What Type of Fence Should You Buy?

type of fence

Photo courtesy of Joe Phillips Fence Company

By Andrea Davis, HomeAdvisor

Is your fence falling apart after years of use? Have you moved into a new house, and it didn’t come with a fence? If you’re considering investing in a fence but don’t know where to start or what type of fence to get, here are some important questions you need to answer before calling a fencing contractor or going to the home improvement store.

What is the fence’s function?

This is the first question you need to answer, as it will determine the form, height and accessories for the fence. Fences can perform many functions, depending on how and where they’ll be used. For example:

  • Privacy: keeping your lawn private from the neighbors, allowing you to grill or have a party without disturbing others
  • Decoration: accenting your home and landscape
  • Security: protecting your home, pets and children from intrusion

Does your fence plan to serve one or all of these purposes? If you want a decorative fence, you may consider a light and natural option such as wood or wrought iron. If you want a fence for privacy and security, you may need a stronger material such as brick.

Decorative brick fence

Photo via Design Mine

What materials should I use?

Once you determine the function, you can decide what you want the fence to be constructed from. You may consider asking a fencing contractor for advice.

Here are some of the most common materials used in fence construction:

  • Wood: Wood is a natural material that can be stained or painted to match your home. It lasts anywhere from 15 to 20 years and is good for privacy if you install boards, not pickets. It will need regular maintenance and touch-ups. It’s not good for home security, as boards can be ripped away.
  • Vinyl: Vinyl is a durable, low-maintenance fencing material that is good for privacy when installed in its board form, not as pickets. It will last for a long time, though it only comes in neutral shades. It is a more expensive fencing option than wood, and it can develop mildew over time.
  • Metal: There are various metal fencing options including aluminum, steel, wrought iron and chain link. Chain link and aluminum are not ideal for privacy, though they can be outfitted with barbs for security. Steel and wrought iron are good for home security and privacy, though they are more expensive.
  • Brick: Brick is probably one of the most expensive options but also requires almost no maintenance. Depending on how tall the wall is, your backyard can be soundproof and almost impossible for someone to climb over or look into. It’s important to have a strong foundation to build the brick wall on, or the wall could slide because of erosion.

How much maintenance do I want to do?

As you’re looking through the different fencing materials and checking their price tags, it’s important to think about long-term maintenance. For example, while wood is one of the most inexpensive options, it will require regular maintenance. On the other hand, brick is a more expensive option that requires almost no maintenance. Budget for any additional expenses down the road.

Another expense you should be prepared for is any damage to your landscape. Installing a fence could involve digging up portions of your yard to put down posts and lay the framework. This could mean additional costs to repair the landscape. Two other cost considerations you should be aware of are permits and gas lines. The fencing company should pull the required permits and will charge you for those. They should also ask the gas company to come out and mark the gas lines, which often means you’ll have spray painted lines in your grass and landscaping.

About Andrea Davis and HomeAdvisor

Andrea Davis works for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find the right home improvement professionals for their home projects at the right price. Homeowners can use HomeAdvisor Reviews to see what past customers have to say about each professional, and can calculate average local and national costs for a variety of home projects using Cost Guides. Access to all information and features is free for homeowners.

Note: This is a guest post; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Redfin.


  • GEAH

    Wrought iron is “light and natural”? Good for privacy?


  • GEAH

    “Steel and wrought iron are good for home security and privacy, though they are more expensive.”

    Exactly how is a wrought iron fence good for privacy?

  • Henry

    Great piece of information.Every thing should be taken into account before installing an iron fence….

  • Jade Walker

    What about stone? These types of fences are very popular in New England.