When Florida homeowners Lorenzo Riccio and Juliette Simmons installed a vinyl fence around their home instead of a wood fence to save time and money on painting and maintenance, they never dreamed that their fence would also save their 3,400 square-foot home from a raging forest fire.
"If it weren't for that vinyl fence, our home would have been completely destroyed," said the Mr. Lorenzo, who had the fence installed when the North Port, Fla., the home was purchased in 1998. "I wanted the fence to provide added security for my aunt who lives with me, but I never realized how much security it would later provide. Nor did I realize how crucial our decision was to install a fence made of vinyl instead of wood," he continued.
The fence proved its worth two years later on June 12, 2000, when lightning struck a pine tree in a wooded area near the Riccio and Simmons home and ignited a raging fire that quickly destroyed thousands of trees as it swept through acres of woodland directly in the path of the house. The one-story structure would have been destroyed in minutes, but the fire could not burn through the vinyl material when it reached the fence. It was forced to jump over the fence and head into a new direction away from the house.
"Someone from the North Port Fire Department told me that in all the years he has been fighting forest fires, he had never seen anything stop a fire the way that vinyl fence did," added Mr. Riccio. "The fireman said it was like someone took their hand and rolled the flames back, which then allowed the bulldozers to get behind the fence. The fire had begun to melt the fence's vinyl posts and the slats were bowed in, but the fence never burned down. I'm just glad we installed a vinyl fence instead of a wood fence."
Mr. Riccio, who owns Riccio's Hair Designs in North Port, had rented several homes with fences that would rot, peel or splinter, and did not want to worry about maintenance when buying his own home. He selected a six-foot high tongue-and-groove vinyl fence manufactured by Westech® Fence, located in Mt. Vernon, Ind., a leading manufacturer of quality vinyl fence, deck and railing systems. The fence, which measured 318 linear feet, was fabricated by Poly Vinyl Creations of Hudson, Fla., and installed by Sam Enterprises of Port Charlotte, Fla.
"The vinyl fence cost somewhat more than wood, but it looks great. And, you will never have to spend money on maintenance after the fence is installed," he explained. "It can also save your home," he added.
Adrian Moore, who opened Sam Enterprises in 1997, has seen a dramatic increase in the demand for vinyl fence installations over the last three years, due primarily to their attractive appearance and maintenance-free features. "Vinyl fencing used to account for about five to 10 percent of our business, but it's now up to about 35 percent," he said. "Although price is always a big consideration -- especially for many of the senior citizens in our area who are on a fixed income - more and more people are selecting vinyl fencing because they do not want to worry about their fence after it is installed," he concluded.
According to Westech Fence General Manager David Tsai, vinyl fence, railings and deck systems are still in the embryo stage of growth with about 10 percent share of the $3 billion North American fence market. He said sales are expected to grow sharply and more than double within the next three years and compares vinyl fences to the position 10 years ago of vinyl siding and vinyl windows. "Since 1990," he reported, "more than half the new homes in North America use vinyl siding, and half the homes last year used vinyl windows."
He points out that Westech Fence is committed to engineering and developing innovative building products serving the needs of many industries and has contributed to the growing popularity of vinyl as a maintenance-free alternative to wood and other materials for fence, deck and railing products.
The company is an affiliate of the Westlake Group, a vertically-integrated multi-national petrochemical company with a wealth of PVC processing experience operating more than 10 manufacturing facilities across North America.
Westech Fence's vinyl fence, railings and deck systems are engineered and manufactured using state-of-the-art formulation and extrusion technologies that ensure its products meet and exceed industry standards. The proprietary PVC formulations include only the highest grades of PVC resins and high-performance additives processed with advanced blending and processing technologies to consistently deliver high quality. Every shipment of resin, additives and micro-ingredients that come to its Mount Vernon facility is tested, and every extrusion is inspected for colour and gloss consistency, long-term colour retention, superior impact performance and dimensional integrity.
"The demand for low maintenance products continues to grow since homeowners simply do not want to spend their leisure time on home maintenance of any kind and are willing to pay a premium to avoid it," added Mr. Tsai. "We are seeing a major increase in product awareness and sales in vinyl fence, deck and railing products as a result of this demand," he concluded.
In homeowner Lorenzo Riccio's opinion, vinyl fencing also affords added protection against fire, of which he has firsthand experience.