Fence Etiquette: Who Gets the Good Side?

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When you get a new fence, you can’t just think about yourself—you have to consider your surrounding neighbors.  If the type of fence you want is permitted in your neighborhood, you may feel you have the green light to install it. However, your fence may be in your yard, but your neighbors are still going to see it every day from their yards or windows. There are a few rules of fence etiquette you should keep in mind before you go forward with the installation.

Make sure your property lines are defined

Do you know where your property begins and ends—and are you really sure about that? It’s a good idea to check your house’s plat, which is a drawing that maps out your land. If you’ve lost this document, you may be able to get it free from your county’s records office. You can also hire a land surveyor to clarify the borders of your property. Additionally, a surveyor can place stakes along the boundary, giving you a clearer idea of exactly where your fence can go.

Talk to your neighbor

Provided your fence is definitely within your property lines and complies with neighborhood regulations, you may not actually be required to talk to your neighbors about it. Still, it’s common courtesy to ask—and it could save you future legal trouble if it turns out your neighbor wants to dispute your fence. Besides, if it’s going to be a divider between your yards, that could actually be something your neighbor is considering, too! You might find that you and your neighbor can collaborate on the project—and split the cost.

Face the finished side of the fence toward your neighbor

Certain kinds of fences have a finished side or a “good” side that looks smoother and more polished than the side with the rails and posts showing. In particular, the solid panel fences often used for privacy are generally constructed like this. The finished side should face toward your neighbor. Not only is this more polite, but it’s the standard. Your property will look a lot nicer with the “good” side facing the outside world. Otherwise, your fence will look like it was installed backwards.

However, many other types of fences look identical on both sides, and they’re often called “good neighbor fences” for this reason. You can install a double-sided privacy fence if you don’t like the way the inside of a fence looks. Double-sided fences are created with “sandwich construction,” which also makes them stronger.

Here are a couple good neighbor fences you can buy online:

Continually maintain your fence

Of course you want your fence to look the best it can—you don’t want the paint to fade or chip, you want to keep your fence clean, and you don’t want your wood to rot. However, this really isn’t only for your own benefit—if your fence becomes an eyesore, your surrounding neighbors won’t be very happy. It could even affect their property value if they decide to sell. Only get a fence that you can keep looking great. If you can’t handle the maintenance for a wood fence, you should consider a lower-maintenance material like vinyl or aluminum. A darker colored fence will also show less dirt than a lighter one and not need to be cleaned as often.

If you follow these guidelines for fence etiquette, you’ll ultimately deal with a lot less stress and will find it easier to enjoy having a fence. Communicate with your immediate neighbors as you work on the project—don’t let it be an unpleasant surprise. You may discover that you’re surprised by how eager your neighbors are to cooperate and help you out.

Have any other neighborly advice for homeowners looking to install a new fence? Leave a comment below!

17 Comments

  • Andrea Holder says:

    I had neighbour come to me yesterday after he put his fences up and said legally you can not paint my fence touch my fence or put anything on it so don’t do it took us by surprise used to get on with them is this true please

  • Jeff says:

    Whoever pays for it gets the good side.

  • Dara says:

    If its my fence the good side should b in my yard then…..

    • Oscar says:

      I have the same problem with my neighbors Began to build my fence And my neighbor say She’s going to call the county because the good side is on her side I do not know what to do I’m going to stop doing my fence and wait what the county says.

      • Deb says:

        Do you live in an HOA community? If so, there may be rules pertaining to fencing. If not, call your county office and make your own inguiry. In our county, there is no such enforcement. Your neighbor wants the view of the pretty side.

    • Mark Stephens says:

      So is it alright for builders e.g to go in your Neighbours garden so you can have the nice side?

  • Charise says:

    They said the good side goes toward the outside or the neighbor. I’m trying to figure this out myself

  • Deb says:

    We decided on one neighbor side to install the fence six inches inside of our property line for maintenance purposes. We’ve had a renter throw his baseball against the fence, place his target on it to practice with his hunting bow and arrow, hang wet towels and garden hose. Even when we respectfully explain that the fence is owned by us and setback from the property line people choose to act as if the fence is on the property line, and ignore our requests to stay off the fencing. Unfortunately, there are now ugly and unfriendly No Tresspassing/Private Property signs posted. We’ve had the signs ripped out of the fence. Those renters, well, let’s say they were finally asked to leave. That house is now AirBnB.
    We decided to put the “good side” facing us for several reasons. First, the properties on either side of us are rental homes so we did not have established relationships. We decided our investment=our choice. Second, we preferred the look of the flat side. There is a downside to this though. There is a possibility that children and the nefarious wil climb the fence. Again, signs and Security cameras. Ridiculous, but necessary.

  • Bill says:

    Jeez, at some point you guys are gonna reap what you sow with attitudes like that. You put the good looking side OUT because you have to live next door to your neighbours. You don’t want those people to feel like they have to “get you back” for something. Like, you know, sticking them with the inside of your fence…

    • Deb says:

      I am not taking your comment as being directed directly at my comment, but to all of the commenters that support the homeowner/investor right to choice. Please explain your meaning of “reap what we sow” and “people feel they have to get back at…”. Thanks.

  • Momma says:

    I told my daughter to put good side in……No other neighbors have a fence. If they were to put up their own fence that is the side they would be looking at and they should be thankful that that is one very long side of their yard they wouldn’t have to pay for!!!! I’m sorry but when you spend your $ and cheap neighbors complain…..Then tell them they can’t tie in on your fence that is saving them thousands of dollars

  • Ronnie says:

    Good side goes to the neighbors, some places(county and city) require good side out. Just remember safety is an issue too. What does that mean? Leaving the “bad” side out only makes it easier to climb the fence to get into your yard. I prefer the good towards the neighbors because I use the exposed 2×4 and 4×4’s to hang feeders on as well as yard utensils (rakes, hoes, shovels, etc.) I am a Building Contractor and have installed many fences and have always installed “Good” side to the neighbors.

  • Mertis Fidler says:

    If you build a dividing fence on your own property, the “good side” of the fence is the side of the fence that all maintenance will be preformed from. Fences are not “maintained” from the backside. The “good side” of the fence goes to where you have access to maintain it.

    If the fence is a dividing fence, that divides your backyard from your neighbors back yard, the “good side of the fence should be facing your yard. If the “good side” is not facing your yard, and you needed to maintain the fence at a later date, you would need to get the neighbors permission to enter their yard to maintain your fence.

    If you build a fence, anyone with good sense would put the “good side” facing to where it could be maintained without the permission of another.

    Of course some cities regulations may prohibit the choice when the fence divides your property from a street, park or “open” area. In which case you would have to follow the rule. But as far as a fence that is only a barrier from your neighbors yard,… by all means the smart choice is to put the “good side” or the side that maintenance is preformed from to where you have access to do the required future maintenance.

  • Janna says:

    My creepy neighbor has an acre of property but installed a swing set right next to my property line. They never spoke to me about it.. So up went my fence. You really think I am going to put the “good side” to them when they have their screaming brats on the swing set right near my deck? Screw them! They didn’t consider me, so why should I consider themselves?

  • brian says:

    “Not only is this more polite, but it’s the standard. Your property will look a lot nicer with the “good” side facing the outside world. Otherwise, your fence will look like it was installed backwards.”

    REALLY??? look at the poll. Majority says good side in. Good side out if facing the street, yes! Good side in in a divider between yards and not facing street. Unless one wants to pay for good side or you work out what you want (maybe you dont like good side), then that is better. The rule should be, the person saying gets the side they want. So Simple. If both paying, then figure it out.. have a person wanting good side pay more.

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