HomeownerHelpful Info: Outdoor Projects


Fences Educational Content

Rail fences. Rail fences are made of wooden posts connected by horizontal rails. Most rail fences have either two or three rails, depending on the height of the fence.
This fence style is mostly decorative because there is so much space between the rails. If you need to keep pets in your yard, ask your contractor about adding wire mesh to the fence.

Picket fences. A picket fence is a classic. Picket fences have posts, horizontal rails, and vertical pickets that are spaced apart and do not touch.
Picket fences come in many sizes and styles. Ask your fence contractor to show you examples of straight top, arch top, and scalloped top designs.

Stockade fences. This design is similar to the picket fence design. The main difference is that the vertical boards are placed very close together. You can’t see between the boards, so this fence style is often called a privacy fence. Privacy or stockade fences are usually taller than picket fences.

Good-neighbor fences. Good-neighbor fences are a variation on the traditional privacy fence. These fences are sometimes called board-on-board fences.
They have more visual interest because each fence board is placed on alternating sides of the fence. This gives the fence a unique look without compromising privacy.

Chain-link fences. A chain-link fence is a cost-effective way to control pets and secure your yard. A standard chain-link fence has round posts, a round top rail, and chain-link mesh.
Chain-link fences are usually made of either galvanized or vinyl-coated metal. Vinyl coatings come in many colors. If your yard is wooded, you might be able to choose a vinyl color that will blend in, making the fence less noticeable. The top rail can also be replaced with a tension wire to make the fence even lower profile.

Metal fences are traditionally made from wrought iron. Wrought iron makes for a beautiful fence, but it is expensive. It also needs regular maintenance or painting to prevent rust.
If you want a wrought iron fence but are concerned about the cost and maintenance, look into tubular steel. Tubular steel fences offer the look of wrought iron at a more competitive price. They are usually powder coated to prevent corrosion. Treated steel needs far less maintenance than wrought iron.

Tubular aluminum is another metal fence material to consider. Aluminum fences are lightweight and durable. They resist rust and corrosion without needing much maintenance.

Wood is a versatile fencing material. It can be stained, painted, or left untreated to weather to a gray color. Pressure-treated pine and cedar are two varieties that are frequently used for fences. Depending on its grade and treatment, pressure-treated pine lasts about 20 years. Cedar generally lasts between 8 and 10. To prevent rot and insect infestation, wood fence posts should be set in concrete-filled holes.

Pressure-treated wood is a good choice for fences because it is rot- and insect-resistant. In the past, wood was pressure treated with chromate copper arsenate (CCA). CCA is a chemical that has an arsenic component. The lumber industry has voluntarily stopped using CCA for residential applications.

Most wood for fences is now treated with micronized copper azole (MCA). MCA is safe for people, animals, and the environment. The EPA recommends keeping existing CCA-treated structures maintained and sealed. Learn more about CCA from the EPA at www.epa.gov or via the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s consumer hotline, 800-638-2772.

Vinyl and PVC fences are durable and versatile. These tough plastics can mimic the look of wood and other materials. They can also be reinforced with aluminum for extra strength. Vinyl and PVC fences don’t need to be painted. They are rigid enough to be durable but flexible enough to resist cracking. Vinyl and PVC fences come in many styles and colors. They’re a great decorative, low-maintenance option.

Fences constructed on sloped land are typically either raked or stepped. Raked fences follow the slope of the hill. This means that the rails are parallel to the sloping ground, like the banister of a staircase. The pickets are upright, like the posts supporting the banister. This design minimizes gaps between the ground and the bottom of the fence. If you need to get rid of any gaps at the bottom of the fence, ask your contractor about your best options.

On a stepped fence, the rails and pickets remain square. This means that each section of the fence juts out from the slope like a step in a staircase. Each fence section is set at a higher point along the slope, so the top of the fence as a whole looks like a series of steps. A stepped fence will have a gap under each section of the fence where the land slopes away. Depending on the size of the gap, a stepped fence may not keep pets contained in the yard. Use rocks or hardscaping to fill these gaps.

Many counties have zoning regulations or require special permits for fences. Homeowners’ associations may also regulate the type and location of a new fence. Before you sign a contract, make sure you have all the required permits and approvals. Some fence companies will do this legwork for you. Be sure to ask so you know what to expect.

Before any work can begin, a utility company must locate and mark underground utility lines. This process can usually be done within 72 hours of a call, excluding weekends and holidays. A reputable fencing contractor will not start digging until utilities are clearly marked. In fact, this step is so important that it’s usually included as a line item in a detailed quote for the entire job.