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Different Types of Fences: Picking the Right Look for Your Yard

Your pets must be contained; you don’t want your neighbors kids in your swimming pool; privacy matters; your homeowner’s association requires it: Whatever the impetus, your backyard needs a fence. However, all fences are simply not created equal. Before you decide on a design and hire a contractor, or decide to DIY and head to your neighborhood big box store, consider several different types of fences.

Metal, Wood, or Composite

Your first fencing decision comes down to type: Would you rather have the classic look and feel of wood, the long-lasting durability of metal, or a hybrid of both using composite materials? Beyond those first three options, you must also decide between types of wood, or use a vinyl fencing material that mimics wood but acts like composite. And if you choose metal, your choice further breaks down between the aesthetics and durability of ornamental and the practicality of chain link.

In making this first decision, your choice basically comes down to cost versus look. Composite and vinyl last longer than wood, so they cost more. Ornamental is better looking than chain link, and also costs more. High-end treated wood and ornamental metal are similarly priced.

Fence Design

If you choose to move forward with wood, vinyl, or composite materials, your next decision has to do with buying pre-built panels, using spaced pickets, or going with shadowbox or board-on-board options. Additionally, if your budget allows, you can choose a basketweave arrangement of horizontal boards, or use slip board or split rail layouts reminiscent of farmhouse designs.

A good way to make your determination of layout is to take a drive around your neighborhood — or around a neighborhood you would like to live in — and take notice of what different homeowners have chosen. You’ll be able to observe different stain colors and how varying designs complement home layouts.

To Cap or Not to Cap

The great Shakespearean decision of today’s personal property fencing is whether or not to cap. And this is a decision that concerns both metal and wood fencing. In the realm of wood fencing, a cap provides a smooth upper board that tucks over and around individual slats and creates a refined finished look. In addition to aesthetics, the cap also ensures that rogue slats don’t slip away at the top — and additional bracing at the bottom can ensure the same at that end. For metal fences, capping involves placing decorative finishing pieces on top of each pole, or, similarly to wood, using a top (and sometimes bottom) crosspiece to give a refined finished look.

Capping your fence comes at a premium, and you’ll likely notice its absence among your neighbors because of the extra cost it adds. Before you decide to skip it, however, balance out how its cost may enhance both your curb appeal as well as the overall value of your property now and whenever it may be listed for sale in the future.

Other than initial landscape design and exterior siding, the fence on your home is your most expensive outdoor accoutrement. So your most important decision when it comes down to types of fences is not actually the material or design or finishing touches; rather, it’s to allow yourself enough time to do your research, look around for inspiration, and measure out an appropriate budget to encompass your value, usability, and aesthetic needs.

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