Practical and Attractive Borders
A fence that keeps out nosy neighbors and possible intruders can also boost your home’s curb appeal without breaking the bank. While fencing materials such as aluminum ($45 to $65 per linear foot installed) and vinyl ($27 to $47 per linear foot installed) are decidedly pricey, you can install a front yard or backyard fence far more frugally.
The following fencing options are relatively affordable, particularly compared to the cost of vinyl and aluminum. Some of these options are purely utilitarian and others, primarily decorative, but you’re sure to find a fence that suits your tastes and your budget.
Pinewood panels that are chemically or pressure treated to resist rot and pests, installed in a non-breaking vertical or horizontal orientation, are available for far less than naturally rot-resistant lumbers such as cedar or redwood.
Because treated wood tends to twist or warp post-install, handpick fence panels from your lumberyard to ensure that they aren’t green or damp, signs that the wood will easily move out of place once in the ground.
Cost: $14 to $20 per linear foot installed
Using a trellis as the panels in a fence can create a charming backdrop for a yard. Whether painted bright white, stained and sealed a rich chocolate hue, or covered in vines from the garden, a trellis allows some light to filter through and creates interesting shadows in the yard. Price will vary based on the material and strength.
Trellises—especially at the lower end—are not as sturdy as other fencing, so don’t expect them to corral dogs or keep predators out. They can, however, add visual appeal and privacy where you need it.
Cost: $3.50 to $7 per linear foot
When you’ve got livestock to rein in and fierce roaming predators like wolves and coyotes to keep out, it’s hard to beat this low-cost option. Three to five strands ( tiers) of barbed wire are stretched horizontally between metal posts around the property line, with wood or metal posts installed at corners to hold the wire up. Note that barbed wire fences are only permitted in rural areas, so check local codes before using this material.
Cost: $1.50 to $2 per linear foot
Budget-conscious homeowners may appreciate this dirt-cheap material used to fence in small animals or mark property boundaries. Rigid metal wire is usually strung in a grid-like pattern over a series of large wooden frames. There's minimal wood incorporated in this type of fencing, which may allow you to splurge on a high-end species like redwood for a more attractive look.
Cost: $3 to $5 per linear foot
Electric fencing to deter animal and human intruders is popular with homeowners for its low cost and simple setup: a transmitter, receiver, and multiple wire strands strung between vertical wooden posts. These security fences deliver a high-voltage pulse when the wire is breached, so they are usually only allowed in rural areas and must be kept clear of roads and highways.
Cost: $2.40 to $7 per linear foot
Want a wood fence but don’t want to pay for it? DIY a fence from pallets you can pick up gratis at nurseries, construction sites, and other venues. Pallets can be installed either vertically or horizontally between vertical pallet posts, either with or without space between. Though you can usually get the pallets free, keep in mind there are costs associated with fasteners and other installation supplies.
Make sure any pallets you score bear the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) logo, which certifies they were heat-treated or fumigated to prevent the spread of insects or plant diseases. Also know that pallets can contain splinters and nails—handle with care.
Traditionally used on farms and ranches to corral animals or mark property boundaries, the split-rail fence has made the leap to ranch and Southwestern-style homes and beyond. Timber logs, usually cedar or chestnut, are split lengthwise into “rails” and then stacked horizontally between short or tall vertically oriented posts. Because there are 8 to 10 inches of space between individual rails, this fencing uses less material than solid varieties, and thus costs considerably less.
Cost: $12 to $30 per linear foot
An enduring symbol of the American Dream, the picket fence is also among the best affordable fence ideas for bringing privacy to the yard, thanks to vertical fence pickets spaced 1 to 3 inches apart that are attached to top and bottom horizontal rails. A range of decorative picket styles, including pointed and round, also boost the curb appeal of a Colonial, Craftsman, Cape Cod, or Georgian home.
Cost: $17 to $25 per linear foot installed
In this modern twist on the picket fence, ideal for Colonial Revival homes, the top of each individual section of fencing takes an inverted curve shape. The fence panels in a dog-ear fence may all be of shorter lengths than the fence posts, adding more visual variety. But more complex wood cuts are needed to achieve fence panels of different heights, hence a higher price than traditional pickets.
Cost: $16 to $21 per linear foot installed
RELATED: 11 Ideas for Better Backyard Privacy
This unexpected tweak on a solid wood fence is well suited for Queen Anne or Country French homes. A frame of thin slats, made of wood or metal in a crisscross pattern, is installed on top of a shorter, solid wood fence to let in sunlight and maintain a view to the outdoors while preventing unwanted attention from passersby. Even better? The lattice doubles as a trellis for nearby climbing vines.
Cost: $16 to $22 per linear foot
Green thumbs appreciate living privacy “fences,” most commonly made of privet hedges. Depending on the privet species (there are more than 50), the semi-evergreen shrubs grow tall, from 4 to 10 feet or more. They can be planted around the entire yard or only a small expanse, and then pruned and sculpted to suit your taste.
Cost: $2 to $3 per linear foot
These hardy, bushy plants with green leaves and yellow or brown markings can survive air pollution and salt-bearing winds alike, which is why they are popular in places with suboptimal air quality, as well as near the coast. Also known as Aucuba japonica, laurels reach 6 to 10 feet tall at maturity, ideal for backyard privacy with a burst of color.
Cost: $8 to $9 per linear foot
These tall and striking plants in the grass family around the perimeter of your property look great with Tropical Modern or California Bungalow homes. Bamboo reaches 10 to 50 feet or higher to boost outdoor shade and comfort. Keep in mind that the more invasive “running” variety of bamboo spreads fast and far, potentially overtaking the land, so stick to the clumping variety that grows in small mounds. Bonus: Bamboo repels deer, so your new fence won’t be food for 4-legged neighbors!
Cost: $3 to $6 per linear foot
If total privacy is the goal, and your design style of choice is industrial, a corrugated metal fence may be ideal for your needs. Galvanized sheets of corrugated metal are lighter in weight per square foot than many other fence materials, and the material can resist mold and rust. Some DIYers even choose to upcycle old metal.
Cost: $10 and up per linear foot
For those who don’t need privacy or a secure perimeter to contain pets or little ones, a row of potted plants or potted trees can make a visually striking and interesting border to a yard. While the plantings can be anything that enjoys the local climate, inexpensive options for pots can include simple DIY-made boxes, upcycled pallets, or crates.
Cost: $25 and up per linear foot
Rather than using wood or metal to partition your property, consider growing a garden wall. Instead of the traditional hedge, create a functional vine-filled vegetable garden of cucumbers, pole beans, or pumpkin. Vertical gardens are popular because you can grow plants up instead of out, saving space and water if designed well. The garden’s bounty can provide some extra privacy to a hog wire, lattice, or chain-link fence and make a delicious addition to the dinner table, too.
Cost: $15 and up per linear foot
Prices are based on current national estimates from HomeAdvisor and pricing from The Home Depot as of March 15, 2022.
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