The first week of May is the American Library Association’s Choose Privacy Week. The theme is about keeping personal data safe and valuing our privacy, especially online. Sounds like the opposite of oversharing on social media.
At Buzz, we think keeping some things private is an excellent idea. In fact, it’s so excellent that we figure, why should librarians have all the fun? May is a good time to think about both your private data and your real-world, tangible, privacy fence. So this week we’re going to talk about valuing your backyard privacy.
Check the Rules
Okay, are you ready to plan your fortress? Before you go for a solid 12-foot stone wall, better check your local laws and any HOA requirements. Most communities have laws about how high a fence can be. For example, if you live in Dallas, you’re allowed to build a four-foot fence around your front yard, and a nine-foot fence in the back. If you live in a historic district, the rules may be different.
Does your vision absolutely call for a higher fence? Apply for a permit before spending your time and energy building.
Privacy Fence Materials
You have lots of choices for privacy-providing materials. Wood or vinyl work well, as long as the panels are tightly spaced. Wood is a classic material. But many people prefer vinyl these days, which looks almost as good while requiring less upkeep.
Chain link is clearly out unless you grow a lot of thick vines through the holes. Wood and vinyl are your best bets. Wood is beautiful and classic, but is spendier and requires more upkeep. A high-quality vinyl fence looks almost as good as wood.
If you choose, wood, your best bets for privacy are board-on-board or stockade. Board-on-board means the boards overlap, offering peeping toms zero satisfaction. In stockade fences, the boards are pressed tightly together. Board-on-board may give you more privacy in the long run, as time can cause gaps between stockade fences. But the extra material required for board-on-board makes that style a little pricier.
Designing Your Privacy Fence Design
Privacy fences can overwhelm your property and be a tad unwelcoming. They can also make you, the resident, feel trapped and claustrophobic. So we like to get a little creative and think of ways for you to have both privacy and curb appeal.
Examine your need for privacy. You don’t have busy streets and hot tubbing neighbors in all four directions, do you? When you contemplate your property, you might realize the need for a privacy fence is only on one or two sides. You could have a shorter fence on the non-offending sides, and/or fence with less tightly-packed boards. Or pick a stair-step design, with taller parts of the fence in strategic places – again, blocking out that hot tub.
Your best long-term wood privacy solution is probably a board-on-board fence. This means the boards overlap, allowing no looky-loos to see what you’re doing in your backyard. Stockade fences are another option, with their tightly pressed together boards. However, over time, small gaps can develop in stockade fences. Board-on-board costs a little more but is worth it.
What if we don’t want our houses to look like fortresses? You can soften the look by choosing privacy judiciously. If a busy street runs by one side of your property, perhaps your fence can be taller and denser there, while a quieter side of your property could have a shorter fence with more widely-spaced boards. A stair-step design, with taller parts of the fence in strategic places, can also be less overwhelming than a solid fence.
Other Privacy Tips
Your landscaping can pair with your fence to soften the look of privacy. Property-line plantings add beauty and interest, and face fewer municipal height restrictions. Arborvitae to the rescue!
Always make sure to obey height codes and apply for necessary permits. You know what’s worse than a yard that lacks privacy? Spending your hard-earned dollars on a new fence, only to have city inspectors demand its removal. Then you’ll lack both privacy and money.
Strategic trees and bushes for privacy
So, you’ve decided to build a four foot fence in front and a six-foot fence in your backyard. If you have certain views you want to block from passers-by – say, the armchair where you like to relax and read the paper – consider whether the strategic planting of a tree or some tall bushes such as arbor vitae would do the trick. For large yards, the fast-growing English laurel tops off at about 20 feet high and 20 feet wide. A shade-loving yew grows about as tall, but is only three to five feet wide. Ask your nursery worker about the best tree for your soil and the amount of sun your yard offers.
Soften a tall fence
Details such as wide capping can soften the harsh lines of a privacy fence. Adding other elements like a bench, garden sculpture or a birdbath in front of the fence also break up the relentless line.
Plants can make a big difference in curb appeal. Climbing roses are a super-pretty way to soften a fence. Clumps of ornamental grasses add visual interest.
Let your landscape help
Further beautify your privacy fence with landscaping. Some nicely placed arborvitae look attractive, block your neighbors’ view, and are less likely to face municipal height restrictions. If you have a large yard, consider the shade and privacy provided by fast-growing English laurels, which top off at about 20 feet high and 20 feet wide. Yews also grow tall but are only a few feet wide. Your local nursery worker can help you decide the best privacy trees and shrubs for your space, soil and amount of sunlight.
Contact Buzz for Fence Design Help
At Buzz, we believe you can have it both ways: Your fence can shield you from the outer world, and still be beautiful. If you want to get serious about your privacy without sacrificing style, call us today. We know all about adding privacy and have upped the tranquility and beauty of many a backyard. We’ve designed thousands of fences, and brought peace and tranquility to many a backyard. And we’d love to help you, too. Our expert designers are just a phone call away.[/column]