledge. So let’s get technical.

WHY DO WE RECOMMEND NO CONCRETE?

This is Florida. We’re in the swampy South- not the Midwest, not the Pacific Coast, not New England. We receive about 53.19 inches of annual precipitation a year. The majority of that precipitation occurs in a six-month span, so the question becomes where does all that rain go? The answer is it seeps downward towards the water table, which creates a normal groundwater level, just below the land surface. Depending on the geological composition of an individual’s property such as sugar sand, Florida Pan Dirt, clay, or limestone–the normal underground water level can be found within 12 inches of the surface during the rainy season and 6 feet in the dry season.

Understand, wood is no different than a sponge. If one end of a sponge is placed in water, it will eventually suck up the water saturating it whole. Unlike the sponge, water cannot be easily removed by simply squeezing or ringing the lumber out. In order to dry, wood needs 30 days of complete and aired like conditions. Neither occurs when a post is buried in the ground and surrounded by concrete. Dirt is a natural absorbent and will become the posts best hope. All concrete does is trap the residual moisture that was soaked up and creates a breeding ground for fungal decay which creates living organisms called rot.

Rot is s hungry/hangry living organism. It exists and feasts on a wood posts in a zone approximately 4-5″ above ground level and 7- 8 inches just below ground level. Pressure-treated or not; fungal decay will eventually win because all it needs is a food source, moisture, oxygen, and the perfect temperature.

The purpose of pressure treating is to make the lumber rot-resistant, not water-resistant. As a result, pressure-treated lumber will still absorb and shed moisture which leads to expanding and contracting of the post. In a nutshell, the lumber will twist, crack, bend, cup, and ultimately destroy itself. It not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

So how do you limit fungal decay and living rot? It’s simple science that has been studied by major universities such University of Florida IFAS and organizations such as the American Society For Microbiology. Fungal decay is not a new topic. Science can now map the DNA of different species of fungal rot. As earlier discussed, rot is a living breathing organism that needs three key ingredients: moisture, oxygen, and the perfect temperature. So if you want to minimize the rotting of wood posts in the State of Florida, the answer is simple. Protect the post 4 inches above the grade and 10 inches below the grade: A.K.A the zone. Protecting the zone will assist in eliminating one or two of these key factors. Remember, fungal rots needs all three to thrive.

SO HOW DOES CONCRETE HELP ELIMINATE THESE THREE KEY FACTORS?

It does not. Overall, concrete does eliminate direct contact with the soil underground; however, the pressure-treated lumber expands and contracts with moisture. When it does, a 16th-inch gap usually develops between the wood post and the concrete. It sounds like a small and irrelevant gap, but so is dirt and microbes which are the building blocks of fungal rot.

Each week landscapers and weedeaters blow around small particles of dirt and organic matter. Fiber eating fungus develops and eats the decaying matter. Then comes the rain, or the irrigation system. That water finds the gap. The bad stuff seeps downward right into the “Zone”. Mix in some oxygen, the moisture from below, the fact that concrete holds a constant temperature and moisture, and those wood posts are going to prematurely rot. No exceptions. Concrete simply does not protect the “Zone.” The only exception would be to use a post that is pressure treated with UC4B which is meant for use in stagnate water but the pressure-treating only works as long as the chemicals remain. Chances are you would not find UC4B treated post on the shelf at the local lumber yard or home improvement store. All they normally stock is UC4A which is meant for a rapid watershed. UC4A is just cheaper to bring to the market.

SO WHY DO FENCE COMPANIES US CONCRETE ON WOOD POST IN FLORIDA?

It’s not to prevent rot. Most use concrete to create leverage. The main reason is the post length of choice for fence companies is often a 4″ x 4″ x 8′. As a result, the fence post is only two feet in the ground on a six-foot in height wood fence. Hence the use of concrete. What they do not realize is if it is the leverage that they desire, then all they need to do is purchase a longer post. After all, a 4″ x 4″ x 10′ is the same cost as 4″ x 4″ x 8′ and a bag of concrete combined.

SO WHAT DOES CUSTOM FENCE ORLANDO RECOMMEND?

We suggest two approaches. The first approach is simple: do nothing. Let dirt, when it is dry, do what it does best–absorb the moisture from the post. Then let the soil’s thermal property go to work as it absorbs the sun’s heat during the dry season. It will assist in creating irregular temperature within the zone. The only that remains is oxygen exposure. Keep in mind, this approach is still vulnerable should we have a wet and muggy year; but overall the post should last 12-14 years. It is the most cost-effective way for Central Florida homeowners.

The second approach protects the Zone. There are several products on the market that can completely protect this “Zone” against the three key factors which contribute to fungal decay. Simply put, the wood post will not long be a food source. These products are commonly known as “PostSavers.” They come in all different variations and sizes, but they can get expensive. Our weapon of choice is a post sever sleeve produced by Postsaver Europe Ltd out of England. It is a unique and cost-effective way to accomplish the mission.
Best of all, PostSavers are cost-effective. Overall, the average cost per foot only increases approximately .43 cents. Considering the PostSaver will extend the life of the post for up to 25 years, that is a small price.

Remember, in the State of Florida we often replace Wood fences every 10-12 years. It’s not because of the runners and pickets. It because the post rots at grade or in the zone. For more details on how Postsavers work visit or Postsaver page or use the link: PostSavers.