How To Choose the Right Fence

The right one can turn a nice-looking house into a knockout. Dig in to these helpful pointers when choosing a fence.

First-Rate Fences
The right one can turn a nice-looking house into a knockout. Dig in to these helpful pointers when choosing a fence. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn, John O'Hagan
  • Privacy and protection: Establish what you're aiming to keep in and out. Also, picket width and spacing are important; slats or boards butted together provide maximum screening, while lattice panels are not as private.
  • The pros and cons of materials: Certain fence materials require more maintenance than others. For instance, chain link doesn't rank high on style, but it's virtually worry free and low in cost. For wood fences, choose from cedar, redwood, or ACQ-treated products, but periodic mending or repainting is necessary. Plastic, vinyl, and prefabricated metal options require little upkeep, but certain types can look too manufactured. Masonry and stone fences can stand unattended for generations, but it might take that long to pay them off.
  • Get the best look: A basic guide: picket fences complement Neo-Colonial, Georgian, Victorian, and Cape Cod-style houses; stone, brick, and stuccoed garden walls work well with English Tudor and Craftsman abodes; and metal railings look good with styles such as Mediterranean, Spanish/Mission, and urban brownstone. Horizontal-board, vertical-board, or metal fences suit a ranch-style house.
  • Set your boundaries: Know where your property ends and your neighbor's begins. Placing a fence 1 foot back from the sidewalk to allow room to plant flowers serves as an unspoken gesture of goodwill.

Prior to Setting Your Posts

  • Know your codes: Most communities have ordinances concerning height, placement, and setback requirements for fences. Consult local building authorities first.
  • Spot-check underground utilities: It's crucial to verify what lies below. Repairing a ruptured water line is no picnic, and breaking a gas line can be dangerous.
  • Locate your property lines: There should be no guesswork here. If you're unsure about your yard's perimeters, hire a surveyor to locate and mark property lines.

Fine-Tune Your Look
Most home-improvement stores stock a variety of fencing options, along with corresponding parts. But if you're searching for custom-looking post caps and decorative finials, companies such as The Nantucket Post Cap Company, 1-888-758-7678 or, specialize in these components. For distinctive gate latches and hinges, try Van Dyke's Restorers,1-800-787-3355 or

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