Homeowners have many options when it comes to improving the privacy, security, and usability of their properties. Installing new fencing can be one of the most substantial, affordable home improvements you can make to impact those areas, with a variety of options available depending upon your needs.
When thinking about fencing, the first step is to consider what your goals are for the fence. Are you trying to improve your safety and security? If the goal is to keep out animals, how big (and strong) are the animals that you are trying to deter? How important is privacy? How much will the aesthetics of the fence matter and its impact on your home’s curb appeal? Are you trying to screen off an unattractive sight or reduce noises from the road? Is marking the borders of your property important to avoid or minimize disputes with neighbors? Will you need to adhere to any rules set forth by a Neighborhood Association or local laws regulating the size, color, and type of fence? What sort of budget did you have in mind? These questions are all important considerations as they will often drive any decisions you need to make regarding the ideal type of fencing material to use that will best meet your family’s needs.
The following fencing options are popular choices to consider:
Privacy: None to low
Curb Appeal: Low
Chain link fences have been available in the U.S. since the turn of the century and remain a popular option due to their relatively low cost, low maintenance, and ease of installation. And while the complete lack of screening might be a negative for some, the ability to see through the fence or to allow sunlight to pass might be a positive consideration for securing a business, enclosing a sports field, or protecting your garden. Chain link fences also come in a wide range of options, from different heights, different weave patterns, different wire gauges, and even different colors. These fences are relatively easy to climb over though and may detract from your home’s curb appeal. A little more privacy can be obtained by adding vinyl strips between each wire weave but that will also add more maintenance down the road as those strips get dirty and break over time.
Wood or Bamboo Fencing
Privacy: Low to high
Containment: Moderate to high
Curb Appeal: Moderate to high
Wood fencing is a very popular option in the United States and can be tailor-made to meet nearly any type of need, from very utilitarian and private to extremely ornate and elaborate. Being made from organic material, these fences may be subject warping or breaking over time, nails that pop out, and mildew or algae growth. Wood or bamboo fences may not be ideal in northern climates as the cold, wet weather can accelerate rot. If it’s possible, have the panels of your fence installed so that the wood doesn’t touch the ground, to reduce the risk of future problems with moisture. Wood fences do require a bit more maintenance than chain link, but replacement boards are typically easy to find and pressure washers will keep the wood looking good year round. If you take care to select a good material for your area (cedar, redwood, pressure treated pine, or bamboo for drier climates), a wood fence can be a beautiful way to mark your property lines, provide privacy and keep your pets and children safely contained to your yard.
Privacy: Moderate to high
Containment: Low to high
Curb Appeal: Moderate
Vinyl fencing is growing in popularity with the advent of new materials, colors, textures, and styles available for residential and commercial use. Often designed to mimic wood, vinyl fences are available in a wide range of styles, from the classic open-slat picket fence look to taller, more private panel configurations. One of the biggest advantages of vinyl fencing is the low amount of upkeep they require, as they are resistant to mildew and warping over time. However, if they do become damaged, it may be very difficult to find a perfect match for replacing one section if that particular model fence is no longer in production. If installing a vinyl fence, consider ordering a few extra pieces of railing, posts, slats, and caps that you can tuck away in storage for future use.
Live Shrubbery or Trees
Cost: Moderate to high
Maintenance: Moderate to high
Containment: Low to moderate
Curb Appeal: High
If you have the time and climate for it, a fence line of live shrubs or trees can be a wonderful option for marking your property lines, improving privacy, and reducing noise from the surrounding neighborhood. A thick hedgerow, swath of bamboo, or line of evergreen shrubs can provide a beautiful alternative to man-made fences, but may not offer enough containment if the goal is to keep small animals and children in place. Ornamental grasses and bamboo grow very quickly but will require a lot of sun and well-drained soil. Evergreens may require weekly watering and pruning to ensure that sunlight reaches the bottom branches. When planting, be sure to work with an experienced landscaper to talk about what your living fence is going to look like in two years, in five years, and in ten years as its size and complexity may change over time.