Fencing -- for the illusion of privacy

Joan Fieldstone

March 27, 2015

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Landscaping and PoolsFencing

My new construction home came with a fenced yard -- sort of. Every yard in our community of about 100 duet homes is fenced. The older homes even have exceptionally high fences in some sturdier species of wood than the flimsy fences of the homes built during the latter phases of development, including mine. My fence gate began disintegrating during the first winter I was in the house.

The larger issue is that the houses on my block back up to the adjacent apartment complex, and none of them has a fence on that side. Instead, we are bordered by a concrete retaining wall that separates our community from the apartments, and it's a few feet shorter than the wood fencing on the other sides of the yards.

Do fence me in

In the nearly four years that I've owned my home, I have stared at the dirt yard and the concrete wall when I go out to occasionally pull weeds -- and I've imagined something a lot more inviting. I recently started giving some serious thought to financing a fence when I realized I could buy the materials interest-free for 12 months from Home Depot. It would take me one step closer to putting in the deck or paver patio I've been envisioning in my yard. After all, what would be the point of building a nice place for seating, getting a grill, and adding planters if I had to stare at gray cinder blocks every time I was out there?

cinderblock wall

Even if I could have gotten past the Communist Bloc aesthetics by growing a vertical garden or inviting over a few artistic friends to paint a colorful mural, the wall was low enough that every so often someone would vault over it. Being an introvert at heart, I prefer a bit more privacy when I'm reading a good book and sipping a glass of wine on a summer evening.

Permits and HOA approval

The HOA said they had no problem with me nailing fence pickets to my side of the wall, and technically it wasn't a "new" fence, so permitting was averted. BFF was on board for the technical design challenge and construction. She went to work right away planning the best way to make the fence attractive not just for me, but from the viewpoint of the apartment complex residents who would see only a few feet of it visible above the wall on their side. She also wanted to make sure a good wind wouldn't snap off the tops of the pickets, so she built some reinforcement into her design.

Choosing straight pickets without knots was crucial to the appearance of the final product. Once we had all the materials, the process was straightforward and took about a week of working a few hours each day. She attached a framework to the wall and screwed the pickets into the frame after cutting and coating them with waterproof sealant.

fence under construction

The fence is so nice, it puts to shame the existing fence panels around the other sides of the yard. Fortunately we bought enough pickets to fix the side with the gate and build a new gate with a steel frame.

handmade fence
The new view

DIY fence
Not a bad view for the neighbors, either

Fence built from scratch
Another view from the apartments behind the house

Now I just have to figure out how and when I can afford to put in that patio!


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