A privacy fence can turn an urban backyard into a private outdoor oasis. Just as curtains make your living room feel less like a fishbowl, a wooden fence can make your yard feel like an extension of your house. It’s amazing how a few fence posts and wood fence panels can seemingly add square footage to your living space!
A privacy fence is a solid fencing structure used to separate outdoor spaces. They act as outdoor walls, creating separate spaces for families in urban or suburban areas. Privacy fences either screen or completely block the view between separate properties. We can’t all have our own farm in the country, but a backyard should at least have a special quiet spot for an alfresco family dinner.
Most residential privacy fence panels are approximately 6′ tall (or 2 metres tall in areas that use metric). Wood fence structures are most commonly used, followed by vinyl and composite privacy fences. I like the look of a classic wooden fence, although it can be more maintenance than vinyl or composite.
A privacy fence is generally quickest to install if pre-made fence panels are used. Most standard fence panels are 6′ high and 8′ wide. Custom panels are often available in other heights or widths for an extra charge. It’s also possible to modify standard fence panels, especially if you only need a few here and there.
Traditional privacy fence panels have the fence boards standing in a vertical pattern. More modern fences can have horizontal fence boards. Consider the look and feel of your property before falling in love with a specific type of fence panel. The wood panels you choose should complement the rest of your property.
Some wood fence panels simply have the boards laid beside each other. In this case, a small space can often be seen between the boards (especially if the wood shrinks). To address the issue of this space in privacy fence panels, more expensive panels are often constructed as “tongue and groove” or “board and batten”). These finishing styles both include an overlap between boards that cover any potential gap.
Wood Fence Types
A wood fence is usually constructed with cedar or another softwood (spruce, pine, fir). A cedar fence will last much longer than a spruce/pine/fir lumber fence, simply due to the long-lasting properties of cedar wood itself. Cedar fencing does cost more up front, but the replacement timeline makes up for the increased price.
As you plan your wood fence, consider chatting with your immediate neighbours. Most homeowners want to be good neighbours. Your neighbours could be looking at your fence for a long time, and might appreciate a conversation about it before you start.
Some neighbours love the idea of a new privacy fence. Others may have hesitations that are best worked out politely before work begins. It’s certainly worth a conversation!
Fence Post Choices
A standard fence post for a privacy fence should complement the fence panels. Most wooden fence posts are made of natural cedar or pressure-treated spruce/pine/fir lumber. Since the fence posts may touch moisture-holding materials like soil or mulch, they often rot more quickly than fence panels.
Fence posts are often installed taller than the fence, and then cut down following installation of the panels. Each fence post should have a solid base (generally poured concrete). Fence holes can be dug mechanically with an auger to save hand shovelling.
Sometimes the concrete base for a fence post is poured directly into the hole. In this case, the post is set down into the wet concrete and braced so that it sets in the right spot. Wooden fence posts set down into concrete can be quite sturdy, but can rot due to moisture exposure. It’s also difficult to replace individual posts later on because the whole concrete plug must be dug up.
To build fence posts that can be replaced more easily, an industrial cardboard tube form (sonotube or handy-form) is used. In this case, the whole tube is filled with concrete and allowed to set. Small holes are later drilled in the top of concrete base to fasten a fence post saddle or rod into the base. The bottom of the fence post is then attached to the top of the concrete base. A single fence post can later be removed and replaced without digging up the concrete base.
Cedar Fence Treatments
Here’s what a natural cedar fence looks like after installation (above). High-quality fence stain can help protect the wood in the long run (although cedar is already rot-resistant). A new cedar fence can be treated with a mineral-based toxin-free natural stain (like on our cedar deck), an oil-based stain, or even a water based stain.
Some commercial stains are solid (similar to paint), while others are clear or semi-translucent. Many homeowners look for a stain that penetrates into the wood instead of creating a protective film on top of the wood. This allows the wood to “breathe”…the main benefit of which is to reduce peeling. Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of scraping and sanding a privacy fence will understand that choosing a low-maintenance stain at the beginning is time well-spent!
Privacy Fence Ideas
Looking for more privacy fence ideas? This Pinterest Collection (above) has tons of privacy fence ideas to help you plan your perfect outdoor oasis. Follow this Pinterest Board for even more privacy fence and privacy landscaping ideas:
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Hardscape Design Lead: Jana from the Hip Homestead
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Fence Panels: Cedar Solutions & Millworks