Fences Make More Than Good Neighbors | PostIndependent.com

Fences Make More Than Good Neighbors

Mary Ellen Slayter(c) 2007, The Washington PostGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON – We generally build fences for two reasons: to keep something in, or to keep something out – even if sometimes all we want to keep out are the prying eyes. “More people are spending more time in their back yards, and they don’t want the whole neighborhood watching their cookout,” said Chris Bucca, sales manager at Long Fence, a fence and deck contractor. A fence is also a key design element of your home, making it important to consider aesthetics as well as function and cost. Often people go too far with their privacy fences, said Raymond Nuesch, a landscape architect with Jordan Honeyman in Washington. “It ends up looking like a fortress.” Here’s a look at what you can get for your money, depending on your budget. Prices include materials and installation.

Poor chain link. Everyone claims to hate it, but when homeowners need to keep something corralled cheaply and safely – dogs, kids, wildlife – it’s a popular choice. It’s not pretty, but it will do the job for a modest cost. Expect to pay $1,500 to $3,000 for a basic chain-link fence for a typical suburban back yard, Bucca said. Another cost advantage to chain link: With a little patience and a post digger, you can probably install it yourself. Don’t forget to get the appropriate permit if your city or county requires one.

Wood is the most popular option among his company’s customers, Bucca said – about half of them pick it. Wooden fences include a range of styles and materials, from a white picket fence of pressure-treated pine to a cedar split-rail. Prices start at about $2,000 for a simple four-foot picket fence and $6,000 for a taller privacy fence in a typical suburban back yard, Bucca said. Nuesch said he likes cedar, which ages well.

For about 20 percent more than a comparable wood fence, homeowners can swap in vinyl instead. Such fences are designed to imitate wood, but with a key difference – less maintenance. “All wood fences look nice to begin with,” Bucca said, but the weather eventually takes its toll. Another possibility in this price range is a composite such as Trex. Those run about 30 percent more than comparable solid wood fences, Bucca said. But before installing such a fence, check with your homeowners association or historic district regulations. Many don’t allow vinyl or composites.

Those with generous budgets can build their fences with one of the most durable materials around: iron. Ornamental iron is also a popular choice among urban homeowners, whose small yards make it feasible. Fencing in the front yard of a city rowhouse could cost just a few thousand dollars; ornamental iron around an estate can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Price will depend on the height of the fence as well as flourishes, which can include automatic gates and such decorative touches as custom finials and post tops. Custom wood fences can rival iron, depending on features. Tim Price, owner of Powers Custom Fencing in Vienna, Va., put in a cedar tongue-and-groove fence, with custom post caps and remote-control gates. Price: $20,000.

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