Why fencing matters

Sometimes, life’s neighbourhood challenges can be solved with a little thought given to appropriate fencing. Privacy is important but many of our neighbourhoods and strata schemes are based around more open designs and these don’t always suit our lifestyles perfectly.

Fences generate a huge range of issues. Problems start when there is a fence or if there isn’t a fence. When there is a fence, which party is responsible for the cost of maintaining it. How do you decide who will get the better side of the fence when the time comes to replace it, and how do you broker an agreement on costs? Sometimes, the problem in strata schemes is that nobody wants to deal with a dilapidated fence, but it is you who has to look at it everyday.

If you look out of your windows, whose fence are you viewing, and do you like it?

Like most home-owners, you probably inherited the fencing when you bought the house – and the previous owners may have even inherited it from the owners before them.

Like a well-landscaped front garden or entrance to the home, good fencing contributes to the immediate first impression someone has of your home. However, up-grading or putting in fencing often gets neglected because it isn’t a priority or it involves dealing with the neighbours, or it’s just one more expensive renovation.

While fencing can serve a number of practical purposes, such as keeping pets in and intruders and traffic noise out, it can also add to the appeal of a home, enhancing privacy, or a home’s design features.

But apart from the front garden or entrance, fences usually sit on boundaries shared with neighbours and that can be where the hard work starts.

Many people put off or delay improving fencing because it does involve consultation and negotiation with neighbours. However, provided the fencing you plan to install is in line with local council requirements in terms of height and design, obtaining support and approval from neighbours is not difficult, particularly if the new fencing will improve the look and value of their home as well as yours.

Tips for hassle-free good-looking fencing include:

What is the fencing meant to achieve?

Do you want to keep traffic noise out, or prevent curious passers-by from looking in? Is it part of an overall garden landscape or simply a barrier to stop the dog running onto the road? Defining exactly what it is you want fencing to achieve is the important starting point. From there, you can begin to plan next steps.

Consider the design

Coming up to a property, fencing immediately catches your eye. If it doesn’t complement the house, it can look awful. There are now as many fence designs and materials to choose from as any other home fixture or fitting, from the traditional picket fence, to steel, aluminium, recycled plastic and reinforced glass. As with any renovation, do your homework, considering the history and character of your home and streetscape. Choose a style that is in keeping with this, and that actually works to improve the look of your home.


Check regulations

Call your local council to check what approvals are needed -- these will largely depend on the height of the planned fence, building materials and whether it cuts across the views of neighbours or traffic. Also check the limits of your property line, and exactly where you are able to build. This is simple if you’re replacing existing fencing but very important to check if you’re installing new fencing.

Talk to your neighbours

This can often be surprisingly straightforward. Most local government authorities have pretty clear rules about what neighbours should contribute to new fencing on a joint property line, and when. This is particularly true when old fencing is being repaired or replaced because it has become unsightly or unsafe. However, if you want to put up expensive new fencing, as opposed to functional fencing, you may need to bear the cost yourself. As well, you will need to consider how the fencing is going to look from your neighbour’s side.

Build it to last

Style and materials should depend on the overall design of the house and garden, but it is worthwhile building in longevity to your new fencing. Brick and cement fences work well with more modern houses and will last longer than timber, but will also cost more. On the other hand, timber fences are more affordable and can add character to older homes. However, it is important to treat timber against rot, termites and the elements, to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Cheaper paling fences work well for areas where appearance is not a priority.

Gates

One of the most important considerations in the fencing design is how cars and people will enter and exit the property. Gates need to match the style of fence you choose. If you’re building a fence for security, you obviously want strong gates with good locks. If you’re building a picket fence around a Victorian cottage, you need to consider how the gate will open into the garden, and create an appropriate entrance. Whatever you choose, it’s important to spend money on quality hinges, fasteners and supports, or the gate will become difficult to open.

Have you faced a fencing dilemma? Tell us your story and how you overcame your problems.