Thursday, July 20, 2017  

Good Fences
make good neighbors  

In 1914, Robert Frost made famous the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors” in his poem “Mending Wall.” His subtly humorous poem reminds us that we often perpetuate tradition without questioning why we do certain things, such as the New England practice of mending a stone wall every spring when there are no longer cows in the pasture to keep contained. In 2010, with the surplus of selections for fences, it may be the time to question the perpetual American white picket fence.

If you are considering adding a fence to your kingdom, the possibilities of style and material are abundant. Perusing them to find the perfect one is definitely worth your time and money, but wading through your choices in a somewhat systematic way will lessen your time investment at least. Frost was wise in his poem to admit, “Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.” This is the very question to ponder: why do you want a fence? The answer to this question will guide you through the multitude of choices available for fencing. Fences are useful for solidifying boundaries, enclosing a garden or pool, providing privacy, protecting a pet (or protecting people from the pet), or embellishing your landscape. Once you have defined the purpose of your fence, choosing the right type of fencing is simpler. Cost, maintenance and style options are further qualities to be considered in fencing.

Possibly the oldest material used for fencing, besides stone of course, is wood. Though wood is used to create the iconic picket fence, wood remains a traditional material that boasts many options. Styles of wood fences are now way beyond Abe Lincoln’s split rail creations. A rail wood fence, though useful as a boundary marker in large plots of land, can also be used as a decorative fence. The most view-proof fence is a privacy wood fence, with vertical boards laying close together and leaving very little room for the imagination. Along with being a tried-and-true material, wood fencing is stable, priced right, and is eco-friendly. Wood fences are typically made of harder woods such as cedar, redwood, and cypress—woods which are not likely to greatly warp or change dimension. Small changes can be expected, but they also add to the natural look of the fence. Sturdy wood fences combined with steel posts are durable and could keep out wild beasts if you needed to. The price for wood fencing is quite attractive as well. Costs for materials and labor can often be half the price of vinyl fencing, one of the major competitors of wood fencing.

Vinyl fences are making their mark on the fencing market for obvious reasons. A vinyl fence can look new for years, endures well under the elements, and can be manipulated into a myriad of designs. Generally available in beige or white, vinyl does not need to be repainted, and though a synthetic material, vinyl is capable of adding an artistic element to your landscape. An uneven terrain is no problem for these versatile fences. Completely solid vinyl fencing are fabulous for privacy needs, such as around a pool or hot tub. Be a bit cautious about installing solid fencing in an area completely unprotected from winds, as the wind pressure could reduce the long-term stability of the fence. Solid vinyl fencing can be topped with lattice or scallops. In fact, vinyl fencing comes just about any way you want it. Fences can have all sorts of tops—scalloped, angled, or straight, and options are available for porches, stairways and gates. While a vinyl fence may cost significantly more than a wood fence, it needs so little maintenance that vinyl may be more cost effective in the long term. Installation is user-friendly, as vinyl fencing may come pre-assembled or with sections and posts routed and notched, requiring no screws or brackets.

If you want to entice people to drive by and ask for Grey Poupon®, aluminum fencing is the choice for you. Aluminum fencing supplies a truly elegant and classic appeal to your grounds. Aluminum fencing is one of the most costly types of fencing, but its quality, beauty and durability merit the cost. It is exceptionally sturdy and long-lasting. One most often sees aluminum fencing enclosing a graceful garden, but its strength can contain pets inside and other animals outside. Colors are generally classically neutral, such a black, pewter or white. While a typical aluminum fence has straight rows of bars, elegant variations can be added to romanticize your fence. Fabulous fence gates can grant a stoic entrance to a garden, and fence tops can be scalloped, straight or topped with a decorative pinnacle. Customized aluminum fencing is available if you are willing to foot the bill.  

Though a chain link fence may not have all the frills of aluminum fencing, do not feel sorry for it. It can hold its own by being clearly useful and well-priced, and if you are creative, it can even be beautiful. And more possibilities for styles of chain link fences exist than one may think. Chain link fences are, of course, excellent for varied kinds of security needs on your property or around a structure such as a pool or shed. If you are interested in privacy, a chain link fence can be artfully slatted with various colors of slatting to be highly private and more aesthetic. If your goal is to define property boundaries or add an accent to your landscaping, lighter mesh fences are a good selection. A heavier mesh fence is preferable if you are containing larger pets or securing a property, especially where there is potential for climbing. With some color coating, you can blend any chain link fence into your landscaping. Morning glories, ivy, climatis, or other creeping plants can lovingly cover the fence as well. Of course, a big advantage of chain link fencing is that you get a lot of bang for your buck, and if you need a lot of bang, this may be your best alternative.

We should not be surprised that the “green” bandwagon has arrived in the fencing industry. If you want to hop on, bamboo fencing is the right product for you. Did you know that bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the earth, and its strength is five times that of wood? Bamboo is wonderfully and naturally termite resistant, meaning less maintenance and no chemical treatments. This environmentally sustainable fence proves versatile for many fencing needs. Consider a bamboo fence if you are installing a new boundary system, desiring more privacy around your yard or pool, or providing a decorative piece to your landscape. Along with being kind to the earth, a bamboo fence will make friends with your pocketbook. Once installed, a bamboo fence boasts a 15–20 year life expectancy.

The commonality among all the fencing possibilities on the market is that at least one will fit your unique needs. With little chance of returning hopeless from fence shopping, the reality is that a new fence just could be the easiest part of being a good neighbor.


By Rebekah Spraitzar Madren