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Types of Wood Fences

Wood Fence Designs and Their Landscaping Uses

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Hardscaping features - zigzag fences

"Zigzag" fencing imbues a yard with a rustic feel.

David Beaulieu

The present article on wood fences serves as an introduction to my photo gallery of fence pictures, in which I discuss examples not only of wood fences but also of alternatives to wood fences (e.g., vinyl and metal fencing).

Types of Wood Fences: How Does One Choose?

When it's time to select fencing for your property, you may be overwhelmed by how many types of wood fences and other options there are from which to choose. But the decision largely comes down to two considerations:

  1. Form (i.e., stylistic considerations)
  2. Function (i.e., what practical purpose the fencing will serve)

Fortunately, sometimes there is a happy marriage between form and function. But such is not always the case. For instance, chain-link fencing and other metal products often make for superior security fences. Therefore, if the intended function of your fencing is security, you may have to choose between form and function: the style of your house may cry out for a wood fence, but security concerns may convince you to go with the metal.

Types of Wood Fences: When the Focus Is on Form

In choosing between types of wood fences, consider their potential for compatibility both with your house style and with your landscape-design style. For instance:

  • Split-rail wood fences and other wood fence designs marked by rough and rugged posts and rails have long been a favorite with:
    • Ranch-style houses
    • Landscape designs with a Southwestern theme (U.S.)
  • Picket-style fencing seems a natural fit for:
    • Cottage-style homes
    • Landscape designs inspired by English cottage gardens

Types of Wood Fences: When the Focus Is on Function

There are special circumstances in which wood fences, despite their beauty, may not be your best choice for fencing. Sometimes, for example, a homeowner in the market for fencing needs to keep animals in the yard -- dogs, for instance. In which case, electric dog fences may be the answer. There are also times when the issue is keeping animals out of the yard -- deer, for instance. Various types of deer fencing serve this function.

Security is another practical function many homeowners demand from fencing, a function for which, as mentioned above, metal fencing is generally considered superior to wood fences.

But wood fences are an excellent choice for privacy fencing, whether it be in terms of noise barriers or, more commonly, visual barriers. Wood fences (along with their vinyl copy-cats) provide some of the most attractive fencing options available when your chief concern is creating a backyard sanctuary.

The stockade style offers an example of a wood fence design that can afford a solid visual barrier between your yard and your neighbor's, resulting in almost total privacy. While masonry work such as brick can do the same, it costs significantly more than does a wood fence.

Others prefer a compromise on privacy, choosing wood fences with a certain amount of airiness to them, to avoid fencing out the outer world altogether. Tall picket fencing, for example, can afford partial privacy, as can lattice fencing.

A popular alternative to these privacy fencing options is a hybrid wood fence design: i.e., a solid barrier for the bottom three-quarters of the fencing, with lattice on top to inject an element of airiness and decoration.

As noted above, one factor in choosing between the different types of wood fences is their potential for compatibility with one's landscape design. Solid wood fences can provide compelling backdrops for plantings, while the airier wood fence designs (e.g., split-rail and picket-style wood fences) can serve either as foregrounds or backgrounds for planting beds. Examples of how wood fences (as well as fencing composed of other materials) can work in harmony with other landscaping elements to create interest in a landscape design can be found in my photo gallery of fence pictures.

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