Homeowners use fences to set boundaries, obtain privacy, define pathways and enhance landscapes. Alternative fences address all these needs as well as reflect homeowners' individual styles and personalities. With some thought, planning and imagination, homeowners can discover the alternative fencing project which best suits their interests.
Traditional Materials, Nontraditional Uses
Traditional fence materials can produce different and unique fences when used in nontraditional ways. For example, placing fence boards horizontally rather than vertically, such as with basketweave fences, alters viewers' preconceptions about fences. Louvered fences--with each fence board placed at a slant--provide less privacy at certain angles but allows breezes into the fenced area and can create interesting optical effects when shaded. Movable windbreaks--fence panels with metal rods on the bottom corners, which fit into pipes surrounding a patio or porch--allow homeowners to counter winds from any direction and easily change views of their property. Masonry fences or walls constructed with open patterns such as latticework create a more open effect than traditional brickwork. In the book "The Fence Bible," by author Jeff Beneke, he depicts a wall with bricks placed diagonally in a diamond design--not a project for the do-it-yourselfer.
While more fragile than traditional materials and requiring more frequent repair, nontraditional materials can also create unique fences. Opt for latticework screens, oriented either horizontally or diagonally, to form a classical backdrop in a more formal backyard or disguise unsightly areas such as around air conditioning units. Support translucent panels, such as corrugated fibreglass or plastic sheets, with a wooden framework for a distinctive combination of privacy and light.
Mixed Fencing Media
Combine fencing materials for unusual fences. Add a wooden picket or lattice fence to the top of a short brick wall or place ornamental metal above a fieldstone fence. Insert patterns of bricks into a stone fence for a personal, whimsical effect. Alternated sections of wood railings and short hedges will help blend the fence into nature. Place metal mesh inserts between standard fence panels to create a more open effect while retaining security for a pet or child in the yard.
Living plants make interesting alternative fences. Bamboo, evergreen shrubs such as yew, boxwood and holly, deciduous shrubs such as beech, European cranberry bush and dwarf purple osier, and ornamental grasses can define boundaries, screen views and add texture to any landscape. Whether trimmed or left untended, plant fences require careful planning before planting, time to grow to desired height and depth and regular care throughout the year. Homeowners must also train and prune hedges during their first year. Some plants, like bamboo, can be highly invasive, and homeowners must prevent them from overtaking their yards or invading neighbouring properties. Code and zoning ordinances apply to all fences, whether made of traditional products, nontraditional materials or living plants.