Types of Wooden Fences

And Their Landscaping Uses, From Privacy to Animal Control

Image: zig-zag style wooden fence.
Wooden fences come in a number of shapes, sizes, and styles. Bruce Heinemann/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The present article on wooden fences serves as an introduction to my photo gallery of fence pictures, in which I discuss not only examples made of wood but also of alternative materials (for example, vinyl types and metal fencing).

So Many Types, So Little Time: How Does One Choose?

When it is time to select fencing for your property, you may be overwhelmed by how many types of wooden fences and other options there are from which to choose.

But the decision largely comes down to two considerations:

  1. Form (that is, stylistic considerations)
  2. Function (that is, what practical purpose the fencing will serve)

Fortunately, sometimes there is a happy marriage between form and function. But such is not always the case. For instance, chain-link fencing and other metal products often make for superior security fences. Therefore, if the intended function of your fencing is security, you may have to choose between form and function: the style of your house may cry out for a wooden fence, but security concerns may convince you to go with the metal.

When the Focus Is on Form

In choosing between types of wooden fences, consider their potential for compatibility both with your house style and with your landscape-design style. For instance:

  • Split-rail wood fences and other wood fence designs marked by rough and rugged posts and rails have long been a favorite with:
    • Ranch-style houses
    • Landscape designs with a Southwestern theme (U.S.)
  • Picket-style fencing seems a natural fit for:

When the Focus Is on Function: Privacy and More

There are special circumstances in which wooden fences, despite their beauty, may not be your best choice for fencing. Sometimes, for example, a homeowner in the market for fencing needs to keep animals in the yard -- dogs, for instance.

In this case, electric dog fences may be the answer. There are also times when the issue is keeping animals out of the yard -- deer, for instance. Various types of deer fencing serve this function.

Security is another practical function many homeowners demand from fencing, a function for which, as mentioned above, metal fencing is generally considered superior to wooden fences.

But wooden fences are an excellent choice for privacy fencing, whether it be in terms of noise barriers or, more commonly, visual barriers. Along with their vinyl copy-cats, they provide some of the most attractive fencing options available when your chief concern is creating a backyard sanctuary.

The stockade style offers an example of a wood fence design that can afford a solid visual barrier between your yard and your neighbor's, resulting in almost total privacy. While masonry work such as brick can do the same, it costs significantly more than does a wooden fence.

Others prefer a compromise on privacy, choosing styles with a certain amount of airiness to them, to avoid fencing out the outer world altogether. Tall picket fencing, for example, can afford partial privacy, as can lattice fencing. A popular alternative is a hybrid wood fence design: that is, a solid barrier for the bottom three-quarters of the fencing, with lattice on top to inject an element of airiness and decoration.

 Another variation on this compromise is to create a privacy screen using shrubs, instead of fencing.

As noted above, one factor in choosing between the different types of wooden fences is their potential for compatibility with one's landscape design. Solid wooden fences can provide compelling backdrops for plantings, while the airier designs (for example, the split-rail and picket-style) can serve either as foregrounds or backgrounds for flower borders. Ideally, your fencing will work in harmony with other landscaping elements to create compelling visual interest in your landscape design.

Further Reading

Perhaps you already have a fence (or know which kind you want) but simply do not know how to landscape along it? In that case, check out my article on landscaping fence lines.