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PRO FENCE DESIGN BLOG

Shiny vs. Matte Fence and Some Material Science

Yes...it has something to do with costs and value.

A Glossy (Shiny) Fence Panel and a Matte One

SUBMITTED:       Pro Fence Design

POSTED:                April 2023

The Choice of Shiny vs. Matte Fence Panels

Fence customers have told us “I really don’t want that shiny, glossy looking fence…it looks cheap”.  These customers are not being picky, they truly noticed something about vinyl fences.  As vinyl fence has become the accepted standard in the Northeast, many lower cost manufacturers and home-center brands have crept into the market with bargain-priced substitutes.  Product criticism aside, this blog takes a deeper dive into the topic for readers and provides an overview on the shiny (“glossy”) versus matte (“flat”) finish on fence panels.

 


Vinyl vs. PVC

First, it is important to address the topic of vinyl versus PVC.  If you have not reviewed the other post on the topic, you can do so here.  For the abridged version, vinyl is a plastic that surrounds us every day in shower curtains, wire coverings, paint and safety glass in cars. The vinyl used in fence panels is reinforced vinyl or polyvinyl chloride, which has a chloride additive for strength and UV protection (Source: Plastics Today). All PVC is vinyl, but not all vinyl is PVC. For the purpose of this blog however, your fence is both vinyl and PVC….there is no difference in this regard in fence manufacturing.

 

So What Makes Certain Vinyl Fence Panels Look Shiny (glossy) and Others Matte (flat)?

 

The main culprit is one that speaks to the cost/value argument; this the co-extrusion versus mono-extrusion manufacturing process.

 

Co-extrusion adds a polymer surface layer standard PVC. This produces a glossy finish on the outside, but on the inside, a duller vinyl is at the core. The co-extrusion process is essentially a lamination. Making the laminating film separately and controlling its thickness reduces expense. With respect to fence panels, the co-extrusion laminate can eventually peel and become unsightly in the long-term.  For colored fence panels, this is a certain disaster as under the color laminate is plain, white PVC. Co-extrusion is more prevalent in economically priced fence panels, mostly imports, and popular in home centers.

Mono-extruded vinyl maintains its inherent properties during production and is heralded as the best production process for fence panels.  In mono-extrusion, what you see on the outside is the same inside.  This is particularly important for colors (including white) as the tone on the outside is the same on the inside. If wear or a scratch occurs on a panel, the underlying color is the same. Mono-extruded components are used mostly by professional contractors. 

All this said, even a mono-extruded process can produce a a glossy finish.  Certain polymers like high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) as an additive during or after polymerization produce glossy finishes. Another method that produces a high-glare finish is the melt temperature in the extrusion process.  Third, external glazing is another technique, where the extruded surface is passed under radiant heat (a bar or lamps) or even a flame ("flame polishing") to harden the outer layer of PVC.  All these glazing methods may embrittle the surface (Source: Allan Griff | Nov 13, 2016), make them more prone to scratching and create sun or light glare off the panel.

 

 

Net/Net

 

Mono-extruded fence panels are the choice of professional contractors. Since certain manufacturers use different processes that produce a glossy, satin or matte finished product, your contractor should maintain a supply line to all options to meet customer preferences. Ask your contractor for samples of both to check for yourself - a true "pro" should have each on hand.

Less expensive, co-extruded panels produce glare.

Mono-extruded panels have a satin to matte finish

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