In Robert Frost’s famous poem Mending Wall he said “Good fences make good neighbors.” While there is some debate about his true meaning behind this statement, the fact remains that these days more and more homeowners are installing fences to both give themselves privacy, as well as update the landscaping.
Of course, wood is the most versatile building material in the world. There are many different types, architectural styles, and ways to stain it for added visual appeal. This makes a wooden fence ideal for separating your outdoor space from your neighbor’s.
Do I Need A Permit To Build A Wooden Fence?
Most properties that are zoned as being “Residential” in the United States do require you to have a permit before building a fence. There might also be local codes and HOA bylaws that require you to inform your neighbor as well as strict rules on how close the fence can be to the property line. So, make sure you are putting in your due diligence to stay informed on all the local fencing codes.
Can I Build My Own Wood Fence?
This depends on how handy you are and the tools you have at your disposal. With some of the more basic fencing styles like Solid Board and Shadowbox the act of screwing or nailing the fence boards in place is very much in the realm of possibilities for the average do-it-yourself, who knows their way around a toolbox. Where the problem comes in, is establishing a firm footing for the fence posts. A soft or improperly installed footing can cause the fence post to gradual lean, which can loosen fasters, damage hardware, and even cause your fence to fail to pass the local building code!
This is one of the big reasons why a lot of homeowners choose to have their wooden fences installed by a professional. Most certified fence contractors also offer a warranty on their workmanship. So, if there is a problem in the first few years of the fence’s life, they can take care of it, without you feeling like you’re in over your head.
Best Types Of Wood For A Fence
There are a lot of woods out there in the world, and some are much better suited for a fence than others. Most tend to be some type of soft or medium wood. Hardwoods like oak are a possible option, but they tend to be difficult to work with and require things like predrilled holes for the screws and other fasteners. The following list will help you determine the type of fence that’s best for your property, vision, and budget.
Pressure Treated Pine
This is one of the cheaper options. In the past, green treated pine was shunned for the risk of arsenic content, which moved a lot of the market preferences toward cedar. Today, modern wood processing has helped get the arsenic out of treated pine. There are even “Brown Treated” pine boards that are rated to be “Arsenic Free.”
It’s one of the more popular options for a wooden fence. Cedar is known to be rot and insect resistant. Unfortunately, without the right kind of stain and protective treatment cedar will inevitably start to turn gray.
Redwood & Cypress
These are classic exotic woods that are hard to find these days through non-commercial outlets. Though there are a growing number of ecologically friendly companies that are happily offering reconditioned redwood and cypress boards from torn down buildings and barns. They can then be sanded and cut to the appropriate length for a wooden fence. They have a stunning look, impressive wood grain and an even better resistance to insects and rot resistance.
Composite Wood Fencing
This is a relative newcomer on the lumber scene. It’s made from a blend of wood fibers and sawdust that is combined in an industrial process with a waterproof polymer material. The end result is an artificial board that looks very much like natural wood, yet it has superior rot and pest resistance.
Often overlooked, Bamboo is an affordable fence that you could even just plant live and let grow because it grows fast. However, Bamboo offers a strong barrier that looks beautiful and is naturally resistant to pests such as termites. Installation is easy, giving a unique look that stands out from your neighbors.
Popular Styles Of Wooden Fencing
This type of fence often has a cap rail which gives the property a stately look. The tops of the planks can be cut creatively in arches or scallops. The boards themselves are typically 4 to 6 inches wide. Spacing between each board can vary from as wide as two inches, to give it an open feel, or tight together to create a privacy fence.
Tongue and Groove
Is a style of fence where each board interlocks with the other. It’s more common in pine and cedar. This is a great choice for a true privacy fence to block out any nosy neighbors.
Is another popular type of privacy fence, yet it has a little more spacing between the boards to allow the breeze to pass through. It has a reputation for being easy to install, which makes it a great choice for a do-it-yourselfer. It also tends to look good on both sides, so your neighbors are likely to be happy.
This is a traditional fence that you often see painted white. It’s very versatile and is often only four to six feet high. Primarily being used as more of a boarder defining fence. The wide spacing between the boards or stakes makes it a poor choice for any type of privacy fence. Yes, most people who choose a picket fence will paint it white. Though there’s nothing saying you couldn’t add some other accents in places.
It’s a type of semi-private fence with a fair amount of open area. Though some people will build a solid board or shadowbox fence and then top it with framed lattice. This provides privacy, while still giving the fence an open feel. There are some people who will build a fence that is completely made of lattice wood. Then they will grow vines like morning glory or even hops bines to fill in the holes.
This is a classic style of fence that you often find in New England. It’s cottage look is appealing from both sides and has a reputation for durability.
Cedar Round Rail
Is a type of cedar fence with a relatively open view as well as a reputation for being sturdy. It’s also a little bit of a blank canvas that allows you to put your own creative twists on it. It also tends to be easy to attach and detach wire fencing to it for times when you might need to keep a small child, or a pet contained.
This is a very popular look for horse ranches. It’s designed to be very sturdy to help keep horses from getting out. Though it’s probably not a popular option if you live in the suburbs.
Can I Paint My Fence?
This depends a little bit on the type of wood the fence is made from, as well as any existing treatment on the wood. For example, cedar doesn’t take paint very well. Especially if it’s been stained and sealed in the past.
Whereas pine, might simply need a coat of primer and it will be happy to take on just about any hue of exterior paint. The white primer layer will also help the colors pop. Just make sure to check with your local homeowner’s association. Many HOAs have rules about the colors you can choose to paint a fence.