Neighborly Fence Etiquette
They say good fences make good neighbors, and I guess it's true. Personally if I have a problem with my neighbor, I'm the type who would actually knock on their door and discuss it with them. But, in my suburban Van Nuys ranch home one neighboring house is actually a rental, so there is a bit of turnover there. Unfortunately that is also the house that is adjacent to our bedroom and bathroom windows.
So it was decided between me and the wife to put up a privacy fence. Actually our entire subdivision is subdivided by 5' tall concrete block walls that have been up since the 1950s, so all we had to do was add a few feet to the top.
It's important when doing home improvement projects that will impact you neighbors to bear in mind their feelings, otherwise things can get messy. So here are a few etiquette tips that I pulled from all over the internet:
1) The neighbors get the "good" side of the fence
- This is the first rule of fence building, and in many places it is the law. The best side of the fence should face your neighbors--either the yard next door or the street.
2) Don't cross the line
- If you want to put a fence on the actual property line, you really need to talk it over with the owner of the adjacent lot. Otherwise stay 6"-12" on your side of the line. Check your local zoning and HOA rules. There are rules on everything now.
3) Keep up the upkeep
- Remember that even though one half faces their yard, you are responsible for maintaining the fence. That means you are going to have to talk to your neighbors about getting into their yard and painting every few years.
4) Go Dutch?
- It doesn't hurt to ask your neighbors if they would like to go in on the fence with you. In exchange for them paying for some of it, they should also get a say on what type of fence goes up and all that. The nice thing about collaborating is you won't have to be responsible for maintaining their side. The weird thing is, if they collaborate they no longer get the "good" side toward their yard. This most likely can be solved by a fence with no "bad" side, or by alternating "good" and "bad" sections.
The cheapest and ugliest fences are chain link. Nobody wants to look at a chain link fence and most likely your neighbors will gladly put up some cash to upgrade from a chain link. The only thing chain link excels at is keeping small dogs or cats in the yard.
Wood fences can be made in any style you want from rustic, to Victorian, to mid-century, to contemporary. They are easy to build and maintain and not that expensive.
The less said about PVC fencing the better. It is cheap, but you get what you pay for. It's not all that strong or attractive, and it gets brittle in the cold and with age.
Brick and mortar are not just for old fashioned stores. They are also a great fence, or more accurately wall. They are expensive though, and you had better get it right the first time or you'll need a team of guys with sledge hammers to move it.
Wrought iron and other metals can be very nice too, but they are also expensive.
The 3 foot extension to my existing wall was fast and easy. The hardest part was drilling into the 50 year-old concrete blocks to set the anchors. In the end they were so strong I only used 2/3 as many as planned. I put one 3/8" "lead" anchor down into the top of the wall, and two into the face of it (I don't think they are made out of real lead anymore
), then bolted 2 x 3 uprights to it. I felt I needed an anchor in the top to keep the facing anchors from pulling out in a strong wind.
It would have been nice to buy 8 foot long, 6 foot tall pre-assembled fence panels from the local big box home improvement chain, but I only needed 3 feet tall pieces. Cutting the pre-made panels in half isn't an option, there is a 2 x 4 right down the center. So I bought pre-stained "dog eared" pickets, cut them in half and alternated them, using 2 x 3 to frame my own 8 foot long sections, with a picket overlapping each end.
So there you have it, how does it look?