The standard height for a wood fence is determined by local regulations. Most communities regulate fences to some degree.The standard height for a wood fence is 6 feet for a privacy fence, and 4 feet for a decorative one. But there is considerable variation between communities, and within communities, especially for wood privacy fences.
Fence Height Regulation
Fence height is regulated to retain open views of the streetscape for security and aesthetics. Regulations have different heights for residential front and back yards and they can also be different according to the land use zone. Residential front yard fences are typically limited to 3 or 4 feet in height, and back yards (and side yards) can be built in the range of 6 feet, in general. On corner lots both frontages are treated as front yards.
Regulations specify the measurement for the fence height is made from the ground to the top of the fence. Stepping the fence down a slope keeps the height within the limit. A gap between the ground and the wood keeps moisture out and should be calculated as part of the height of the fence. A lattice panel on top of the fence is sometimes included in the height limit and sometimes allows a height extension.
Wood is considered conducive to a residential setting; it can achieve privacy for residents with an aesthetically pleasing and decorative appearance. Wood fences are often allowed to be higher than fences constructed of different materials. A lattice panel added to the top of a privacy fence maintains privacy with an element of transparency. When wood fences are combined with another material or structure, such as a retaining wall, check carefully for the height limit.
Most dimensional lumber comes in 8, 12 and 16-foot lengths. Lattice panels are 8 feet wide and 2 feet or 4 feet high. Designing in increments of 4 makes economical use of lumber; the standard 4 or 6 foot fence heights allow for efficient cutting and versatile design options. When fence height isn't prescribed, it's usually decided by the amount of wood required as well as function. Higher wood fences require more resources, including structural components and labor, without necessarily improving function.