Weighing the Pros and Cons of Fences

Zillow
Photograph via Zillow

Fences – wood, wrought iron, vinyl or chain link – can be expensive to build and install. Before you make the investment, it’s wise to take time to consider your specific needs and decide whether a fence is worth the cost and energy.

Advantages of Fences

1. Privacy. It can be hard to enjoy dinner on the patio if everyone on the street has a clear view of your back yard. A six-foot-tall privacy fence can help create a peaceful get-away in nearly any neighborhood.

2. Containment. A fence can help provide a safe play environment for children and pets, keeping them in the yard where you can keep an eye on them and preventing entry from unwanted strangers or animals.

3. Security. A good fence can help protect your family – and your possessions – from those who would enter your yard for the wrong reasons. If you have a swimming pool or playground equipment, a fence can prevent trespassers from putting themselves in danger.

4. Noise reduction. If your house is near a busy street, you may find yourself screaming to be heard over the traffic noise. An 8-foot-high solid fence can knock 6 to 10 decibels off traffic and other ambient noise. Acoustifence is among a handful of products that have traditionally been used to reduce sound along mass transit rail lines and highways. It’s now available for residential use and reports show noise levels are reduced by 60 percent to 85 percent, depending on fence height, elevations and noise frequencies.

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5. Design element. An attractive, well-constructed fence can add to your home’s overall appeal. A waist-high fence, such as a picket fence, can both define your property boundary and attract the eye through thoughtful landscaping.

Disadvantages of Fences

1. Maintenance. No doubt, fences can provide a decorative element to your landscape, but they can detract if they’re not well cared for. Wood fences, specifically, require occasional cleaning, staining, sealing or painting and can warp and rot over time. Is that how you want to spend your time?

2. Lack of Consensus. Boundary fences can be tricky business – especially if you want one and your neighbor doesn’t. You may both have legitimate reasons for digging in your heels (protecting pets, preserving a view, etc.) but nothing should be constructed until you come to an agreement. You may want to hire an attorney to help negotiate a compromise or you may work through a local community mediation center. Not only do you need to agree to build the fence, you need to decide who’s responsible for costs and maintenance. Is a fence worth damaging neighborhood relationships?

3. Expense. The cost of a fence varies greatly depending upon the materials used, the style, height and length of the fence, number of gates, and the market in which labor is hired and materials are purchased. A wooden privacy fence now averages $17.31 to $23.13 per linear foot – that’s $2,596.50 to $3,469.50 for a 150-foot-long fence.

4. Hassle. Mowing or trimming along a fence is laborious and can do damage to the fence – especially a wood fence. No fence? Mow with abandon.

5. Wildlife. Fences may help protect your property but, for those who live on wooded or rural lots, they also can be barriers and traps for wildlife, causing injury and even fatalities. Animal damage to fences is costly and frustrating for landowners. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks suggests observing wildlife trails and seasonal patterns before building a fence. If you do end up building one, design your fence to allow wildlife to travel through your property to important habitats and to allow easy access to ponds, streams or wetlands.

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Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

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