The addition of a fence windscreen provides instant aesthetic appeal as well as improved playability. Having a good understanding of materials, installation and maintenance will provide long-lasting value while avoiding costly mistakes.
1. Understanding wind load.
Wind load is the amount of force wind puts on your fence. This is the single most important factor to consider with windscreen. Wind load increases significantly when you add windscreen because it makes it more difficult for wind to pass through. In fact, unless the visual blockage is under 50% — well below that of typical ballpark windscreen — your potential wind load remains at nearly 100%. Using open mesh windscreen or adding vents at typical sizes and spacings will only have a marginal effect on reducing wind load. You should always assume that adding windscreen will cause complete wind blockage to a fence.
2. All fences are not equal.
Some fences may not be designed to withstand the additional wind load from windscreen. Many lack the adequate pole sizing, spacing or bury depth to handle the load. If ignored, catastrophic failure of your fence can occur. We recommend checking with your local fencing professional — ideally the original installer — to determine if the existing fence is properly supported to handle windscreen. You may want to replace or reinforce your fence first, or consider options such as trees, shrubbery, and other natural wind and visual barriers.
3. Windscreen material choices.
There is no single windscreen material that is a perfect fit for every site or situation. Each material comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to decide which factors are most important — durability, cost, color, aesthetics, etc.
For example, if your facility is located in a windy environment, a material with good abrasion resistance should be high on your list. This will come into play when a portion of a panel breaks free from the fence and flaps uncontrollably in the wind. Windscreen with good abrasion resistance are typically woven or knit polys (polypropylene or polyethylene). On the other hand, if adding color and printed graphics is high on your priorities, then a vinyl-coated material is a good choice for you.
Be sure to compare specifications and material attributes. Seek input and guidance from reputable sources that have experience with all types of windscreen materials and can help you match your needs with the best option.
WINDSCREEN MATERIALS QUICK-COMPARISON
- Good abrasion resistance
- Good UV-light resistance — fading is minimal over time
- Good strength to weight ratio
- Multiple opacity/weight options to choose from
- Limited color selection
- Cannot print on them reliably
- May unravel if damaged or cut
- May have a sheen or glare in sun
- Many color options
- Excellent for printing
- Lower glare than most polys
- Multiple opacity and weight options to choose from
- Poor abrasion resistance (unless using heavier extrusion-coated fabrics)
- Variable UV-light resistance (degree of fading over time is color-dependent)
4. Windscreen installation tips.
When it comes to windscreen installation, there are a few rules to follow that will result in a beautiful windscreen and protect the most expensive part of the installation — your fence.
A. Be slightly shorter. It’s always better if your windscreen height is too short rather than too long. Windscreen that doesn’t go all the way to the ground can be installed taut. When your windscreen is too tall for the fence it will look baggy and sloppy. Proper windscreen sizing should be roughly 3″ to 6″ shorter than the height of the fence, and similarly short on each end.
B. Dictate your failure points. Attaching a windscreen so securely to a fence that can never break free in high winds is a recipe for disaster. We recommend using UV-treated cable ties as they can easily break if they become overloaded. Use the lightest gauge tie that will withstand your local wind conditions, and use them along the top, sides, and middle seams. For the bottom edge, we recommend using a stronger, more durable connection method such as rope, metal clips, or heavier cable ties. Allowing the windscreen to break free from the top or sides of the fence when needed will allow it to remain secured at ground level, safely out of the strongest winds.
C. Have a plan for setup, take down and maintenance. Beyond just buying the right windscreen, you should get input from those who will be in charge of caring for it. Look for answers to these important questions:
- Who will put it up and take it down?
- Does your staff have the skill set to put it up and take it down properly?
- Does the care and maintenance of windscreen fit within your organization’s priorities and procedures?
- Can you quickly replace zip ties that may break?
- Is seasonal removal and storage a feasible option to reduce wear & tear?