Good Fences

By Kristen Castillo

February 24, 2017 5 min read

Dreaming of a white picket fence? Envisioning a rock wall? Imagining a wrought iron gate? Deciding to install a fence around your home's perimeter can be very exciting. However, it is also a significant investment in time and money. Make sure your choice is perfect for your budget and your style.

*First Steps

Getting started can be as easy as looking at your surroundings.

"Do your neighbors have fences?" asks Audra Hamlin of Northwest Cedar Products. "Do you want to match them or hide them?"

Landscaping is another consideration. Consider how a fence will impact your existing lawn, trees and recreation areas.

"Is there an big old tree you want to make sure you keep?" Hamlin asks. "Do you want to highlight certain areas of your yard? Do you need to hide an air conditioning unit or other unsightly items?"

It's also practical to think about the fencing needs you may have for pets, kids and privacy in general.

Next, consider the style and materials you'd like for your fence.


Wood fences are the traditional fence choice. According to the American Fence Association, the largest professional association representing the fence, deck and railing industry, the benefits of wood fencing include: looking nice, offering privacy and lasting a long time.

Wood is a cost-effective and an environmentally friendly building material.

"The best material is cedar," says Hamlin. "It is long lasting, beautiful and does not need to be stained or sealed to maintain."

While 4-by-4-inch lumber posts are standard, consider installing 5-by-5-inch lumber posts. Hamlin says they don't cost much more but will "add years to the stability of a fence."

AFA says Rocky Mountain red cedar and Southern yellow pine are two of the most popular wood fence options; redwood is prevalent on the Pacific coast.

Most woods are treated to resist pests and avoid rotting.


Vinyl fences have the look of elegant wooden fences without the fuss of maintenance. These fences are long lasting and don't require painting or touch-ups. They won't rust or split, and typically they won't fade, either.


More cost-effective than wrought iron, aluminum fences look stylish and are durable. Because aluminum won't rust, this fence is a particularly good choice in coastal areas.

Homeowners have many decorative choices when selecting ornamental fences, too. Think rings, arches, scrolls and fancy finials.


This basic fence style is popular for residential, industrial and commercial properties. Its simple see-through style doesn't provide much privacy but it's strong and offers security for pets and kids.

Chain-link fences are getting dressy for residential use. Color coatings are smooth, help protect against rust and they blend in well, often appearing invisible from a distance. Popular colors include black, brown and green.


For a tropical feel to your yard, consider this sustainable fence option. Bamboo is a grass that grows quickly and is very strong. It can be harvested and used as a building material a lot sooner than traditional wood.

Though bamboo is long-lasting, it can fade over time, and it may rot.

Homeowners have a few options with bamboo fences. Rolled bamboo, which is linked together, rolls out and is often placed over existing fences -- e.g., a chain-link fence -- and bamboo stick fences have bamboo slats instead of poles. If you're interested in a living wall, live bamboo fences are ideal, especially in warm climates. Homeowners should grow the bamboo close together and trim it as needed.


Often considered the world's first fences, stone or rock walls are landscape design classics. Enduring and elegant, stone walls look natural.

Though homeowners could simply stack rocks on top of one another, the modern approach -- using mortar and precise stone placement -- gives a more refined rustic look.

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