Options and Styles for Your New Fence

New and contemporary white vinyl fence running across a nicely landscaped backyard with lawn and blue sky.

There are lots of reasons to add a fence to your property. Not only can a fence add value by enhancing the appearance of your property, a fence can also do the following:

  • Provide security
  • Provide privacy by blocking sight lines into your yard
  • Keep children or pets in (or out of) your yard
  • Enclose tennis courts or pools
  • Block out noise
  • Mark your property boundaries

When you're choosing fencing material and a style, keep in mind that fences last a long time, so you need to be happy with its appearance (you're going to be looking at it for quite a while). Also, fences aren't cheap, so consider your budget when deciding on your fence. Be careful, a cheap fence will likely require you to spend extra money on maintenance over the years.

Choosing Fence Styles

The fence style you choose should complement the architecture of your home as well as fit in with the landscape. Different styles of fences blend in better with different home designs and landscapes. For example, a board on board fence suitable for a suburban yard would look like a prison wall if you put it up around a rural property. Similarly, a chain link fence will always have an industrial/functional appearance to it, no matter the property.

Unfortunately, your fence style may not be a choice you can make yourself. Check your local building codes and zoning requirements (as well as your HOA regulations) before your make your final choice. There are usually regulations regarding fence height and style for pool fences, and local regulations may mandate specific styles in other situations as well.

Material Options for Fences

Once you've decided on the style of fence you want, you need to determine what material to use. Fences today can be made of all kinds of materials from stone or wood to metals like steel or aluminum, or even plastic or vinyl, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Wood Fences

Wood is still probably the most popular choice for fencing. It's easy to get, relatively inexpensive, easy to work with and very adaptable. Short fences, tall fences, solid fences, and open fences are all possible with wood. You can finish a wood fence in almost any color you want, so it can easily blend with your house and trim.

When choosing wood for your fence, keep in mind that over time all wood will rot. Some woods, like redwood and cedar, are more naturally resistant to moisture but require some maintenance to keep them looking fresh, and even pressure treated wood will degrade over time. Thus, the main disadvantage of using wood for a fence is that it will require some ongoing maintenance like an annual painting or staining.

Vinyl Fencing

Vinyl is the new kid on the block when it comes to fencing material. It's available in a wide range of colors, its manufactured in standard wood dimensions make it fairly straightforward to work with, and it is virtually maintenance free and weather resistant. A lot of vinyl fencing is made from recycled plastics, so it is even ecologically friendly.

The main drawback to vinyl used to be that over time the colors faded and the surface got a "chalky" texture and appearance. However, as the demand for vinyl for outdoor applications (like windows and siding) has grown, manufacturers have significantly improved vinyl, and fading and chalkiness have been virtually eliminated.

Metal Fencing

Metal fencing can be either an ornate, elegant option or a strictly utilitarian choice. The least expensive metal fencing, chain link, is highly functional in that it provides an enclosed yard, but still keeps the property open and airy. Chain link is relatively inexpensive, maintenance free, and because of its open structure, it's graffiti resistant as well.

Ornamental metal fences like wrought iron are popular where style is a primary concern. While expensive to install, they provide an elegant and durable solution for a fence. A wrought iron (or aluminum) fence defines property lines in a classic manner while still allowing views of the landscape and architecture. Used in combination with stone posts, metal fences provide traditional beauty and a virtually permanent structure that only requires minimal maintenance.

Key to a Good Fence

No matter what fence style or materials you choose, the key to having an attractive, long-lasting fence is proper installation. Handy homeowners can quite likely install a wood, vinyl, or chain link fence themselves using tools they already own or that can be easily rented. Metal and stone fences are jobs that are probably best left to the pros. If you do decide to take on the installation yourself, remember that building a fence requires commitment and a lot of hard work.