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cape cod style picket fencing

With so many fencing options, how can you choose the right one? Start by understanding the costs, maintenance requirements and the like of various fencing.

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“Good fences make good neighbors,” Robert Frost wrote. Good fences also make for good privacy, good security, good landscaping, and so much more. In fact, fences come in so many versatile styles and materials that what you thought would be an easy bit of research turns into an almost ridiculous amount of choice.

Should you go with wood or vinyl? Wrought iron or aluminum? What about something entirely different? How tall should it be, what color should you use, and what kind of gate will you need? Can you install it yourself? How easy are repairs? And on and on and on…

We can clear up some of those questions with this very straightforward, simple primer on fences — and hopefully by the time you are finished reading, you will have a great starting point for choosing the right fencing for your property.

Wood fencing

From traditional pickets or farm fencing to unique asymmetrical fences, wood is the most versatile material you can use to build the fence you really want. But be prepared to deal with maintenance, as most wood must be painted every few years.

Repairs are typically easy and making it all match is simple, which can be great for homeowners who really want to showcase the fence as part of landscaping. When it comes to cost, wood can be either relatively affordable or extremely expensive, depending upon the size and complexity of your fence, as well as the type of wood you choose. All in all, if you are looking for versatility and the option of changing up your plans to fit your budget, wood is the way to go.

PVC/vinyl fencing

This cheaper alternative to wood can look just like it, and the installation can actually be easier. Besides that, PVC/vinyl tends to be very strong while also having some flexibility, which makes it great for privacy and security, even in areas where severe weather is common.

PVC fence

Longevity brand privacy top panel fencing from BuildDirect.

It’s virtually maintenance free, very easy to paint, and even has the added bonus of not being conducive to paint, which means graffiti can be easily removed. Repairs might be tough, as vinyl tends to fade over time; this means that repairs won’t match the original and can stick out like a sore thumb.

Aluminum

This type of fencing that always looks good. It’s quite uniform, which is why it’s a favorite of HOAs. You can find aluminum fencing that looks like almost any other type of fencing, but of course there is very little maintenance, which makes this very appealing for busy homeowners.

When it comes to price, it’s on a par with vinyl or PVC, which are rather affordable. Repairs can be tough, as it can be hard to find pieces that match the original fence. Aluminum is also not very sturdy, which means it isn’t suitable for areas where severe weather is the norm.

Wrought iron

This type of fencing is extremely versatile, as it can be created for custom jobs, and it is often used as a focal point in landscaping. However, it can also be very expensive, depending upon how much of it you need.

Some homeowners choose wrought iron for a gate and create the actual fence out of other materials to cut the costs but still have that dash of unique beauty that wrought iron provides. This fence doesn’t offer much in the way of privacy, but can be great for security, depending upon the height. Keep in mind that constant upkeep is required.

Chain link fencing

This might not be the most attractive fencing, but it is one of the best when it comes to security and longevity. Chain links requires almost no maintenance. It is perfect for keeping pets in, or keeping others out, which makes it a great choice for security around pool areas.

To make it more attractive, some homeowners plant shrubs in front of it, and others might choose to use a different type of fencing on the property that faces the road, then complete the fence with chain link in the front and back. When it comes to price, chain link is among the cheapest options.

Other unique options

Though these are the most common types of fencing, there are several other options available. If you want to go as green as possible, consider various types of bamboo, including a line of living bamboo — it grows about one foot per year and can provide excellent privacy.

You might opt for something invisible, such as an electric fence, which works well to keep your pets safe and secure on your property, but of course provides no protection or privacy at all. You can also go with things like high tensile, barbed wire, and the like; these are typically used on farms or around high-security facilities, but sometimes homeowners find good uses for them as well.

A decision

Now that you have an idea of the relative cost, maintenance requirements and other tidbits, choose your favorite type of fencing and go into further research. It’s a big decision; fortunately, there are options out there to suit every homeowner.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.