They say strong fences make good neighbors, and we agree. All the better if that strong fence is also tall and solid to keep your neighbor’s gaze off you, your family, and your stuff when you’re hanging out in the backyard.
But privacy fences come in all shapes, sizes and styles, so choosing one can be difficult. Whether the fence is for a pool, a front yard, or a backyard, the sheer number of options of materials and styles can be overwhelming. Here, we go over what you need to know to choose the best fence for privacy.
What is a Privacy Fence?
A privacy fence provides privacy. Of course. That’s obvious. But what exactly qualifies as a privacy fence?
Privacy fences are generally 4 to 9 feet tall and have few to no gaps through which anyone can see. Anything shorter or more accessible to a passerby’s gaze doesn’t afford enough privacy. Other types such as white picket fences, chain link fences, and wrought iron fences are typically not considered privacy fences unless you plan to pair them with dense vegetation or shrubbery.
Knowing your individual privacy needs and personal aesthetic preferences is key to choosing a privacy fence that’s right for you. When you choose the right one, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Best Fence Materials for Privacy
Wood might require a little more upkeep over the years, but you have an exciting amount of wood types from which to choose, not to mention the many designs you can create with wood (we explore that below). Here are some popular wooden fence types, costing anywhere between $14 and $31 per foot.
- Aesthetically pleasing red hue and tight knots
- Very common
- DIY-friendly installation process
- Naturally rot-resistant and insect-resistant; low maintenance
- Color naturally fades to gray; apply penetrating sealant annually to maximize color longevity
- Can last 15 or more years with proper maintenance
- More expensive than pine, less than redwood
- High-end; expensive
- Often used for smaller enclosed spaces like pools
- Naturally decay- and insect-resistant
- Naturally resistant to shrinking and warping
- Most affordable option
- More susceptible to warping and shrinking over time than alternatives
- Not as aesthetically pleasing over time
- Typically lasts 15 years or less
Vinyl privacy fences generally cost more than wood, but they’re worth it because they’re low maintenance that don’t require you to paint and stain them repeatedly. Vinyl or PVC privacy fences can last around 30 years when maintained properly. They may not be as sturdy as some masonry and wood options, but they are still secure and will give you plenty of privacy.
Vinyl fences cost $17 to $38 per linear foot.
An aluminum privacy fence is an excellent option for privacy and security. Like vinyl and composite, aluminum is low maintenance, and you can purchase wood-like aluminum. They’re stronger than most wood and vinyl fences, and you can get them in stockade, shadowbox, or board-on-board designs.
Aluminum fences cost $19 to $76 per linear foot.
Composite fences usually come in solid pre-made fence panels, which may require professional installation or take longer to install than vinyl or wooden ones but are often tall and provide excellent privacy. Like aluminum and vinyl, composite fences are virtually maintenance-free since you’ll likely never need to paint them.
Composite fences cost $15 to $45 per linear foot.
Like composite fencing, bamboo fences often come in pre-built panels and provide just as much privacy. The tall bamboo poles are tightly fashioned, creating a wall that might not offer as much security as masonry or composite options, but can be just as beautiful. Bamboo is typically much cheaper than most other fencing materials and great for backdoor or pool areas.
Remember that since bamboo is organic material like wood, you’ll need to apply a preservative coating to protect it from insects, mold, and rot.
Bamboo costs about $3 to $6 per linear foot.
Brick, stone, and concrete fences are arguably the most resilient and secure of privacy fences, although concrete might not be the easiest on the eyes. They’re all more expensive than wood and likely require professional installation to establish a secure foundation.
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to mix wood or iron with masonry to create sophisticated designs or save on costs.
Masonry fences typically cost $25 to $35 per linear foot.
Best Fence Designs for Privacy
Stockade privacy fences are arguably the most common style of privacy fence. Simple but effective, you’ll instantly recognize their gapless side-by-side boards. They often consist of pointed pickets at the top, which deter intruders from climbing them. Alternatively, they might be capped or topped with a flat rail for a more refined effect.
With this privacy fence option, boards stand on opposite sides of a rail in alternating positions, creating a shadow box effect. The gaps by the alternating boards on opposite sides of the rail allow viewers to see through the fence at angles but not directly, providing some but not total privacy.
You can purchase wood, composite, vinyl, and aluminum shadow box panels.
Board-on-board is similar in design to shadow box fencing, but the boards overlap, leaving no space for onlookers to see through at all. Board-on-board typically costs more but is more durable than many other fence styles.
As the name suggests, the boards lock together in a tongue-and-groove design that leaves no gaps. While sturdy, like the board-on-board style, the lack of gaps allows no airflow, which buffers you from wind and noise. You’ll often see cedar used for lock board-style fences.
Arguably the most decorative of fencing styles, you’ll easily recognize the lattice fence’s familiar criss-cross pattern. They usually come in pre-built panels, and although their holes do not provide complete privacy, you can allow vines to grow on them to create a natural visual barrier.
You can also include latticework at the top of another fencing style, like stockade or shadowbox, as a decorative element.
Horizontal fencing ensures plenty of privacy while offering a sleek, contemporary effect. It often costs more because the horizontal nature of the fence requires high-quality timber; otherwise, the horizontal pickets will eventually sag.
Pros and Cons of a Privacy Fence
- Privacy from neighbors, passing pedestrians, and drivers
- Security of keeping pets and children safely enclosed and trespassers out
- Increased property value
- Noise reduction
- Annual maintenance
- Burglaries concealed from view
- Difficult lawn care around fence
FAQs About How to Choose the Best Privacy Fence
You can use plants and landscaping like privacy hedges, brushwood fences, and vertical garden fences to create privacy.
It can be beneficial to help prevent excessive moisture exposure and rot to have your fence at least two inches off the ground. If you have dogs, however, they may be able to dig under a slightly raised fence.
You can take many steps to increase the security your fence provides, including choosing a tall height, installing security cameras and anti-climbing devices, and adding anti-climbing paint.
Yes, you’ll want to make sure to take these three steps.
1. Check homeowners association regulations to ensure you can build one in your neighborhood.
2. Check city codes to see if there are any special rules about building fences in your city.
3. Obtain a permit if necessary.
Yes, there are DIY methods that feature slats, fence tape, plants, and more.
Now that you have an idea of what your privacy fence options are, you might be wondering if you should DIY or hire a pro.
DIY fence installation can be frustrating, and if not done correctly, it will cost you additional money and hassle. Unless you’re sure of yourself and have some experience installing fences, you should consider leaning on a fencing professional for assistance.
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