Good fences make good neighbors, the poet Robert Frost wrote, and good privacy fences make good privacy for a homeowner. Many reasons exist to build a privacy fence, but the most basic one is to keep your yard and outdoor seating area secure from observation by neighbors or passersby. You can make privacy fences from many materials, in many styles, including simple and decorative, and in many heights, depending on your house lot.

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A wood privacy fence may be tall.

Rules

Building codes and area residential regulations vary by location and may include restrictions on the height and style of fences. Some jurisdictions require building permits for fences. Also check lot lines before digging fencepost holes to ensure your fence is entirely on your property. If you want to fence an entire yard, plan at least two gates, one of them extra wide to allow vehicle entry if necessary.

Height

Determining how high your fence needs to be is essential. It will prevent you from building a fence and then discovering that someone on your neighbor's deck can look down over it. It also will prevent you from building an expensive tall fence only to find that half the height would have blocked the view. Compare your lot elevation to that of neighbors' lots. You may test a planned fence's height by having an associate walk your property line while carrying a big piece of cardboard, the height of your planned fence, and following the line of sight over the cardboard.

Material

Privacy fences may be built of wood, vinyl planks, plastic lumber, concrete or even chain link with privacy strips. You also can use tall and wide plants as a privacy screen. Wood is the most versatile material, but plastic lumber or vinyl is the most durable, resistant to insects, rot and decay. Bamboo is another material option; it is naturally resistant to decay and insects and provides a natural look. Concrete is durable but expensive to build.

Style

Wood, vinyl or plastic lumber fences can be made with planks running horizontally or vertically, with planks overlapping or with small gaps between them. A decorative cap can be added to the top. A wood fence can be left natural or stained or painted to match a house. Vinyl and plastic lumber is available in several colors.

Standard Dimensions

Spacing fenceposts 8 feet apart provides sufficient strength for a fence and also conforms to standard building dimensions to reduce the need for cutting. Consider using pre-formed wood fence panels to reduce on-site labor. They are available at building supply stores in several designs and are made to install on 8-foot posts. Some vinyl and plastic lumber fencing is available in similar panels.

Ornamentation

Some wood fences are built with lattice-work extensions above the main fence, which can be covered with a decorative partial roof. Some styles use simple decorative top caps on the posts. Gates can have arched tops or decorative roofs. Gates also can be simple or ornamented with lattice panels, pieces of colored vinyl or other decorative elements.