Privacy Fence vs. Semi-Privacy Fence

privacy fence

Your space is too open without a fence, so you start researching your options. As you’re researching privacy fences you stumble across something called “semi-privacy” fences. What’s the difference between full privacy fences vs. semi-privacy fences?

Whether you need a yard, garden, or pool fence, we’ll review your design and material options for privacy and semi-privacy fencing. We’ll also cover the pros, cons, and costs of each so you can choose the best style for your needs and budget.

What is a Privacy Fence?

privacy fence
Photo Credit: U. J. Alexander / Canva Pro / License

Privacy fences create a secluded oasis shielded from prying eyes. They’re usually 6 feet tall, though they can be taller or shorter based on local regulations. Full privacy fences have no gaps you can see through, meaning one of the following:

  • The pickets, boards, or other components are directly touching each other
  • The panels are completely solid
  • There’s mortar in the gaps between pieces

A nosy neighbor or stranger would struggle to spy on you with this private design. It also blocks noise and wind. Privacy fences are the perfect choice for parents and dog owners, since there are no escape routes.

However, some homeowners think privacy fences feel too closed off. They don’t let light or air through, making small yards feel stuffy. They’ll also completely block any scenic views. Privacy fences may shield you from the elements, but that means they’ll take the brunt force of wind and snow drifts, leaving them vulnerable to damage. Consider whether the tradeoff of pros and cons is worth it for you.

Types of Privacy Fences

Privacy fences aren’t a monolith. Even with their design limitations, you can choose from plenty of materials and styles. 



  • Horizontal board fencing
  • Vertical board fencing
  • Diagonal board fencing
  • Board-on-board fencing
  • Stockade fencing
  • Framed fencing
  • Solid panel fencing
  • Arched fencing
  • Scalloped fencing
  • Gothic fencing
  • Round top fencing
  • Dog-ear fencing
  • Masonry fencing
  • Corrugated metal fencing 

Pros and Cons of Privacy Fences


✔ Completely private

✔ Reduce noise

✔ Block out unpleasant views

✔ Keep children and pets in and minimize external distractions


✘ Can make small yards feel cramped

✘ Reduces natural light

✘ Blocks out scenic landscapes

✘ Prone to snow and wind damage

What is a Semi-Privacy Fence?

A white house with a wooden fence
Photo Credit: Jorge Royan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A semi-privacy fence design has gaps that allow airflow and light. These gaps are usually 1 inch or less. Semi-private fences tend to be the same height as privacy fences, though they may be shorter since complete privacy isn’t the goal. 

What distinguishes a semi-privacy fence from other non-private designs? Sometimes that line isn’t clear. For example, some fencing companies consider picket fencing semi-private, even though many aren’t tall enough to provide much privacy.

However, a general guideline is to consider whether the fence provides some measure of privacy. Completely open styles like ranch rail fences wouldn’t be semi-private because they don’t obscure the view. However, tall and close-together picket fences may block enough visibility to count as semi-private.

You might opt for semi-privacy fences for a couple of reasons. The less closed-off design can make small yards feel less stuffy by allowing sunlight and airflow to pass through. However, they won’t completely block sights and sounds like full privacy fences. This flaw means semi-privacy fences may not be suitable for noisy urban areas.

Types of Semi-Privacy Fences

You’ll have several more design options if you’re open to semi-privacy, but it may limit your material options slightly.


  • Wood fencing
  • Vinyl fencing
  • Composite fencing
  • Aluminum fencing
  • Bamboo fencing
  • Brick fencing
  • Stucco fencing


  • Spaced picket fencing
  • Vertical board fencing
  • Horizontal board fencing
  • Diagonal board fencing
  • Shadowbox fencing
  • Framed fencing
  • Arched fencing
  • Scalloped fencing
  • Gothic fencing
  • Round top fencing
  • Dog-ear fencing
  • Pierced brick fencing
  • Lattice fencing
  • Louvered fencing
  • Basketweave fencing
  • Lattice or picket-topped fencing
  • Metal semi-privacy screens

Pros and Cons of Semi-Privacy Fences


✔ Let light through

✔ Wind-resistant

✔ Make small yards feel less cramped

✔ Keep children and pets in


✘ Not completely private

✘ Not noise-resistant

✘ Kids and pets could be distracted by things they see on the other side of the fence

Cost of a Privacy Fence vs. a Semi-Privacy Fence

Photo Credit: Kenny10 / Canva Pro / License

On average, privacy fences are slightly more expensive than semi-privacy fences based on the amount of materials used. Because of the gaps, a vertical semi-privacy fence will use slightly fewer boards per linear foot than a full privacy fence of the same style and material.

  • Semi-privacy fencing: $16-$24 per linear foot

However, this isn’t a simple question since several different privacy and semi-privacy options exist. Some semi-privacy fences use fewer materials, while others use a similar amount. For example, a board-on-board fence and a shadowbox fence use a similar amount of material. Complicated designs will be more expensive because of increased material and labor costs.

The price of any fence type mostly comes down to the material. For example, the average price of wooden fencing is lower than vinyl fencing. Masonry and metal are the most expensive fence-building materials and will cost much more than the average prices listed above. 

The final aspect to consider is the maintenance costs. It might cost more to maintain a semi-privacy fence if it has more surface area. Imagine staining a wooden privacy fence versus a louvered semi-privacy fence — you’d need to use more stain (and time) to coat the nooks and crannies of this more intricate design.

The only way to know whether a full or semi-privacy fence will be more expensive is to narrow down your options. Choose a material and style, then get a quote or calculate the needed materials. You can save about $1,000 by DIYing your fence, but you must be confident in your skills before you start your fence project.

FAQ About Privacy Fence vs. Semi-Privacy Fence

What Is the Difference Between Board-on-Board and Shadowbox Fencing?

Board-on-board fencing is a full privacy fence style where boards directly touch and overlap with no gaps. You will only be able to see the backer rails on one side of the fence. 

Shadowbox fencing is semi-private, with boards alternating from one side to the other of the rails. This design means the vertical boards don’t touch. There will be slight gaps between the boards that you can look through at an angle. Shadowbox fences look the same from either side of the fence.

Are Privacy or Semi-Privacy Fences More Secure?

Privacy fencing is slightly more secure than semi-privacy because it has no gaps. A determined individual could use the gaps in semi-privacy fencing to spy on you, stick their fingers through, or pry open the fence. 

However, that doesn’t mean semi-privacy fencing can’t keep intruders out and children or pets in. The gaps are small enough that only tiny animals like mice can sneak through.

With anti-climbing features and thorny shrubs, you can make an existing barrier more secure. The main features that make fences more secure are stability, height, and climbability. 

Stability: A stable, well-made fence can’t easily fall over. Repair leaning fences as quickly as possible, and don’t use push-in fencing kits that aren’t firmly rooted in the ground. 
Height: For security, build the tallest fence your local laws or HOA allow. Most areas allow a 4-foot fence in the front yard and a 6-foot fence in the backyard. The taller the barrier, the more challenging it will be to climb or jump over.
Climbability: It doesn’t matter how tall your fence is if someone can quickly scale it. Look at each design and consider whether there are hand or foot holds. Smooth privacy fences won’t give intruders much to hold onto. Spiky or pointed fence tops can also make your barrier more challenging to get over.

Both privacy and semi-privacy fences could have these problems. You’ll need to consider your property’s security needs to choose the best fence. 

What Are Cheaper Alternatives to Privacy and Semi-Privacy Fencing?

Chain-link fences are one of the cheapest fencing options. While they aren’t inherently private, you can customize how private they are with slats or other fence accessories.

How a Professional Can Help

We’ve covered many private and semi-private styles, but your local fencing company may offer unique designs and variations. They might also provide other non-fencing products like arbors to tie your yard decor together. Get a quote from a fence contractor near you to discover your options.

Main Image Credit: Kenny10 / Canva Pro / License

Lauren Bryant

Lauren Bryant

Lauren Bryant is a freelance writer based out of Eugene, Oregon, with a B.A. in English and a minor in comics and cartoon studies. She is excitedly awaiting the day when she can grow her own edible garden.