3 Wooden Privacy Fence Questions

Red Cedar Wood Privacy Fence with Lattice

The purpose of a privacy fence is to keep neighbors and others from seeing what you are doing on your property. In planning your wooden privacy fence there are three important questions to ask.

  • Do you know the local fencing law?
  • How high should it be?
  • How much invisibility do you actually want?

Fencing law is regulated by the states. In Maryland, for instance, if you build a fence on your property boundary line the fence becomes a boundary line fence subject to a number of legal restrictions and provisions.

  • Make sure you know where the exact property line is before you build a border fence.
  • There may be height restrictions. In Maryland residential areas, artificial backyard fences are limited to six feet in height. In the front yard they are limited to four feet.
  • If you are constructing a wooden privacy fence for a special reason like screening your house from an unsightly or noisy neighbor or commercial company, you can get a legal variance to build higher. You should always try to discuss your project with your neighbor to explain your reasoning.
  • If you have a boundary fence, unless both owners agree otherwise, the responsibility for maintaining the fence is shared by both neighbors. Both neighbors legally own the fence. It can’t be changed or removed without mutual agreement.
  • Some states have harsh penalties for a neighbor who refuses to share maintenance after a reasonable request. Sometimes one owner can complete a repair to maintain a border fence then sue the other owner for up to double the cost.

If the fence you are planning does not mark the boundary you share with a neighbor, things could get a lot less complicated.

  • Height restrictions apply to all fences in most states. In many states you have to apply for a fence-building certificate. The rules will describe required setbacks of your fence from roads, sidewalks, and property lines as well as allowable heights. If your wooden privacy fence violates local ordinances, you may have to take the fence down at your expense.
  • If you are building a privacy fence so that people from outside can’t see you, you have to determine how high the fence has to be. You may build a 6-foot fence, only to find that you are completely visible to others who have elevations on their property that enables them to look in. On the other hand, you might find yourself completely protected by a four-foot fence because of the elevation of your property.
  • If you can’t build a fence that protects your property within the limits of the height restriction in the law, you can design privacy provisions by planting bushes or trees that are not subject to fencing law.
  • If you want privacy around a spa or patio, you can decide to build a privacy screen around those areas to seclude them.

Make sure your fence is carefully planned. The wooden privacy fence is a significant feature of your property. Oversights in the planning of your fence could cause you and your family significant misery.

  • Carefully plan your gates. Put the gates in the right place. Plan for two gated openings in the fence so you can pass through the fence without having to go around or through the house. Three-foot wide pedestrian gates are usually adequate. If you have a lawn tractor or other equipment, you might want to make the gates wider, between 4 and 6 feet wide.
  • Many fence owners make one section of fence removable so they can bring cars of trucks onto the lawn without having to disassemble the fence. You can make removable sections by attaching a section to the fence posts with toe screws or angle irons, joist hangers, or the like.
  • A solid privacy fence will give you privacy, but it also closes you in and can seem prison-like. Your fence doesn’t have to be a single monolithic design. You can have deep privacy panels alternated with more open alternatives that allow you to see out of the fence.

Long® Fence is a reliable contractor for fencing and other outdoor enhancements to enhance your exterior living space, serving homeowners for over 68 years. If you live in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania or the Eastern Shore, please contact us for more information.