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Choosing a Fencing Material to Fit Your Needs

A fence is one of the most enduring, characteristic aspects of any home, so it’s important to carefully choose fencing materials. What is your main motivation for building a fence? Your answer to this question can help determine what type of material you should use. This article suggests materials to use according to various motivations for building a fence.

Enhancing Security

Historically, the first fences were erected to reinforce property rights and contain valuable livestock. If this is your reason for building a fence, ornamental aluminum is a great material to use. Sharp decorative spikes on top of an aluminum fence will keep out would-be intruders. Wooden picket fences are also effective security barriers for the same reason—most would-be burglars are wary of jumping any fence with pointy toppers. Finally, chain-link fencing is easy to install and effective at keeping out intruders, especially with small-gauge mesh. Wood, aluminum, and chain-link fences are all strong enough to maximize security.


Fences can serve many aesthetic purposes. They can direct visitors to your door while emphasizing your home’s architecture. Because they can be painted, wood fences are a wonderful choice for those who are motivated by beauty. A contrasting shade of paint can make any fence pop out visually. Since wood can be cut into nearly any shape, you may find it is the best material for echoing your home’s unique lines. If you’re looking for a warm, welcoming effect, consider building a cedar fence. Although cedar does require maintenance, its rich tone is undeniably beautiful.

Maintenance is also an important characteristic to keep in mind when designing a fence. Wood fences must be refinished every few years; they require lots of maintenance. Vinyl fences are also a great aesthetic choice, plus they are virtually maintenance-free. Modern vinyl fences are available in an array of colors.

Hiding Ugly Views

Six-foot tall privacy fences are a great way to shield unsightly views. Some municipalities ban solid fences over six feet in height; if this is the case in your town, try topping a solid wood fence with a lattice section. Alternatively, a chain-link fence with plastic strips woven between the mesh can also hide an ugly view.  Stone fences are a stunning way to mask unattractive areas, but they are very expensive to erect, as they require hours of backbreaking labor.

Animal Control

Building a fence for animal control can mean keeping pets in, but it can also mean keeping unwanted animals out. Choose a fencing material according to the species of animal you’re hoping to keep in or out. A two-foot fence made of chicken wire, for instance, will hold rabbits. To keep raccoons out of your yard, build a wooden fence with loose wood that bends backwards, so that the animal can’t get a grip as it climbs. Horses may be contained with a 4.5-foot wooden post and rail fence. With dogs, the height of the fence is more important than the type of material you choose. Small dogs can’t jump four-foot fences; larger species may require a six-foot fence. For especially persistent pests, electrify a single wire along the top of the fence.

Controlling the Elements

Although it’s expensive and difficult to work with, stone is a great material for keeping out the elements. A stone fence can create shade, protect your property from high winds and reduce noise. A wooden fence will also serve these purposes, and if you design it correctly, it can also prevent snow banks from building up. Noise reduction is a primary goal for many home owners. Did you know that cedar is as effective a noise barrier as concrete? It’s true—and cedar’s much more visually appealing than concrete.

Hiding a Pool

If you have a swimming pool or other enticing and potentially dangerous feature on your property, you are at risk of being accused of creating an attractive nuisance. (Attorneys are great sources of oxymorons, aren’t they?) You can protect yourself from lawsuits — and keep the neighborhood kids out of your pool — by building a four-foot or higher fence that can’t be climbed over or under. It may be either a wood or aluminum fence, as long as it’s solid. Design the pool gate to swing away from the pool, and choose a self-latching lock so that you don’t have to worry about locking up every time you take a dip.

From enhancing security to masking ugly views, fences serve many purposes. Your motivation for building a fence can help you figure out what material to use.

~Colleen Welch, 2010

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