Fence Wars Part 1: What can I do if my property is surrounded by my neighbors’ fences?

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Robert Frost wrote that good fences make good neighbors, but it might be more accurate to say good fence etiquette makes good neighbors. When a neighbor’s fence conflicts with your own design goals or infringes on your property lines, it may begin an ongoing struggle with your neighbors over the proper use of your adjoining outdoor spaces. In the interest of fostering peace and better outdoor design, the Fence Authority will address common questions about fence conflicts over the next few weeks: problems that persist over years and leave neighborhood discord in their wake.

This first part of the series discusses what to do when your neighbors surround your yard with mismatching fences. Looks like it’s time to go on the D-Fence!

D-Fence.jpgWhile there are always factors out of your control when you’re designing your yard, few things can complicate your outdoor plans more than sharing borders with one, two, or three other households. This is especially true when your neighbors all have different styles of fencing, whether it’s as minor as different colors or as major as different heights or materials.

In an ideal world, you would have coordinated with your neighbors before they installed their fences, but sometimes circumstances are against us. However, all is not lost. Instead of allowing your resentment to simmer, here are a few actions you can take:

Option 1: Getting Your Neighbors to Cooperate

It’s likely that your neighbors will be reasonable about what you do with your side of their fences, since they won’t see your side anyway. Painting the side of the fence that faces your yard is an easy way to get differing colors of fencing to match and therefore make them much more pleasing to your eye. This option makes most sense if your neighbors have a wood fence.

Best case scenario: If they’ve been considering a new fence anyway and agree that theirs is a terrible sight, then you’re in luck because you can work together to find a solution that makes you both happy.

Option 2: Gardening with Shrubbery and Vines for Privacy

fence-and-hedge.jpgWhile painting a wood privacy fence is a possible solution, what if one of your neighbors has a fence that doesn’t lend itself to painting, such as an aluminum fence?  They may also simply not want you to paint their fence.

If you’re looking at a fence that can’t be improved with a coat of paint, planting a hedgerow or other shrubbery is a good way to soften your yard’s appearance, hide your neighbor’s fence, and give you some privacy. Your neighbor may also be open to turning it into a living fence. Creeping vines and aluminum fences in particular go together like roses and thorns. Trees or topiaries can also provide a measure of privacy if you’d like a space safe from prying eyes.

Option 3: Incorporating Your Neighbor’s Fences into Your Design

While being surrounded by different types of fencing may seem frustrating, a little creativity can turn a blessing into a curse. Transforming your yard into an outdoor living space, complete with “rooms” for leisure, cooking, gardening or other activities, could be easier with two or three different “walls” to work with! For example, gardening next to a chain link fence could provide structural support for certain kinds of climbing plants, while a tall, wooden or composite privacy fence can serve as the perfect backdrop for a standalone deck or a minimalist, zen-inspired space perfect for contemplation and relaxation.

Option 4: Installing Your Own Privacy Fence

Perhaps none of your neighbors welcomes your brilliant ideas for living fences or accepts your offer to paint a whole side of their fence, free of charge. Perhaps trees and topiaries just aren’t on your vision board and you’d prefer the elegant but functional look of your own privacy fence. You always have the option of installing your own fence next to your neighbors’. This could be the easiest way to make your yard’s appearance more uniform, especially if looking at different heights of fence on all sides of your property, day in and day out, is keeping you up at night.neighbors-with-fence-and-hedge

While designing your yard is a challenge when your neighbors have you fenced in, it’s easy to turn it into an opportunity to make your yard a unique outdoor living space, sowing the seeds of neighborly peace where unrest once reigned.

Have you come up with a brilliant aesthetic or functional solution to a neighbor’s unadorned chain link fence? Do you just need to vent about being stuck between an unfinished wood fence and a dark gray vinyl fence? Commiserate and scheme by dropping us a line in the comments!

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  • Paul Marzolla says:

    I have a 6’solid white vinyl fence to my right which ends at the rear of my neighbors home and continues in the form of a 3′ picket to the front. A 6′ solid with lattice top to my left ending at that neichbors rear and a 4′ weathered cedar along the rear of my property. The properties on my left and right are raised 1′ to accommodate pools. The fence to the rear and to the right are on the property line if not slightly over and the left is inward about 1 1/2′. After much thought I would like to have extra long vinyl fence posts set along my property line and/or butting the existing ones to my right and to my rear. I would then place retaining wall blocks ( first row buried) in between posts and elevated to match my neighbors property height. I would then have the panels attached to the posts and soil spread to level the yard. And I would install solid black fencing. Please share your thoughts.

  • joe neilson says:

    what about building a fence within a fence ? im surrounded by fences i cant stand and want to build a custom brick fence can i legally build a fence within a fence ?

  • Mauro says:

    I have a newly built property with a newly built fence that was built behind an older subdivision. The two neighbors I have behind my house have torn down their already existing fence and are now technically using mine as their own fence. What can be done to have them put their fences back up? Also, there was a two-foot gap separating the fences.

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