Which Side of a Wood Fence Has to Face Your Neighbor?

Fencing is a long-standing source of contention between neighbors. Local communities instill good-neighbor regulations or policies in an attempt to mitigate the potential conflict. One traditional gesture of goodwill is to face the finished side of a wood fence towards the neighbor or the street. It's mandatory in many communities.

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A double-sided fence is finished on both sides.

The Good Side of the Fence

Communities may specify or recommend that the finished side of a boundary fence should face the public or the adjacent property. The back side of the fence exposes the structural framework, and is often considered the "ugly" side. One reason for this measure is security; the framework can provide footholds for climbing. The regulation can apply to all fence materials and styles, such as wood, split rail, chain link and wrought iron.

Rural Properties

One place where the regulation may not apply is rural or agricultural properties. Conflict between rural neighbors centers on agriculture and livestock, where failure to maintain a fence can result in livestock trespass and extensive damage to crops, for example. Regulations for fencing in rural locations focus on property lines and maintenance, rather than aesthetic issues. In some rural jurisdictions cost-sharing and maintenance is regulated and fence design and construction also has legal requirements.

Double-sided Fences

A double-sided fence has a finished appearance on both sides. Boards are fastened on each side with posts are contained in the center. This fence is attractive and secure for both neighbors. Another advantage is fairness in calculating the cost; each has identical views of the fence. Shadowbox style is frequently used; the boards alternate on each side and can sometimes be decoratively cut. Double-sided fences cost about 15 percent more than the single-sided fence.

Good Neighbor Fence

This regulation is often referred to as the "good neighbor" requirement. Local codes also use the term to describe a philosophy for fencing. In that case, the authority is encouraging communication between neighbors prior to fence construction, including sharing costs. A dispute resolution process may be outlined in fencing regulations, and fence viewers are appointed in some jurisdictions to mediate conflict. Not all jurisdictions control fence design. Some only regulate height, and simply urge neighbors to cooperate.