Can I Use Composite Wood for a Fence? Pros and Cons

A photograph of a white composite wood fence made from pickets of varying lengths to create a curved shape between each set of posts. The posts have pyramid-shaped finials. There is a grass lawn in the foreground and trees and the roof of a house in the background. In the bottom right of the image is a cartoon woman looking at the fence in a thoughtful manner. across the top of the image are the words, "Can I Use Composite Wood for a Fence? Pros and Cons."

Composite wood is a relatively new building material, quickly becoming one of the most popular choices due to its many advantages.

Yet, can you build a fence with composite boards? And is composite wood good for fencing?

You can use composite wood for a fence. Composite wood resembles natural wood yet has better durability and resistance to outdoor environments. It costs more than other fencing materials, yet easy maintenance requirements and a long lifespan make it a more cost-effective investment. 

So, how long does composite wood last, and is composite fencing a good idea?

In this post, I’ll answer these and other commonly asked questions while considering the pros and cons of using composite wood for a fence. Let’s get started!

Pros of Composite Wood FencingCons of Composite Wood Fencing
Eco-friendlyCostly investment upfront
Highly durableHeats up in extreme sun/temperatures
Natural wood aestheticCannot change the appearance
Resistance to outdoor environments 
Easy to maintain 
Long lifespan 

The Pros of Composite Wood Fencing

Let’s look at the many positive aspects of composite wood and why it’s becoming so popular.

Composite Wood Is Eco-Friendly

A wood plastic composite fence with a grass lawn in the foreground. There are two leaves overlain across one of the fence panels to indicate its eco-friendliness.
Often made from waste wood and recycled plastic, composite wood fencing is very eco-friendly.

Composite wood is an excellent choice for sustainable building. It’s manufactured by blending wood pulp and sawdust with recycled plastics, such as grocery bags and milk cartons.

These materials are typically mixed with polymer resins and pressed into molds, resulting in an eco-friendly alternative to standard wood that is better for the environment than new plastic.

In addition, composite wood is recyclable and can be extruded up to 20 more times at the end of its life cycle or used to create fuel in waste-to-energy plants.

Markedly, this environmentally friendly material contributes to fewer trees being cut down as more people opt to use composite wood instead of traditional wood.

Natural and Aesthetically Pleasing Look

Composite wood has the aesthetic of natural wood and is available in nearly any color you want.

Plus, composite fencing utilizes invisible clip installation, ensuring a perfect finish. It’s also stain-resistant thanks to its anti-fouling surface, making it easy to keep your fence looking clean and new.

Highly Durable Material

A photograph of a white composite fence with a grass lawn in the foreground and a neighboring house with a gazebo in the background. Overlain on the fence is a cartoon hammer with impact marks to indicate durability.
Composite wood is tough and resistant to rot and insects, making it ideal for outdoor use.

Considering its plastic content, you might wonder, “Do composite fences warp?” The answer is no, not one bit.

The combination of wood and plastic results in a robust, durable, and rigid final product with resistance to abrasions, stresses, and strains, such as rolling or trampling. Notably, wrought iron is the only fencing material more durable.

Superior Resistance to Outdoor Environments

Unlike natural wood and other fencing options, the particular blend of sawdust, plastic, and resin allows composite wood to withstand several environmental factors.

Composite wood is resistant to:

  • Insects and rot: The amount of wood in the composite material mean it is not prone to rotting and ensures that termites and other insects won’t eat and infest it.
  • Water and harsh weather: Polymer plastics help make composite impermeable to water.
  • Mold and bacteria: Composite is antiseptic and thus unaffected by mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
  • Hot temperatures and extreme climates: Unlike materials like vinyl, which contracts and expands in high heat, composite remains intact in hot temperatures.
  • UV-rays: Composite wood doesn’t fade and age like other materials. Some manufacturers further enhance their composite with UV stabilizers and other elements for fade resistance. 

Easy Maintenence Requirements

If you’re still asking yourself, “Is a composite or a wood fence better?” one of the best aspects of composite wood is how little maintenance it requires.

Traditional wood fencing requires frequent repair, repainting, or replacement. Not to mention all the other treatments to protect it from environmental elements.

A dark wood composite fence with a hedge growing along the bottom. On the left is a cartoon hand wiping the fence with a cloth.
Washing a composite wood fence is all that’s required to keep it in tip-top condition.

And how do you maintain a composite fence? Occasionally rinse it down with water. It’s that easy!

Long-Lasting and Cost-Effective

With its incredible resistance to environmental factors, composite wood has a significantly longer lifespan than wood.

Most have an average minimum lifespan of 15-20 years, while some composites can last up to 40 years without noticeable wear and tear.

Comparatively, natural wood may only last a few years, especially in places with inclement or extreme weather, high moisture, or pest issues.

Composite fencing lasts longer than wood and outlasts most other fencing materials, making it one of the most cost-effective choices in the long run.

Cons of Composite Wood Fencing

Beyond the many benefits, composite wood fencing has a few cons to consider. However, they’re rarely a deal breaker.

So, what are the disadvantages of composite wood fencing? Let’s take a look.

Composite Wood Fencing Costs More Upfront

A white wood plastic composite fence with varying height pickets that curve towards the ground between the fence posts. There is a grass lawn in front of the fence and trees behind it. In the bottom left corner is a stylized graph showing increased cost.
Wood composite fencing might be more costly to install, but it makes up for that with lower maintenance requirements and a longer lifespan.

The pleasing combination of durability and style makes composite wood one of the most expensive fencing materials, costing more than cedar, pine, and other options like vinyl.

On average, wood fences cost about $15 per square foot, while composite fences start at $25-$30 per square foot and can cost even more depending on where you buy them.

Notably, quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it’s essential to carefully research composite fencing options and purchase only from reputable sellers.  

Furthermore, composite wood fencing requires professional installation, contributing to the higher upfront costs.

Understandably, the increased price of investing in composite wood fencing may not be within everyone’s budget. But remember, composite wood’s overall lifespan and low maintenance needs ultimately result in a lower cost of ownership, making it more affordable over time.

Composite Wood Fencing Heats Up Easily

Due to its plastic content, composite wood takes on heat, like vinyl. This means fencing can become hot to the touch in extreme sun exposure or high temperatures and potentially cause minor burns.

For this reason, you must be careful not to touch the fence for too long with exposed skin on hot, sunny days to avoid potential burns. While this may not concern some, those with pets or young children may need to consider safety measures to prevent accidents.

The Appearance of Composite Wood Cannot Be Altered

A person painting a wood fence a dark brown color. A "prohibited" symbol overlaps the image comprising a red circle with a diagonal line across it.
Staining and painting of composite wood are not recommended.

Composite wood can usually be cut like natural wood, yet it cannot be stained or painted as wood can. This means you need to be confident in your color or shade choice before installation, as you can’t update the appearance later, or in a future remodel, for that matter.

Also, while composite wood will remain aesthetically pleasing for quite some time, the color will eventually fade as the fencing reaches the end of its lifespan.

Fading is more noticeable in darker shades such as gray, brown, and black. Once the fading begins, unfortunately, nothing can be done to reinstate the composite fencing to its former glory short of replacing it.

Final Thoughts On Using Composite Wood for a Fence

If you enjoy the look of a wood fence but aren’t interested in dealing with the maintenance it requires, consider composite wood fencing.

With all the benefits of composite wood fencing, you can’t go wrong with the investment if it’s within your budget.

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