By Patrick Boswell
Although there are several types of material and style commonly used for fencing, perhaps nothing is as quintessentially American as the wooden picket fence. Although picket fences are generally thought of as being wooden, they can in fact be made from various other materials – plastic, vinyl and aluminum.
Picket fences have been popular for several centuries, having first been used around the beginning of the 17th century. From the beginning, picket fences – usually painted white – were used in middle class homes throughout the United States; today they are still popular in many suburban homes and have come to almost define the idea of family life, suburban living and the American dream. The biggest attraction of a traditional picket fence is its visual appeal, as well as its ability to somehow evoke a simpler time and way of life.
Although its look is probably its biggest attraction, a picket fence has several other advantages. They are fairly easy to find and install and even though most picket fences are between three and four feet in height, are available in other sizes as well. It’s even possible to find the pickets – the individual sections – of the fence in different styles, such as flat top or dog ear. The most popular style is probably the regular pointed top, sometimes also known as Gothic.
A picket fence is also easy to install, even for those of us who aren’t particularly handy around the house. It can be installed on ground that is uneven or sloping, making the design particularly suitable for larger areas. Wooden picket fencing is also generally less expensive than other types of fencing, such as vinyl – another big advantage if you are planning to enclose a large area of land. An unfinished wooden picket fence can be painted, or left in its unfinished state for a more natural look.
The biggest drawback of a traditional wooden picket fence is probably the amount of maintenance and upkeep that it needs. Your picket fence is going to be subject to general wear and tear, as well as possible damage from the sun, wind and rain. A wooden fence is also at risk from attack by termites. If you are not planning to paint your fence, you will need to protect it by using an outdoor stain solution on it and cleaning it regularly with a power washer.
If you like the idea of a picket fence, but don’t want any maintenance, picket fences are also available in other materials – offering the traditional design and charm associated with the style, but involving less work. Particularly popular are picket fences made from pre-galvanized steel, which require virtually no maintenance and of course, are also free from the risk of termites.
For many people, even those who don’t have a cottage in the country, a white picket fence is an obvious choice. Properly installed and looked after, it can provide years of use and add value to any home.
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