What to Know About Choosing a Fence

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When you decide to install a fence, it’s actually a fairly big project. Even if you’re just going to fence in a small area, you likely have several goals with your fence. You’re focused on keeping privacy intact and an aesthetically pleasing design. You also have to think about your budget, the materials you use, and the longevity or required maintenance. 

The following are some things to keep in mind before you build a fence or hire someone to do it for you. 

Why Do You Want or Need a Fence?

Thinking about why you want or need a fence is important because it’s going to help you narrow other things down. 

Some of the reasons people often decide to build a fence include:

  • Privacy—if your main goal is privacy, you might want a solid fence
  • Security—just the presence of a fence can help provide a deterrent against not only potential intruders but also wildlife
  • Boundary-setting—you might want to have a visual reminder of the boundaries of your property
  • Sound-proofing—a fence that’s taller or more substantial can provide some protection from the noise surrounding your home. 
  • Pets—you may want a fence to keep your pets safely within your yard
  • Kids—creating a fenced-in backyard can give you more peace of mind if you have kids who often play outside. If you have a pool, you might need to fence that area in to keep kids out of it as well. 
  • Concealing something—a fence can be used to conceal something that’s not very attractive around your home, like a storage area or an air-conditioning unit
  • Curb appeal—finally, you might like the look of a fence, which is as good a reason as any to add one. 

General factors think about before building your fence, along with the intended use, include:

  • Maintenance—how much work are you willing to put in to maintain a fence overall? For example, a wood fence is going to require the most maintenance. Are you okay with that?
  • Climate—what’s the weather like where you live? Different materials are suited to different climates. If you get a lot of rain, for example, a wood fence may not be ideal for you because wood is very susceptible to moisture damage. 
  • HOA—do you have an HOA in your neighborhood or any kind of restrictions that determine the type of fence you can have? An HOA might, for example, regulate the height, color, or materials that can be used in constructing a fence. You might also need a construction permit from your HOA before you can start building. 
  • Budget—your budget’s going to determine the material you choose and the size of the area you’re able to fence in. It will also play a role in the height of the fence. 
  • Home style—The architecture of your home is going to guide a lot of your decision-making as far as what your fence looks like. You want to keep the fence design at least somewhat in line with the rest of your home. For example, if you have a contemporary home, you might opt for a sleeker vinyl fence, whereas if you have a classic or traditional home, you might want a metal or brick fence. 

Materials

When you compare materials that are available for a fence, many of the considerations you should keep in mind are similar to what you should weigh before building a fence in general. Think about:

  • Your goal. As mentioned, your goal determines a lot of the design elements of your fence, as well as the material you might use. You might want to create as much privacy as you can, for example, which could mean that rather than using wood slats, you should use a material like vinyl. 
  • There are going to be upfront costs to think about, including the cost of the system itself and the installation. 
  • There are also long-term costs that come with building a fence. For example, how much will it cost you over the years to keep it up, and how soon are you likely to have to replace it based on the material you’re thinking about using?
  • If you’re in a wet, humid climate, you should probably choose a vinyl fence because wood just isn’t going to hold its own very well against water. If you’re near the ocean, you don’t want to use steel, which corrodes. 
  • Is the resale value of your home important to you? A cheap or unattractive fence could potentially lower your resale value, while one that’s well-built and looks nice can increase it. 

A wood fence is the classic, and people like them because they can customize them to be built in any size or height. You can opt for something small and mostly decorative, like a picket fence or a wood seven-foot privacy fence. Wood fences can be cheap upfront, relatively speaking, but they require ongoing maintenance. 

Maintaining a wood fence means you have to apply new paint or stain every two to three years, for example. 

A chain-link fence is durable and long-lasting, although it’s not the most attractive option. If you did want a chain link fence because your primary objective is marking the boundaries of your property or keeping kids or pets in, you could grow plants on it to make it look better. 

Vinyl fencing is rapidly becoming the most popular option for many homeowners. 

Vinyl fencing is largely maintenance-free. All you have to do is keep it clean with a hose. You can choose different colors and styles, and you can find vinyl fencing that’s designed to look like other materials. 

Finally, composite fencing is another popular type of material. It’s also called engineered wood, and it looks like real wood, but it’s maintenance-free and very strong. Composite fencing tends to be more expensive than vinyl, and both vinyl and composite are best installed by professionals.