FIND THE FENCE THAT FITS FOR YOU
PHOTOS BY SARA MEYER, VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
This white picket fence harmonizes with the lines of the spring garden in full bloom.
Don't Fence Me In...


With a variety of styles and designs, you can build one that's just right for your home.



May 15, 2008


BY ALTON AND SARA MEYER, VICTORIA COUNTY
MASTER GARDENERS


Edited by Charla Borchers Leon, Victoria County Master Gardener
A chain link fence is not only economical and durable, but can provide privacy with perennial foliage.
While vinyl fences can be more expensive than those of chain or wood, they maintain their shape and color in your landscape.
If you’re a Texan, you may be a ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ kind of a person.  But if you’re a gardener, you may be a ‘this space needs a fence’ kind of a person.  Whichever you are, there are several things to consider before digging the first post hole. One can Google ‘Fences’ with ½ million responses; one can check out information at the public library; or browse through books at the local hardware/builders store.  Either way, make some thoughtful decisions about building the fence before getting started either as a ‘DIY’ (Do It Yourself) or as a contract project.

FUNCTIONS OF FENCES

Before you build a fence, give careful thought as to why a fence is needed.  There are several reasons why people install fences: security and access control, buffering, establishing boundaries, improving the appearance of property, and privacy.
 
SECURITY AND ACCESS CONTROL

The need for a fence may provide a security barrier to help prevent people and animals (unless it’s a cat) from entering your property or preventing small children and animals from leaving your property.  Also consider if locks are needed, the number of gates and their location, and if separate gates are needed for people and for vehicles/mowers.  City ordinances may require a fence restricting access to the swim pool for the safety of young children, too.

BUFFERING

For people living near heavily traveled roads, busy factories, or any noisy bustling area, high, thick fences may help buffer the noise. 

ESTABLISHING BOUNDARIES

Marking the boundaries of the property will help visually to create a sense of definition.  As well within the area, different parts of the yard may need to be defined such as the rose garden, the dog run, or the recreational area.

IMPROVING APPEARANCE
 
A fence creates a sense of balance and stability thus enhancing the property’s appearance.  Homes that are close to the sidewalk appear to have more land associated with them when a fence separates them from the street.  Fences may harmonize with the landscaping serving as a backdrop for a bed of tulips or a support for climbing roses or vines.

PRIVACY

“Good fences make good neighbors” is a proverb that is still true today.  Fences six feet tall and over are considered privacy fences because they block the view from outside your property.  Always check with city ordinances before beginning construction so that no mistakes in height, location, and right of ways are made.  In addition call Texas One Call (1-800-545-6005) 48 hours before digging in order to check for underground service lines; besides, it’s the law!

FENCE MATERIALS
   
     If you’ve not built a fence in the last several years, you will be amazed at the various options available now.  The main fencing materials include chain link, aluminum and steel tubing, vinyl, brick or stone, and wood.
 
The #1 fencing material used today is chain link due to its low cost and durability.  Now there are slats available for insertion into the fence, which enhances privacy.  To add more privacy, annual vines or ivy or perennial plantings add permanent concealment.   The warranty on a chain link fence should be 5-15 years.

More costly than the chain link fence are the aluminum and steel tubing material type fences.  Although practically maintenance free, this material may come with a lifetime warranty as an added incentive.   Some fence companies now produce prefabricated standard size components in standard heights and widths reducing the cost.
 
The stone fence, seen more frequently in New England than in Texas, is approximately 2 feet tall and used to identify property lines. 

A brick fence complements the home as well as provides a great buffer to noisy industries or traffic close by.  This fence can be built to any height and is almost maintenance-free.

The second most common type of material is wood made from either redwood, cedar, or pressure treated pine.  The wood fence allows for more design flexibility and has the highest maintenance requirements.

Wood fences can be allowed to weather to a natural gray or stained although staining requires regular maintenance. 

In order to decrease wood rotting, a rot board, a 2”x 6” board, can be installed horizontally along the bottom before placing the slats. 

Improperly installed wood fence posts are subject to rot which will shorten the useful life of the fence.  Interesting plantings or wall planters can be used to break up a long expanse of wood fence so that it is more interesting and less monotonous.

BUILDING A FENCE

There are three basic types of wood fences—post-and-rail, picket, and solid board.  Louvers, slats, trellises, and gates can be used to frame a particular view. 

When building a picket fence, use of thick or ornate posts and alternating short pickets add interest to the fence. 

Kevin Geist’s, How to Build Wooden Gates and Picket Fences (Stackpole Books, 1994) encourages unique designs with over 100 plans for pickets and for gates from the ‘sweet little hearts picket fence’ to the more ornate ‘Alpine gothic fence’. 

The solid board fence is definitely the most private, but some homeowners are using a shadowbox design which offers privacy and air flow.  If more height is needed, a rail or lattice can be added at the top.
    

Once you have determined your reason for building a fence and selected the appropriate materials for your fence, you’re ready to work your plan so that your property is enhanced.  No need to hum ‘Don’t Fence Me In’!

Sources for Building a Fence


New Fence Material          www.bamboobuddy.net
                     
Helpful Hints for Construction       www.backyardgardener.com
       
Local fence ordinances     
City Officials
Victoria Site Development Ordinance,
Revised 4-3-07  City of Victoria

Sec. 21-102. Screening fences

Sec. 21-104. Fences and walls in residential areas

Site development ordinance pdf


(31 page pdf takes a little time to open.)

The post-and-rail fence is the simplest of the wooden fences but with less privacy.
In order to decrease wood rotting, a 2 “x  6” rot board is installed horizontally along the bottom of a wooden fence before placing the slats. A shadowbox design of pickets allows air to circulate through the fence.