A few years ago, I was working in an old historic neighborhood, tasked with giving an old colonial house some much-needed curb appeal. I wasn’t told what needed to be done, but when I pulled up it was immediately apparent that I’d be putting in a new fence. The fence already in place was 1970’s chain link on one side and what looked to be a wooden fence from the 1870’s on the other side. The house had been remodeled, the classic bones preserved, and modern touches were tastefully added–the fence was really the last major thing that needed work. I decided I needed a fence that would blend with the old bones of the house and the new additions that had been made, and would give the front yard a frame that was both classic and contemporary.
Obviously people want different things from a front yard fence, but in general the requirements homeowners mention are that the fence be beautiful, long lasting, and present a good face to the world. With my project, the choice was simple–a black powder-coated steel fence. There are few fences more dignified and classic than a black steel fence made to mimic wrought iron, complete with decorative finials and post toppers. In my opinion, this type of fence is the best fence for the front yard in almost any situation, and I’ll explain why I think that after I give some of my other picks for front yard fencing.
My Picks for the Best Fence for the Front Yard
A good portion of my work involves making fresh updates on older structures. For that I need materials that could fit in many different centuries simultaneously. I look at the context of the fence–the house, the landscaping, and the neighborhood, and get a sense of what will look right. Obviously, there are as many good fits as there are different locations. The following are some of my current go-to options, with a few of their strengths and limitations.
Wooden Picket Fence: The classic white picket fence might be thought of as passé by some, but in a neighborhood of colonial-style homes and shady elm trees it is a perfect fit. The pointed tops of the pickets provide some security, and the height is enough to outline the yard and contain a small dog without blocking the view too much. The drawback of this kind of fence is the maintenance, like scraping, sealing, and painting, that needs to happen on a yearly or semi-yearly basis to keep the fence from looking shabby, as well as the tendency for the nails, staples, or screws to cause rust to weep down the fronts of fence post. My advice to maintenance-averse clients is to always use high-quality galvanized or stainless hardware if their budget allows.
Wooden Privacy Fence: A privacy fence makes the most sense when a house is on a busy street, if the house is situated a little too close to the sidewalk, or if the homeowner is looking to create a cloistered sanctuary. My preferred wood for these is cedar or redwood, and they really come alive when accented with copper post caps and plentiful trellises. Of course, as with a picket fence, there can be maintenance involved with a privacy fence, like replacing hardware and rotted fence posts. And of course, if you’re looking to preserve a view or to let your home be seen from the street, you’ll want a more open front yard fence.
Metal Mesh with Wood Frame: You’ve probably seen these in more and more neighborhoods over the past decade or so. They are simple to build, pretty inexpensive, and can often combine the best qualities of wood and metal. I like to incorporate these kinds of fences with vines, shrubs, and front yard vegetable gardens. The problems with this fencing type are that as they grow taller, they tend to look more awkward, and they do have a slightly “DIY” look to them that won’t match well with some homes.
Steel Rail and Picket: One of my favorite fencing schemes is a steel picket fence, painted in black, a color that famously goes with almost everything. When I need to mix classic and modern, I usually go with a fence that is at base essentially a collection of rectangles–simple clean lines, and low on the frills. I also like a fence that gives me the easy option of adding decorative elements if the site is really calling for them. For instance, adding finials to the top of pickets works well for most houses built in the Victorian style. Adding decorative “knuckles” to the rails of the fence in different patterns also adds texture and dimension to a fence.
With metal fencing, the main drawback is usually corrosion, such as rust at the welds and connection points. However, some manufacturers have made efforts to reverse that trend by coating their steel fences with as much care as car undercarriages. By combining galvanized steel with a super water-resistant e-coating and a powder coating, some steel fences are able to last a long time without any of the maintenance work involved in keeping up an old-fashioned wrought iron fence. With the right finish and some decorative ornamentation, black powder-coated steel fences can look just as beautiful and natural with a Victorian as wrought iron, but take off the finials (or not!) and I find they fit perfectly in front of almost any other style house as well.
There are many ways to frame a front yard–you’ll need to consider the style of your home, what look you’re going for, and your needs (security, privacy, keeping a dog in the yard) before you pick a style of fence. But if a steel fence is the best fit for your property, I recommend the steel picket fences produced by Fortress Fence. Protected by several premium coatings, they are both beautiful and very durable, avoiding the problems with wear and tear that most metal fencing has. And if you have other projects going on or are looking to upgrade your deck or railing as well as your fence, I recommend taking a look at Fortress’ full range of building materials. Because once you’ve found the perfect fence to complement your house and yard, you’ll want to make the rest of your home look just as nice.