Written by GJ Stott
A fence is any type of freestanding vertical structure used as a passage barrier to separate areas. The term “fence” is often used interchangeably with “wall” though technically a wall is a more solid, complete barricade. Fences have been constructed for thousands of years from a wide variety of materials, including ancient rock and stone to more modern vinyl and concrete fencing.
Original fence construction was the simple stacking of rock and stone to create some type of division between lands and fields. Classic examples of this type of fence are the thousands of miles of mortar-less stone fence found at the sites of ancient civilizations. Similar fence can still be found today in many parts of South America and Africa dating back as far as 1500AD.
Fence construction improved dramatically with the introduction of mortar, a simple masonry substance used in construction to fill in gaps and bond fence elements together. Originally made mainly from sand and lime, today’s mortar also generally includes cement and gypsum.
Modern Fence Construction
Fences are built from many different materials such as stone. Stemming from classic stone fencing, block and brick fence construction attempts to replicate the strength of stone while improving its shape for vertical stacking. Brick is a type of compressed earth mass while block is usually considered a concrete masonry unit (cmu blocks) made from dry-cast concrete. Like more modern stone fences, brick and block fencing utilizes mortar for binding and strengthening.
Fences can also be constructed using precast concrete. During production, concrete is poured into concrete forming machine equipment and given time to cure. The fence forming equipment can include some type of texture that results in a more natural looking fence. Once the precast concrete fence has cured, it can be lifted into place. This type of fence construction offers augmented strength and durability (able to be used as huricane walls)as well as increased cost effectiveness when compared to the other methods.
Fence can also be poured in place, meaning that the form is placed exactly in the final product location. Once the concrete has been poured and cured, the form is removed, leaving the fence in place. This type of construction is similar to precast concrete fence but does not offer the same flexibility or cost effectiveness.
Vinyl fence, another common wall type in residential applications is a prefabricated fence made from PVC plastic that can resemble wood, picket fence, or railing designs. Vinyl fence is resilient to weather and exposure, but is more fragile and unstable than the other types of fence, leading to constant repair and replacement.