It’s summertime. If you’re not hosting backyard barbecues, chances are good your neighbour is. Keep the peace and divide your respective spaces with a fence. Before you call one of our fencing contractors, consider landscaping expert Carson Arthur’s design tips for building a fence. It’ll make each summer to come that much more enjoyable for you, your family and your neighbours.
Back in my early days of design school, we were asked as a class to define the Canadian backyard. What should have been a fairly easy task ended up being a discussion on the idea that there really isn’t a definition of our national backyard that worked for everyone.
That said, we all agreed that a fence around the perimeter was pretty standard in almost every urban home. As property owners packed into small spaces like city lots, we feel the need to protect and to maximize our available spaces.
So, what’s the problem?
Too often, neighbours will disagree about property lines and things like overhanging trees or incorrectly built fences.
Recently, I spoke with a representative of Protect Your Boundaries, an online site helping homeowners with all of the legal issues regarding their property lines. I wasn’t surprised that someone finally put all of the pertinent information in one spot.
Designing the right fence for your property
When it comes to building fences, here are the major design points you should know:
Adhere to building codes
Every municipality or town has its own rules about heights and how close you can build a fence to the property line. Make sure you check these first before you start construction. The average height for a fence for a backyard is usually 6’6” (2 metres). Often this is defined as a 5’ solid fence with up to 18” of lattice on top. Every homeowner always wants taller, but you put your fence at risk when you push the building codes.
Side note: Not only will you risk pushing building codes, but you may even disappoint your neighbour. Take a look at this video:
Height and Privacy
If you really need more height, look into the rules on privacy fencing or privacy panels. These sections of wood or lattice are generally attached to the home and often have a different set of restrictions than a regular fence. Some towns will even let you build a 12’ x 12’ wall as long as it’s attached to the house.
Don’t go solid
Beware of building a completely solid fence. While the idea of not being able to see your neighbours in their backyard might seem appealing, creating a space without any wind flow will probably keep you inside all summer anyways. I encourage the style of fence with alternating boards on each side of a single cross beam. It might seem boring, and you still might be able to see through the fence when looking on an angle, but at least some airflow can still happen between the yards.
Watch the fencing style
Horizontal fences may be popular, but they have to be built differently than fences with vertical boards. Wood will warp when given the chance and once it does, it its very hard to get it to be straight again. Horizontal boards need an extra center brace to prevent sagging in the middle.
Turning this into a DIY?
If you are building your own fence, please use a level. To me, a fence that has a different level for every section is the worst feature of any backyard. Fences really shouldn’t be the focal point in any space, they should be the backdrop for all of the good things you want to have on the outside of your home.
This video will give you an overview of what you need to get started on the project!
One more piece of advice
One final note, and probably the most important part of building a fence…talk to your neighbour first. Even if you don’t get along, having a civil conversation about a detail that will affect both of your spaces will make life easier going forward.
Ok, this is an old video, but you’ve got to watch these feuding neighbours. Maybe they should take Carson’s advice and build a fence that enables some privacy!
Is it time to put up a fence in your backyard? We have an extensive list of fencing contractors who can do it for you. Read reviews of companies written by former clients – it’ll help you make an informed decision on who to hire.