Fencing Design
Good fences make for good neighbours.
As well as privacy, look for other qualities like attractiveness and durability in a new fence.

Form and function

The primary purpose of a fence is to create a barrier (for wind, privacy or to mark a boundary) and to provide an attractive form. The trick, of course, is to get an acceptable balance between the two.

In the suburbs and townships we are often resigned to fences as inevitable and necessary and we naturally seek an attractive form or something we and passers-by can find visually appealing. Such a fence will need to be compatible with house and landscape style.

Modern house styles are well complemented by the sleekness of iron and aluminium fences. Split rail fences or rugged wooden posts and rails have long been a favourite with country-style houses.

Where privacy is a major consideration, timber paling fences provide a solid barrier between you and your neighbour. Other options are brick or concrete block which can do the same job but are most costly.

Other fence design options offer a compromise on privacy. Timber fences such as lattice provide an airiness and only partial privacy.

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Hydrid fencing

A popular alternative is a hybrid fence design with a solid barrier for the bottom three-quarters of the fencing, with lattice on top to provide visual interest.  Flowering, climbing plants can be placed along the length in pots or in the ground to add further interest and beauty to a piece of construction that is otherwise hard to disguise or adorn.

You can also try wash-painting backyard six-foot timber fences to give them a bit of colour. Check with your neighbour first because if you're not careful the paint can run between the palings and provide next door with an effect they didn't ask for and may not particularly enjoy looking at. 

Visualise

Consider a fence that has these qualities:
  • It establishes a boundary, though not a visual barrier;
  • It incorporates pleasing patterns, but is not too busy;
  • It has appropriate scale, mass and style;
  • It is handmade with natural materials;
  • It offers warm colours; and
  • It enhances the neighbourhood / public space.

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Construction tips
  • Build for the long term. Fences built cheap soon look cheap.
  • Avoid small-dimension timber pieces because they tend to warp over time.
  • Avoid designs with channels that catch and hold rainwater because this will  encourage the timber to rot.
  • Sink the posts deep and use sufficient concrete to secure them firmly. Use pressure-treated posts to stave off rot and select treatments that do not use arsenic. If you're not sure, ask your lumber supplier.
  • Make life easier by pre-staining or painting all timber before installation. Seal all timber to be left natural if you don't want it to weather to a uniform grey (some  people like this look).
  • Research height and other possible limitations. Most local building codes allow fences up to 6 feet high but some restrictions may apply in your area.
  • Try using recycled materials where possible. It may be difficult to find enough  recycled timber in sound condition to build an entire fence, but you might be lucky. You can fill and paint nail holes and any surface defects.

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