Privacy Fence Designs
Ideas for planning and installing attractive backyard privacy fencing
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If the height limit your community imposses on fences isn't enough to create the privacy you desire consider growing plants that will add to the height of your fence.
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Nearly every backyard in America is enclosed by a privacy fence. They keep your outdoor spaces separated from those of neighbors on every side. These boundary fences are vital to creating a landscape that feels private, which requires a solid barrier. The distinguishing factor in this fence design is virtually no gaps between solid boards for a wall-like partition.
Code LimitationsBackyard fence height is strictly controlled by most city or community ordinances. They are uniformly limited to six feet above grade. Some locations may allow "temporary" additions to the top of a six foot fence to increase height, but these must be easily removed to qualify. In certain scenarios a variance may be applied for to allow privacy fences to exceed six feet, but this is rare and there is usually a unique situation that warrants them. For example, a yard that backs up to a commercial land use may be viewed differently due to large trucks using an alley or parking lot that abuts the back of a residential lot.
In San Diego, Pacific Sunscapes knows this is where costs are often shaved off the price of a landscape. "Our customers are on a conservative diet so custom work is not as common. They just want a privacy fence. Some are investing in nicer stuff that they want to stand out - front and back yard. A fence frames the site and one that's not obtrusive adds to aesthetic appeal. We're finding security is a big deal. Due to the short life span of wood posts, we're big on steel structure with wood boards. With wood, even if done right, they rot and they wobble and lean in the fence. That won't happen with steel posts."
Privacy fences aren't always very attractive but they are indeed functional. To lend more style and visual appeal, a common variation is to create a band at the top of the fence that is only partially solid. Though it does compromise some privacy, it allows more air movement in climates where humidity makes breezes very important to comfortable outdoor living. These are often created with square or diagonal lattice, or panels of short pickets. For modern landscape design, metal grids are not uncommon as are sheets of perforated metals.
The traditional fence is made of wood boards that are stained or painted. Wood fences are easy to build as a DIY project or through a contractor. There is no limit to the options for a wood privacy fence except the cost of custom carpentry and finish work. Over time this fence may require replacements and refinishing or repainting.
This wood alternative is growing in popularity due to a wide range of styles and colors. Increased longevity and lower prices make this a good choice for low maintenance landscapes. "Customers asked for fencing that isn't just a white smooth surface, so we developed more colors and textures that are ideal for privacy fencing," says Patti Pellock of Saint-Gobain CertainTeed, the northeast's leading manufacturer of vinyl fencing. "We offer both darker colors and surface textures that resemble wood without the maintenance. We're proud to say our CertaGrain® texture is the best wood emulated vinyl on the market today."
The introduction of industrial materials to the residential fencing market is driven by the growing popularity of modern architecture. The all-metal privacy fence also solves problems and increases longevity in regions of extreme climate and where high winds devastate other fencing materials. This modern material is popular for restoration of older midcentury homes too. While traditional galvanized corrugated sheet metal is often used for its widespread availability, another range of metals is proving highly attractive. The metal panels used to assemble metal industrial buildings are made in very large sizes for building skin. They are available in different rib patterns that are strong and designed to take significant weather pressure. Most importantly they are powder coated, which brings a new range of colors into metal fencing to extend well beyond silver colored galvanized materials. Plus, the adaption to enormous buildings makes this a fine choice for abnormally tall fences because most residential materials are produced in a four foot by eight panel size.
Maureen Gilmer, contributing writer for Landscaping Network, author and syndicated columnist
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