Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The first image that comes to mind when discussing privacy fences is that of a high-rising, solid wood or stone wall. While that, in a very literal sense, is a definitive privacy fence, there are myriad options that should also be considered.
Materials that run the gamut from cloth to green-growing fencing, from lattice to bamboo, or from PVC to concrete provide viable privacy screen fence options. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and applications for which some are suited while others are not. Many of the best privacy fence designs incorporate a combination of two or more options.
The first of these is the “green” screen fence. That buzzword may intimate either a growing, shrub or plant-based divider or an eco-friendly concept. In as many instances as possible, eco-friendly considerations should form a part of your decision-making. However, pure green-growing fences have the advantage of being almost maintenance free, and generally more economical to plant. However, long growing times may mean that your “fence” may not be truly private for a decade or so! In winter, all but evergreens will shed their foliage and leave you exposed to the outside world.
Eco-green fences are a bit more nebulous, with some claiming that only a wood fence is “green,” while others insist that the materials used must be recycled and reclaimed, as well as requiring sustainable installation processes. The reality is that even PVC fencing can claim to be “green,” due to its very low maintenance regimen, the dearth of painting required, and the low demand for equipment for installation.
Bamboo is one of the “green material” choices that has exploded in popularity recently.
Bamboo is used for dinnerware, window shades, flooring, walls, fences even clothing. In the proper climate and environment, it is durable, and offers a distinctive natural look. However, simple bamboo pole construction is not as sturdy as is needed in extreme environment conditions, and requires special care in design and installation.
Shade cloths and semi-transparent natural cloth or manufactured materials are excellent choices for patio dividers and for toppers on fence segments. While great accent pieces, they are not generally recommended for exterior standalone fencing.
Commonly, homeowners are choosing lattice fencing, lattice fence toppers or lattice used as a net for climbing plants. The choice of materials runs from softwoods to light low-grade wood to vinyl. Low-grade wood lattice is inexpensive, but very fragile. While vinyl materials often are 400-500% more expensive than inexpensive wood, they are far more durable, low maintenance and equally easy to install.
Stone, manufactured stone, concrete or cement decorative block fences can be quite costly, labour-intensive to install, and sufficiently heavy to result in sag and shift over a period of time. However, there is such a range of attractive materials and design that many homeowners prefer these types of privacy structures.
One of the considerations when contemplating a solid, transparent or semi-transparent “privacy” fence is the impact it will have on the surrounding vegetation, if sunlight is blocked. The concept of “privacy” is, for the most part, a two-way street, and if the fence blocks out views from the outside looking in, it will similarly block views from the inside looking out. When planning your fence, consider to what purpose it will be put, and what the ramifications of your chosen deign will be.