11 Types of Fences and How to Choose One

Rhododendron behind rustic fence.

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When choosing a type of fence for your yard, you'll want to consider the design, privacy, security, and cost of the structure. If you want a fence that will provide maximal privacy, then you clearly won't want a structure with openings in it that people could see through as seen in a wrought iron fence. Likewise, if the fence is for security, you can immediately rule out structures that are weak, short, or easy to scale like a picket fence.

Below, we'll break down the ins and outs of each type of fence and the factors you should consider when choosing which is best for you and your yard.

  • 01 of 11

    Low-End Security Fences: Chain-Link

    Closeup of chain-link fencing.
    David Beaulieu

    Best for: No-maintenance and budget

    Even if you don't care about privacy, marking a border, or dressing your yard up with a decorative fence, you may well feel the need to secure your property. Chain-link is one of the go-to types of fencing for this function because it's no-maintenance and cost effective.

    It comes in different heights, so if you're concerned about security, use a type that is at least 6 feet tall. Such a fence can also serve to contain small children or dogs on a property. It's quite durable because the metal is galvanized.

    Despite its pros, chain-link fencing also has some cons. Because it's see-through, it won't double as a privacy fence. People also frequently try to disguise it for aesthetic reasons, since it's one of the least attractive types of fence.

    • Requires no maintenance

    • Costs less than many other fencing materials that could be put to the same use

    • Won't double as a privacy fence

    • Many see it as unattractive

  • 02 of 11

    Medium-Range Security Fences: Steel

    Green steel security fence.

    Oleksii Halutva / Getty Images

    Best for: Durability and medium security

    Steel fences are a compromise between cheaper (chain-link) and more expensive (wrought iron) metal fencing. They're durable and better looking than chain-link fences, but don't offer privacy given their structure.

    • Durable

    • Superior appearance to chain-link

    • Doesn't offer privacy

  • 03 of 11

    High-End Security Fences: Wrought Iron

    Ornate wrought iron fence against blue sky and clouds.

    tillsonburg / Getty Images

    Best for: Security

    Like chain-link and steel fences, wrought iron fences are metallic, low-maintenance, and can provide security. That's where the similarities end.

    On the plus side, wrought iron fencing is one of the most attractive types of fence and is very sturdy. It is often capped with highly ornamental finials, but the spaces between the verticals are too wide to control many dogs.

    Other cons include that it is costly, doesn't double for privacy, and can rust in some climates. However, when elegance is called for in a fence, it's hard to beat wrought iron. It's an especially appropriate material if you seek a formal landscape design.

    • Good for security

    • Low maintenance

    • Elegant look

    • Pricey

    • No privacy

    • Prone to rust in some climates

  • 04 of 11

    Standard Wooden Privacy Fences

    Wooden privacy fence with house in back and plantings in front.

    Thomas Winz / Getty Images

    Best for: Privacy

    Most quality wooden privacy fences will double for security. But if privacy is your main concern, you are not limited to hardscape fences. A hedge of plants can serve as a "living privacy fence."

    If you care about low-maintenance landscaping, maintaining plants is generally more time-consuming than maintaining a hardscape fence. If you do decide to go with a hardscape fence, you still have a choice to make between various types (which come with varying degrees of maintenance).

    A wooden fence has to be stained, especially if it's made of non-rot-resistant wood (such as pine). By contrast, there's little maintenance with a vinyl fence, but if you're willing to put the work into maintaining a wooden fence, your decision may come down to aesthetics. Some people just like the look and feel of wood better than vinyl. Wooden privacy fences run the gamut from very plain to very ornate.

    • Aesthetically pleasing

    • Great for privacy and security

    • Must be stained

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Ornate Wooden Privacy Fences

    Wooden privacy fence with ornate work on top.

    RonTech2000 / Getty Images

    Best for: Design enthusiasts

    There are all kind of different ways to improve on the appearance of a standard wooden privacy fence. For example. the choice of wood can change the look and style of your fence. Cedar is a sophisticated choice with a price tag to match. If money is no object, you can even go higher-end than cedar like teak.

    You don't have to go with the standard vertical paneling. Panel orientation can also be horizontal or diagonal. But a vertical orientation is the cheapest; the longer boards required for other styles cost more.

    To complete the look, a wooden fence can be capped off with lattice or finials. You can further adorn it with hanging pots, window boxes, and more if you don't mind attaching the required brackets.

    • Aesthetically pleasing

    • Customizable to your design style

    • Can be costly depending on the type of wood

  • 06 of 11

    Semi-Privacy Fences

    Privacy fence with spaces between panels and plants all around.

    chuckcollier / Getty Images

    Best for: Semi-privacy

    Privacy fences are designed to shut out prying eyes completely with solid paneling. Some people want a touch of privacy while still maintaining a looser, airier feel, so a privacy fence that has gaps between the vertical paneling is the perfect compromise.

    • Airier feel

    • Not as expensive as ornate wooden fences

    • Not ideal for security or full privacy

  • 07 of 11

    Vinyl Fences

    Vinyl privacy fence adjacent to lawn area.

    ghornephoto / Getty Images

    Best for: Privacy and security

    The two materials most commonly used for fencing are wood and vinyl. Whether you choose wood or vinyl for your security or privacy fence comes down to personal tastes and budget. Ironically, while some people feel that vinyl "looks cheap" when compared to a classic wooden fence, it is vinyl that is usually more costly.

    • Doesn't splinter or rot

    • Not susceptible to insect damage

    • Can be decorated with finials to improve its appearance

    • Must be cleaned to prevent staining from algae, mold, and mildew

    • Can be expensive

  • 08 of 11

    Lattice Fencing for the Garden

    Lattice fence with a vine on it.

    MonaMakela / Getty Images

    Best for: Gardeners

    Although we've surveyed only security and privacy fences so far, there are other purposes a fence can serve (for example, to mark a border or to serve as support for plants). Since these purposes are less essential in nature, aesthetics are bound to be a stronger consideration when making your selection. A lattice fence is a great option for gardeners who want to introduce a trellis into their yard that doubles as a property marker.

    • Doubles as a trellis for vines

    • Can be wooden or vinyl

    • Not great for privacy

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Metal Panels

    Sleek, modernistic fence with metal panels and brick columns.

    welcomia/Getty Images

    Best for: Modern design

    Some fences are merely there to mark a border, so your choices are not restricted by the kinds of considerations necessary when getting a privacy or security fence. Instead, you can buy based on your personal aesthetic tastes.

    A fence composed of horizontal metal panels strung between brick columns is one example of a decorative fence and offers an intermediate level of privacy. It's a great choice for sleek, modern design, but it's on the high end of the price scale.

    • Medium privacy

    • Sleek, modern design

    • Pricey

  • 10 of 11

    Classic Picket Fences

    White picket fence with yellow tulips planted in back.

    Nick Li / EyeEm/Getty Images

    Best for: Traditional design

    The classic wooden picket fence is a better choice than metal panels to mark a border for homeowners who are landscaping on a budget. Design-wise, in contrast to a metal-panel fence, a picket fence evokes the feel of the traditional cottage garden. Indeed, picket fences look best when plants are grown either in front of them or behind them (or both). Not only will the plants soften the look of the fence, but the fence will serve as a nice backdrop for the plants.

    • Cost-effective

    • Classic look

    • Little privacy

    • No security

  • 11 of 11

    Vinyl Picket Fences

    White picket fence in vinyl.

    RiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images

    Best for: Low-maintenance aesthetics

    As when choosing a privacy fence, you have an option of either wood or vinyl when selecting a picket fence. If you want a picket fence solely for the aesthetic qualities it brings to a yard, then there's a good chance you will choose wood over vinyl. Otherwise, the decision will again come down to the major pro of vinyl (low-maintenance) vs. its major con (cost).

    • Classic look

    • Low-maintenance

    • Can be costly

Choosing a Fence

When deciding on a fence type, the most important factors to consider are privacy, security, cost, and aesthetics. Once you determine your budget as well as how much privacy or security you're looking for, the rest will fall into place.

If privacy is your top concern, look for fences six feet tall or higher with no gaps between the paneling like a wood privacy fence. If you're more concerned with aesthetics, a lattice fence is a beautiful way to incorporate your garden into the design, but it doesn't offer much in terms of privacy or security.

  • What type of fence is best for backyards?

    Considering that the average homeowner wants a fence primarily for privacy/security, the answer for most people will be a solid (no gaps) fence, at least 6 feet high, with vertical panels. Such fences will double as enclosures for kids/pets. Pine fences require some upkeep, but they are cheap and attractive.

  • What type of fence is cheapest?

    Wood is generally cheaper than vinyl or metal. Of the wooden fences, pine is cheaper than rot-resistance woods such as cedar.

  • What type of fence is easiest to maintain?

    Vinyl is the easiest to maintain. It does need to be cleaned, but the task is an easy one.