It's hard to beat the look of real wood fencing, especially if you live in the country or have an overly rustic-looking home exterior. But while wood fencing is beautiful when it is new, it quickly begins to look worn down if you don't put a lot of time and effort into maintaining it. If you love the look of wood but hate the idea of spending your summer painting and staining it, consider opting for one of these wood alternatives instead.

Wood Grain Vinyl

Wood grain vinyl fencing is fencing made from vinyl with the texture of wood grain. The best brands are even colored to resemble the natural variation in the wood, complete with knots and striations. You can find vinyl fencing made specifically to look like cedar, walnut, and other woods.

If you get right up close to wood grain vinyl fencing, you can tell that it's not real wood. But from a few feet away, it looks just like the real thing. The advantage of vinyl fencing is that it's entirely maintenance-free. Sure, you can hose it off and perhaps even scrub if if it starts looking dirty, but this is entirely optional because even leaving the fence dirty won't cause it to break down any faster.

Vinyl fencing is also a safe choice if you have kids or pets. It does not splinter like wood, and you do not have to treat it with any chemicals (like waterproof sealer), so if your kids or pets decide to chew on it, they won't suffer any harm.

Wood Composite Fencing

Wood composite fencing is made from a mixture of wood fibers and concrete. The mixture is pressed into planks, which look very similar to natural wood. You can find them in both "natural wood" and painted varieties. Someone well-versed in home materials will be able to tell that the fencing is not real wood if they look at it close-up, but the average guest won't know the difference.

Wood composite is not quite as durable as vinyl. It will eventually break down and need to be replaced, but this takes much longer than with wood. You won't need to stain or paint the composite.

One major advantage of wood composite fencing is that it's an earth-friendly choice. The wood pulp used to make it is usually a waste material that would otherwise be sent to a landfill to decompose.

The down side to wood composite fencing is that it is prone to damage if your dog does scratch or chew at it. It does not, however, attract termites or other bugs like real wood sometimes does.

To learn more about each of these wood-lookalike options, talk to a fencing contractor in your area like Soldier Fencing LLC.