Privacy Fence

By Mark J. Donovan

January 18, 2012 4 min read

A privacy fence is often one of the key components in creating an outdoor living space. Privacy fences are ideal for patios and decks that enable homeowners to decompress from the hustle and bustle of a hard day's work and to escape from the everyday noises inside the home, e.g., dishwashers, televisions, etc. There are a number of off-the-shelf privacy fence design options to choose from, including wooden and vinyl fences. In addition, evergreen shrubs can serve as privacy fencing; however, they may need a few years of growth to be effective if you buy them too small.

A privacy fence also can be useful in smaller backyards or building lots where there is a lack of shrubbery and natural viewing obstructions along the property lines. Moreover, privacy fences can serve dual purposes. For example, they can act as a screen to prevent others from viewing your yard, and they also can function for keeping things in your yard, e.g., children and pets.

The height for an off-the-shelf vinyl or wooden privacy fence is typically about 6 feet. However, you can sometimes customize them a bit to extend them higher. In addition, you can come up with your own custom design to achieve your own particular style and height. Often, homeowners who come up with their own design use a combination of solid material along the lower two-thirds of the fence and lattice on the upper third. In other cases, the entire fence may be constructed out of lattice sandwiched in between fence posts.

When building a wooden privacy fence, it is important to use material that will not rot or decay over time, such as treated lumber or wood types that are naturally rot-resistant. In addition, regardless of the wood type, the wood should be sealed in some way to prevent moisture penetration. If you elect to paint the fence, make sure to paint all sides of the lumber, including freshly cut ends. Moreover, make sure to use noncorrosive fasteners to build it, such as hot-tipped galvanized and stainless steel nails or screws. Using other types of fasteners could very likely result in ugly stain marks showing up on the fence as the fasteners slowly corrode. Even worse, the fence eventually could collapse.

Another major concern when building a privacy fence is wind. A large vertically standing solid surface is easily susceptible to wind damage. Consequently, make sure to install the posts at least a couple of feet down into the ground, and preferably set them in concrete. In addition, by using lattice or coming up with a privacy fence design that includes adjacent/staggered vertical lumber pieces that are at angles to each other, wind can flow more easily through the privacy fence and reduce the risk of it being blown over or damaged.

The use of evergreen shrubs is also a great way to create a privacy fence, particularly if you are building a fence around a patio or deck. Though evergreen shrubs can be expensive, using them in a small area limits the damage to the wallet.

Whatever your plans and privacy fence design ideas are, you should first check with your local building code enforcement officer to see whether there are any restrictions on installing a fence, even a small privacy fence. Towns and cities frequently have strict rules on their construction, such as their height and set-back requirements. You may also want to check for any local covenants or restrictions that may exist if you live in a housing development. Another advantage of using evergreen shrubs as a privacy fence is that they are typically exempt from local ordinances and covenants for fence construction.

Mark J. Donovan's website is http://www.HomeAdditionPlus.com.

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