How to fence & screen

Updated February 21, 2017

A backyard fence keeps children and pets safely in the yard and can serve as a privacy screen from neighbours and passersby. Homeowners use a variety of materials and fence styles, from tall stone walls to tall plantings and fabric coverings. Privacy fences are often made of wood, concrete, concrete, breeze block, stone or a combination of materials. What you choose will be a matter of personal preference, but you must also take your budget, local building codes and residential restrictions into account.

Determine the location of your privacy fence and measure its dimensions before buying materials. Check local building codes and residential restrictions -- some areas forbid certain types or heights of fence. Decide on the materials you want to use. Common choices include a wood fence with solid planks, a wood fence with latticework panels, concrete blocks, brick and stone. You can also use willow, bamboo or hazel formed into lightweight fencing that looks natural but is effective as screening. You can even use chain link fencing with fabric woven in for privacy.

Dig. Any kind of permanent fencing or screening will require digging. If you're building a wooden or metal fence, you'll have to dig holes for posts and set them in concrete. Strong winds can topple a wooden structure, so your posts will need to be solidly set. If you're building a masonry fence, you will have to dig and pour concrete footings, then either build forms to pour a solid concrete wall or stack blocks, bricks or stones set in mortar. If you're pouring a solid concrete wall, you may want to hire a professional.

Consider "green" alternatives. Some homeowners don't want or need solid fences but want privacy. There are trees or shrubs suitable for every area which grow tall and tightly together enough to provide privacy. Cypress, hawthorn, abelia, viburnum and wax myrtle are landscape barrier options that grow well in most parts of the U.S. Avoid bamboo, however. It is almost impossible to control once planted.

Remember gates. Even "green" fencing will need a gate. You'll probably have to make a frame for a gate. If you've built an 8-foot wooden privacy fence, you don't need an 8-foot gate. That means building a frame, covering the area above it with compatible screening material, then building and hanging the gate.

Things You'll Need

  • Fencing materials
  • Tape measure
  • Fasteners (depending on type of material)
  • Concrete (optional)
  • Shovel/post hole digger
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About the Author

Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.