A Guide To Fence Design Ideas

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A Guide to Home Fencing

Fences have almost as many purposes as they have styles and materials. Whether you're looking to define your property line, increase security, maintain privacy or contain kids or pets, you'll find a fence to fit your needs and budget.

Getting Started

Putting up a fence involves an investment, and a good fence should last for decades. This is why making sure you've chosen an appropriate location for a fence is so important. Before purchasing or installing fencing, here are a few important steps to take:

  • Confirm your property boundaries: Can you imagine the stress of finding out from angry neighbors that your brand new fence sits on their property and they want it taken down? Getting a professional surveyor to define your property lines will save you a lot of heartache down the road.
  • Contact utility companies: You'll need to make sure no power cables, water pipes, sewer pipes or gas lines are buried beneath the border of your property.
  • Check with local government: Before installing your fence, find out if any fencing laws or restrictions are in effect for your neighborhood.
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Traditional Picket Fencing

American Traditions: Picket and Ranch Style Fences

Traditional American fences are attractive compliments to suburban and country homes and are also rich in history. A white, painted picket fence for example, was once actually a requirement in the city code of Seaside, Florida as well as other areas. Picket fences are no longer have to be white and are available in a variety of heights and picket spacing, depending on your needs. Advantages of picket style fences include:

  • Neat, traditional appearance and attractive definition of property line for small to mid-size homes
  • Privacy, if a tall fence and closely spaced pickets are chosen
  • Some help contain young children and pets.
  • Some help keeping uninvited people and animals off your lawn.

If you're thinking about a picket fence remember that:

  • Tall picket fences provide some security, however they also may block the view to your home from beyond your property, giving intruders the opportunity to break in unobserved.
  • The neat, "cute" look of picket fences doesn't always work well with larger homes and properties.
  • Some pets may be able to dig under a picket fence.

Ranch style fences give a warm, country feel to your yard as they define the limits of your property. With a ranch style fence you'll enjoy:

  • An open feeling with an unrestricted view
  • Help containing some animals
  • Fencing that compliments the natural landscape.

If you're considering a ranch style fence, remember these possible drawbacks:

  • Children can easily climb most ranch fences.
  • Some animals can get over, under or through ranch fences unless you electrify them.
  • Open, ranch-style fences don't provide much privacy.

Fence Materials for Picket and Ranch Style Fences

You have a choice of wood or vinyl for your picket or ranch style fence. Both materials create an attractive, durable fence. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each to help you choose:

  • Vinyl: Requires very little maintenance. It doesn't rot, is resistant to graffiti and needs no repainting. All you need to do is clean it occasionally. The downside is that in return for convenience, you'll pay more initially for vinyl fences than for wooden ones. While vinyl is virtually maintenance free, it isn't invincible. Vinyl fences can crack, fade, become brittle in cold weather and burn intensely in the event of fire.
  • Wood: Has a beautiful, earthy look and fragrance and is the more affordable option. You will have to put in time and money to maintain wood fences, however. Wood needs to be treated against rot, and if you have a painted or stained fence, you'll need to recoat it regularly to keep it looking nice. Additionally, wood is vulnerable to termites and warping.

Chain Link Fences

Chain link fences are a great choice for security as they are difficult to penetrate, and provide an unobstructed view of your property. These fences are inexpensive and can be easily installed, even on hills and uneven ground. To avoid rust and decay, choose galvanized steel posts and vinyl coated metal fencing.

High End Fences

Classic high-end fences bring old-world style and charm to your property. You may be interested in:

  • Iron bar fences: Wrought iron and aluminum have the solidity of chain link fences with a more historical, upscale look. They discourage intruders and maintain a clear view of your property, however they can be very expensive.
  • Brick and mortar fences: Although these fences are probably your most expensive option, they are also likely to outlast all other types of fences. They offer classic beauty and are terrific for privacy and reducing noise. Because they hide your property, however, you run the risk of giving intruders privacy to enter your home unseen.

The Best Fence for Your Needs

No one type of fencing is best for all purposes. Depending on your needs, some fences work better than others:

  • Privacy or blocking an unattractive view: Choose solid wall fences of brick, vinyl or wood, at least six feet high.
  • Security: Experts recommend a chain link fence of at least six feet in height.
  • Noise reduction: A brick and mortar fence is an excellent choice.
  • Contain kids and pets: Be sure your fence has a barrier that extends at least six inches below the ground to prevent pets digging under it. To keep kids and pets from climbing out, be sure to choose a fence with no handholds or footholds.

With a little planning and research, you'll have a fence for your property that is just right for your needs, taste and budget.

Last Updated: September 28, 2011
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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