Pretty fences can wow the neighbors, add style, safety

Whether a political boundary dividing nations or the privacy fence that sets off a war between neighbors, fences are more than just a structure. They are emblems of division. A fence can be one of the most controversial improvements someone can make to their home. » Continued on the next page

But also one of the most beneficial. Fences keep wild animals out (or pets in), enhance security and offer that beloved American hallmark of a property line to designate the “mine” from the “yours.” Sometimes clarity between neighbors is a very good thing, and a fence is an ideal way of respecting others’ “boundaries.”

Homeowners choose fences for a variety of reasons, from containing children to privacy, said Todd Edlin, president of the Allied Fence Co., with offices in Mableton and Lawrenceville. Allied even offers a special adaptation to an existing fence to keep the growing Atlanta scourge of coyotes out.

But security has become the foremost reason for homeowners to add a fence in recent years, said Edlin.

“A real growing part of our business is estate gates,” Edlin said of the electronic and manual gates now frequently seen on driveways. “It used to be that only the palatial estates of Buckhead and Sandy Springs had it, but now we are finding that people in more modest homes are finding a need to put that in.

“Because the criminals are looking for the easiest way in and the easiest way out. And by gating your driveway, it’s not a guarantee, but it is a device that is going to make your house less of a target for a criminal,” Edlin said.

Adam Bell, operations manager at the Fence Workshop in Tucker, agrees that security is more of an issue for fencing customers these days.

“Home and business owners increasingly want to protect their property from theft, vandalism and trespassers,” said Bell, who also has seen a rise “in exposed picket fencing that’s harder to climb.”

The economy has factored into the fencing industry as well, with customers looking for a better deal. Edlin has seen a decline in Western red cedar privacy fences, once a constant in the Atlanta market. “The trend in the last few years has been for people to switch to Southern yellow pine ... it’s only a little less expensive, but that makes a difference to the consumer today.”

Wood privacy fences in scalloped, capped, lattice-topped, or plain stockade continue to be the No. 1 seller for FenceWorks in Tucker, said operations manager Raymond Gaul.

While many privacy fences have transformed from cedar to pine, chain-link fencing has undergone a makeover, too.

“For residential homes, we’re seeing less requests for galvanized chain-link fencing and more requests for black vinyl-coated chain-link fencing, as more homeowner associations require better products,” Bell said.

“It really does add a lot to the aesthetics, because a black chain-link fence is going to blend into the landscaping. And in many ways, it even disappears from the backyard,” said Edlin, who said he’s had customers even forget they have a fence when they choose black-coated chain link.

Ornamental aluminum fencing also continues to be popular, Edlin said, as a less expensive alternative to ornamental wrought iron fencing. “Because it’s aluminum, it won’t rust. The warranties for most manufacturers are for a lifetime. I’ve been in the fence business myself for 25 years, and we’ve never had a failure in the aluminum business.”

Bell also has seen a rising demand for more modern, distinctive fences.

“We’ve seen growing interest in horizontal board fencing as a way to modernize residential landscapes. They’ve been popular on the West Coast for years, and Atlantans are really starting to embrace them,” Bell said.

Eco-friendly bamboo fences are increasingly in demand, too. “More and more homeowners are looking to differentiate themselves from their neighbors,” Bell said. “Bamboo is quickly becoming a very popular option to create distinction for small patios and large perimeter fencing alike.”

Once homeowners decide on the right fence for their needs, the next step, industry insiders agree, should be a courtesy visit to the affected neighbor to let them know.

Though you might not be required to mention a fence to your neighbors unless a neighborhood association mandates it, Edlin thinks discussing your plans is a way to avoid potential conflict.

“It’s not required, but you do have to live next door to these people, so it’s just a common courtesy to let people know what’s happening, especially in a case where your fence is going to be very visible to your neighbors on whichever side you’re doing it,” Edlin said.

“Sometimes the neighbors want fences, and sometimes you can cut your cost on a specific line of fence and share your cost,” Gaul said. “We’re not shy about saying good fences make good neighbors.”

What you should know

Longtime industry insiders offer these tips for helping choose a reputable fencing contractor and making sure your new fence stands the test of time.

● Get a survey. “We’re a fence installer; we’re not civil engineers. We don’t know where your property is, so we’ll put the fence where you want it.” — Raymond Gaul, FenceWorks

● Ask about the type of nail that will be used on your fence. Aluminum nails on cedar products are critical since the acid in cedar will eat the galvanizing right off a galvanized nail. — Raymond Gaul, FenceWorks

● Make sure the posts are being cemented in. And standard spacing between posts for a wood fence is 8 feet apart or less. If a company proposes a greater fence post distance for a wood fence, proceed with caution. — Raymond Gaul, FenceWorks

● Know the codes in your city, county and neighborhood before embarking on a fence installation. Homeowner associations can be especially strict about not just height requirements, but also materials used. — Todd Edlin, Allied Fence Co.

● Find out if a permit is required. A reputable fence company should be able to offer guidance. — Todd Edlin, Allied Fence Co.

● A good fencing company should check with the utility companies to make sure it is not digging where there are buried gas, sewage or water lines. — Todd Edlin, Allied Fence Co.

● Don’t rely on an electric fence to contain a pet. Consider an actual fence in conjunction with an electric one.

Todd Edlin, Allied Fence Co.

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