Fence styles are limitless, with maintenance-free aluminum and vinyl fences being the popular choices, and plank fences in high demand for rural homes
“Good fences make good neighbors,” as poet Robert Frost notes in Mending Wall, but they can also make grand statements communicating everything from charmingly yesterday to cleanly contemporary.
Fences have come a long way from the utilitarian chain-link of old. Today, there are fences of cedar, low- and no-maintenance vinyl, wrought-iron, cast iron, rod iron, bamboo, and those composed of recycled materials; there are privacy, pool, picket, and lattice fences; fences with scalloped edges, Gothic-cut pickets, shadowbox effects, split rails, and elaborate gates.
A fence can spruce up home and garden, blend into the natural landscape, add value to the property, and make your home a showplace in the neighborhood. Regardless of the yard they enclose, garden they trim, or pool they surround, fancy fences add aesthetic beauty to the home and, in some cases, provide lifelong warranties to the owner (even if the property changes hands).
“Homeowners are the biggest market for ornamental fences,” says David Brimm, spokesperson for the American Fence Association. “You see them at the most modest homes and the most upscale.”
Brimm says the spaced picket design is a favorite among homeowners who want to both see their property and secure it. According to the American Fence Association, the most popular colors for residential ornamental fencing are black, white, and bronze. A small percentage of homeowners will paint their fence to match their home.
Todd Barbour recently had a fancy fence installed at his Mt. Washington home in Bullitt County. The Barbour family needed to fence in its in-ground swimming pool, and at the same time create a sense of privacy. The solution was a combination ornamental black aluminum fence and gray vinyl privacy fence that runs along a shared property line.
“We’re on a three-quarter-acre lot and back up to a farm,” says Barbour. “But we needed a privacy barrier on one side of the pool. This (aluminum) fence is a new style that is ‘screwless’—you don’t see any screws on the pickets at all. The units are welded together so it’s a great, finished look.”
Lannis and Wildcat Fence Companies in Louisville installed the Barbours’ fence. Owner Skip Powell, a member of the American Fence Association, works with a variety of fencing materials, everything from wood to vinyl, chain-link to aluminum, or ornamental steel. His company builds agricultural fences, security fences, estate gates with access control, and just about every type of fence in between.
Powell says that homeowners like Barbour who want to create a cost-effective upscale or customized look with their fence should consider ornamental aluminum fencing.
“Aluminum products are more desirable now than ever,” he says. “In this area, it’s the most popular residential fence that we’re selling. It’s affordable, has the wrought-iron look that people like, and is an attractive option because of its affordability and the warranties on it. Many aluminum fences come with a 20-plus-year warranty.
“It’s also maintenance-free. You don’t have to worry about rust and you don’t have to paint it every two years. It gives the home outstanding curb appeal.”
For the Barbours, the aluminum fence was exactly the look they wanted for their pool. They could have elegance and privacy at a price they could afford.
“Cost-wise, the aluminum fence was about what I figured it would be,” says Barbour, who researched fencing options on the Internet.
“The cost of the vinyl fencing surprised me, though. I had no idea it cost so much, but it’s low-maintenance and it’ll be worth it in the long run. It’ll pay for itself.”
Like the Barbours, homeowners Ken and Carla Ray Smith of Glasgow also combined form and function to create a customized look for their fence. Last year, the couple established Memory Maker Farm LLC, a business dedicated to the breeding of pedigreed mares to top stallions and to the future sales of the foals. The Smiths’ mares feature world grand champion bloodlines, including Gen’s Armed & Dangerous, Coin’s Hard Cash, Ebony Masterpiece, and Triple Threat.
The Smiths needed a fence that would keep their Tennessee walkers safe and secure on their 33-acre farm and also look good. They selected a combination tensile and black plank fence, installed last November by K&K Fencing of Edmonton.
“The high tensile makes up the majority of our fencing,” says Carla Smith. “The plank is added in the curve of the driveway as a decorative touch, although it’s still functional.
“The tensile fencing is becoming more popular because of safety issues with the horses. It actually has a higher strength rating than barbed wire, and is smooth wire that will have electricity added to a couple of the six strands of wires.”
Carla Smith says their finished project was the result of numerous changes that came about through discussions with K&K Fencing owner Billy Karl.
“We anticipate future fencing needs to include more paddocks as well as plank fencing along our driveway,” she says. “The current fence posts were placed at intervals that will facilitate that future expansion.”
Karl notes that among his customers, plank and vinyl fencing are the most popular choices. His company specializes in electric fences, chain-link, farm fences and gates, privacy fences, barbed wire, custom picket fences, pool fences, equestrian enclosures, and other types of fencing.
“Vinyl is a great buy because it’s virtually maintenance-free and will last,” he says. “The majority of what we do is more rural in nature. Most everyone wants a ‘country’ or homestead look, tailored to look like the fences in Lexington—that kind of wood plank, in black, white, or cream, and in wood or vinyl.”
To give the Smiths’ fencing project a pastoral look, Karl not only combined the high tensile wire with plank, but planked the corners to add what he calls “some luster” as well. The electricity in the wire fence will keep the animals off of it and will improve the life of the fence.
Says Carla Smith: “The addition of the plank portion nearest our barn adds an element of style. The finished fence is perfect for our needs.”
Good fence; grand statement. It’s exactly what the Smiths want to say.
GIVE OLD WOOD FENCES A FACELIFT
Perennially popular wood fences get the job done but tend to lose their good looks over time. They weather and become damaged. Repeated cycles of wetting and drying—from rain, snow, and sprinklers—cause wood to swell and shrink, creating cracking and splitting. Moisture promotes mildew growth and sunlight causes the color to fade.
Instead of tearing it down, revive wood fencing with a little elbow grease and some products to clean and protect. Here are some tips from Thompson’s Water Seal:
•Clean gray and dirty fencing with Deck Wash if there is no coating on the wood. Use Heavy Duty Deck Cleaner if there is a waterproofer or semi-transparent stain. Deck Cleaner & Brightener is for cedar and redwood fences and Deck Stripper is for fences with a solid stain.
•Before applying any deck cleaning products, thoroughly water grass, bushes, and landscaping around the base of the fence. This helps dilute any “overspray” as deck cleaner is applied. Plant material can also be covered with heavy-duty plastic drop cloths.
•Read and follow all instructions—even if you’ve used the product in the past.
•If a board is cracked, broken, or rotten, replace it immediately.
•Remember Tom Sawyer? A fence makeover is a good project to involve a friend or neighbor. One person can apply cleaner, then another can come behind and rinse.
•A pressure washer is a helpful tool for cleaning decks and fences. If you don’t have one, rent one for a few hours or a day at a home center. Practice with it beforehand if you’ve never used one before, and keep the pressure at 1500-2500 (or 1200-1500 for cedar and redwood).
•Apply a protective coating.
For more tips and ideas, visit www.thompsonsonline.com.
HOW TO FIND A FENCE CONTRACTOR
The American Fence Association, founded in 1962, provides information about fences, an online consumer fence guide, and a nationwide directory of fencing contractors.
Why work with an AFA member?
According to spokesperson David Brimm, AFA contractors must abide by a strict code of ethics. Members will designate their affiliation with AFA on their business cards, contracts, estimates, and on literature they provide.
They will note their credentials on their proposals and will be able to show a certificate of insurance and a detailed list of the materials that will be provided, as well as a description of the installation practices that will be used.
“AFA members must use only the highest quality building materials that meet the specifications of the job and meet local building codes,” says Brimm. “Where required, they will be licensed by the state.”
Visit the AFA’s Web site at www.americanfenceassociation.com
or call (800) 822-4342.
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: FINISHING WOOD FENCES
To learn how to protect your wood fence with waterproofers and stains, the differences, and ideas for creating a unique wood fence, click here: wood fences