For a good year, I found myself working in an old New England neighborhood that was filled with Colonial revival and Colonial style homes. As the “fence guy” on the projects, my job was obviously making sure our clients were over the moon about their fencing situation. Many of my clients were burdened with old wooden picket fences that were beyond the curative powers of a new paint job.
While few things are as iconic and archetypal as a low picket fence ringing a Colonial style home, I’ve had many clients who wanted either an altogether different aesthetic or a fence with a much lower maintenance load than the classic wooden picket fence, but weren’t able to come up with many good fence ideas for Colonial style homes. Fortunately, I found options that were able to work incredibly well with the Colonial aesthetic, while providing the high class, low maintenance look that my clients were asking for. While it’s not always easy to find a fence that checks all the boxes and suits a Colonial home, it gets easier when you break down what features a fence for a Colonial should have.
The Features That Work with Colonial Style
Colonial style houses have a very specific aesthetic that tends to limit the material and stylistic choices for fencing. To break it down, there are some main qualities that determine whether or not a given fence is going to work well.
- Order and Symmetry: One of the most paradigmatic aspects of the Colonial style is a highly pronounced symmetry, whether it’s the spacing of windows, the placement of shutters, or the order of the dormer windows. While some might attempt to break up the symmetry with fencing, I’ve found that this is one architectural type that looks much better with a fence that really mirrors and augments the house with its own regularity and order.
- Simple, Understated Materials: Whether it’s a white Federal style Colonial or an old New England house with cedar siding, the materials of Colonial houses aren’t defined by any kind of over-the-top gaudiness. There’s nothing Rococo about these homes. The Colonial style has a quiet dignity created from simple materials arranged in a classical order. When the fencing follows this logic, the property as a whole will always look cohesive and natural.
Fence Ideas for Colonial Style Homes
There are a few fencing materials that work especially well for ringing around Colonial houses. In fact, for aesthetic purposes, anything that has the simplicity and the symmetry that I already mentioned will do well. For most homeowners, though, strength and maintenance load are also considerations.
- Classic Wooden Picket: This is usually the very first fence that pops into most people’s minds when thinking of the Colonial style. Typically made of cedar and painted white, these fences perfectly accent the (often white) house that sits behind them. The main drawback of these fences is the cleaning and repainting that needs to take place year in and year out to keep them from looking shabby.
- Vinyl: White vinyl picket fences are extremely popular nowadays. A lot of my clients have put them on their properties as they look similar to wood but are much less expensive and require less maintenance. The most common difficulties with vinyl are the tendency in some lines for color fading, denting and cracking easily, challenges in cleaning off darker stains, and some problems with fasteners stripping out of their pre-drilled holes.
- Steel/Wrought Iron: Galvanized steel fencing that is painted black and looks like traditional wrought iron adds a weighty and classical gravitas to a Colonial house and yard. The picket and rail style steel fence has always been my style of choice for accompanying a Colonial house, especially with the addition of finials at the top of the pickets. With more ornamentation, steel also makes a good fence for a Victorian-style home. The weakness of steel fencing is the problem of rust, which often manifests at the welds and joins. When investing in steel fencing, it really pays off to choose a fence protected by several advanced coatings. Some manufacturers are making fences that combine a powder coating, an e-coating, and a layer of zinc, which is a very effective combination against moisture, making these a good choice of fencing for wet climates.
Why Steel Is My Frequent Choice
Since I don’t find vinyl to be sturdy enough for my clients’ needs, when I get a commission, it’s pretty much always a choice between building a cedar fence or going with galvanized steel. They are both wonderful materials to work with, but of late, my clients’ demands for a lower maintenance fence has steered me more consistently in the direction of galvanized steel. While white picket fences have retained their perennial popularity, modern black steel made to look like older wrought iron also proves to be a seamless aesthetic fit. Although I do lose out on maintenance work this way, I’d much rather have happy clients and spend my time doing things other than pressure washing and painting fences!
There is a wide range of quality among the various brands of steel fencing, and because steel is prone to rust, it’s well worth it to go with the highest quality of protection possible. Those fences that possess an e-coat and a powder coat are at the high end of the protection spectrum. Fortress Fence makes fences like these, which come in various styles, nearly all of them well-suited to a Colonial style home. If you like the look of their fences, I also recommend checking out their full line of beautiful, durable, and innovative building products like decking and railing.