Fencing: More Than Just Making Good Neighbors

Fencing: More Than Just Making Good Neighbors

By Max Phelps

Famous American poet Robert Frost said in Mending Fences that “good fences make good neighbors” and I would like to begin today’s article from that starting perspective.

I’m sure not every reader is shopping for a fence, but it’s a timely subject. Let’s consider some information about fencing and why a fence might be in your future.

Indeed, good fences seem to make good neighbors. I think this is probably because of a need to differentiate between what’s mine is mine/what’s yours is yours. Also, the practice of getting with a neighbor and walking the line fence (usually constructed of stone in days of yore) was a springtime ritual, one could say even a sacred practice. (Roman pagan god Terminus was supposedly honored when neighbors walked the line fence.)

There may be reasons for fencing that are “neighborly”, or reasons practical (such as keeping oursiders from entering a pool area or backyard), for fencing. Usually it’s both. Also, there are aesthetic considerations, privacy, and containment issues.

Gated communities are popular, especially with those who have made their livelihood and want to enjoy it without being bothered by solicitors and others who are still trying to make a way for themselves. Fenced yards and barred windows keep those who might want what’s yours outside of your space.

Let us look at it from the perspective of privacy and beauty as part of a nice landscape. There may
be various reasons you’d want a fence. Maybe privacy, protection, maybe beautification. Maybe for function, especially if you want to keep animals in (or out), or if you want to screen undesirable views or sounds.

There are a few more things to consider where fencing is concerned. Probably you ought to talk with your neighbor. This would be courteous, and maybe the two of you can even agree to split the cost?

But, if not, you have the right to build a fence on your own property (in most cases) even if your neighbor is not happy about the idea. (Just make sure you know where the property boundary actually is; you don’t want to hear “you put that fence on my property and you’re going to tear it down or I’m going to sue you”! And, be sure, in this case, that all of the fence is inside your property line. Then, being in line with any local codes or permits needed, there is not much the person “across the fence” can say.

Once you have made a decision to build a fence…things like what materials, how it will look, what benefits there might be, what the costs are, what the life expectancy is are all to be duly considered.

When the decisions have been made, get to the building supply store and get the project started, or find a contractor if you’re not up to the task yourself.

Screening out noises, undesirable views, bad critters or people, can be legitimate considerations and desirable reasons for fencing. Containing your pets or children can also be a very good reason to fence. Boundary fencing in specific we won’t get into.

I believe we should also consider fencing as a way to divide parts of your yards into rooms. A low stone ledge, a hedge of plants, can be called fencing. A fence does not have to create a complete barrier to passing through or over, nor must it totally obstruct a line of sight. Separation of functions can be a reason to fence, too.

Plants, stones, wood, metal, plastic, bamboo—the materials we can vary considerably in fence building. Also, styles, colors, figuring how much you’ll need of what, these are choices you’ll want to consider at length, for you don’t want to be building a fence two or three times because you don’t like the one you just completed.

Consider any easements, covenants or restrictions. Some you might obtain waivers for. Sometimes you may need to get creative. Let’s say you’re limited to a six foot high fence, but it takes seven feet to obscure your pool, or the neighbors dog kennel—could you buy a load of topsoil and raise the ground where the fence is going, so that the six foot fence is tall enough to complete the mission? Or perhaps you can plant a big tree at the critical spot.

Privacy fencing may need to screen prying eyes, security fencing may demand keeping people or animals out. Some fencing is done just for looks. And, sometimes fencing may be for a psychological barrier. A line of trees, a picket fence, perhaps a few split rails can separate spaces and create moods.

Whatever your reasons for marking your boundaries or fencing your yard, in the spirit of Robert Frost, build a good fence and make some good neighbors. Happy fencing!