There are many reasons to install fencing. You might want to keep the family pet — or the kids — safely in the back yard. Maybe you’re looking to prevent intruders from entering your property, to increase your outdoor privacy, or to block an unpleasant view of your neighbor’s rusty collection of scrap metal. Perhaps you’re safeguarding your swimming pool or adding a boost to your curb appeal.
A fence can do any of these things — if you choose the right one. There are hundreds of different styles to choose from, plus a handful of different construction materials, each with their own maintenance requirements and prices.
And you’ll need to make sure your fence doesn’t create animosity in the neighborhood — or even violate local laws and regulations. Here’s how to avoid those pitfalls and get a beautiful long-lasting fence that fits your home and your budget.
Follow The Rules
If you’re in a neighborhood association, a historic district, or a fairly new development, you may face further limitations on fence style, height, and location — so check with local officials. For many, you will have to leave an easement along the side your property lines, for others you will be restricted to installing a particular type of fencing allowed by your HOA.
What Are Your Goals?
There are four basic categories to choose from:
Privacy Fence: If the goal is to block sight lines, you need solid fencing, which generally means it’ll have tightly spaced vertical boards, pickets, or framed panels to prevent you from seeing out and others from seeing in. It should be at least 6 feet tall so most people won’t see over it.
If a little visibility is okay, then the pickets can have spaces between them, or you can use a lattice or decorative fence pattern.
Security Fence: To keep people out, you’ll again want a fence that’s at least 6 feet tall to hinder anyone from simply hopping over it. Pickets or other spiky tops help to deter climbers—especially if the fence has a smooth outer face, so there’s no place to step. For fences with horizontal rails on one side and vertical pickets on the other—in other words, for most fences—that means facing the pickets out.
Decorative Fence: If the goal is to establish property lines, add a structural element to the landscape or boost curb appeal, your fence doesn’t need to be nearly as large or obtrusive. You can choose one that’s just three to four feet high, and with spaced pickets, latticework, or all sorts of ornamental designs that don’t block the view, but enhance it. Or you can go totally simple, with a rail fence (just posts and two or three horizontal members) like the ones used on horse farms.
Safety Fence: To create a dog run, enclose a pool area, or deter wildlife from trespassing on your property—without changing the view—the most economical option is a wire fence, such as woven wire field fence, 2×4” woven wire, or chain link.