By their placement, corner lots are much more exposed to the public eye than other lots. I’ve worked a lot of these in old neighborhoods as well as newer developments. Some clients don’t really care one iota that their home and yard is so open and visible, and some yards are better served with a lawn or landscaping scheme than a fence.
However, many people prosper with something more solid than well-placed trees and shrubs–something that can provide security and privacy. Giving homeowners this privacy while also maintaining aesthetics and lines of sight is sometimes a delicate balancing act. In the course of my time working in landscaping and building, I’ve come to discover some of the strengths and weaknesses of common fencing materials and have come to favor one type more and more. First, though, let’s lay out some of your best options when it comes to choosing a privacy fence for a corner lot.
Types of Privacy Fencing
Robert Frost famously wrote in one of his poems that “good fences make good neighbors.” The border of a property should provide security and privacy as well as create an aesthetically pleasing border from both within and without. There are lots of ways to go about this, but some materials come with a little extra work than others.
- Hedges: Why build a barrier when you can grow one? The simple answer to that question is that starting from scratch could take a decade or more. However, if a property already has a hedge there may be very little need for anything else. If you are willing to wait for your hedge to mature, arborvitae, privet, holly, and boxwood are all good choices for a hedge barrier. Hedges that turn the corner can be enchanting, but the workload to keep them from growing out of control is another strike against them.
- Wood: This type of fence is the bread and butter of the American landscape. Consisting of posts, horizontal rails, and vertical slats put together in a nearly infinite variety, a wooden security fence can be a beautiful architectural element as well as a functional one. The main drawback of a wooden fence is that it needs to be regularly taken care of to keep it secure and attractive. Eventually, nails will have to be hammered back in, posts will need to be replaced, and the slats will need to be sealed and stained or painted to protect them from moisture and sun. On a corner lot, though, wood is often a good fit as it can handle the ground on one side of the corner being higher than the other. You can work with this issue simply by cutting posts lower on one side than the other to keep the fence the same height all the way around.
- Vinyl: Vinyl is typically used as a low maintenance, low-cost way of imitating a wooden fence. The best vinyl fences can be difficult to tell apart from wooden fences, so people who are worried about their vinyl fence looking tacky right next to a busy sidewalk can rest easy. Because vinyl is a type of plastic, it doesn’t rot or swell due to moisture, so you don’t have to worry about your posts rotting out below ground. Vinyl does have some issues, though, including brittleness. Since vinyl isn’t a particularly tough material, an impact can break it, and some homeowners have had vinyl fences repeatedly vandalized be teens throwing their bodies against the fence. This brittleness increases in very cold weather. Vinyl is also prone to staining, including by the minerals in hard water. This type of staining can be more difficult to remove than other kinds of staining on vinyl, which usually come off easily with a pressure washer.
- Steel with Infill: A relatively recent development in residential fencing is steel rail and picket fences that are designed to have wooden or composite boards attached in between the pickets, effectively turning a classic black steel security fence into a privacy fence. While steel fences of the past were prone to rust, today high-quality steel fencing comes with a protective coating (in the best systems, more than one protective coating) that makes it the perfect type of fencing for a wet area. Aesthetically, steel or a combination of steel and wood makes a great fence on a busy corner, as it adds a sense of solidity to the property boundary, and it has a beautiful, classic look.
My Current Favorite Privacy Fence for a Corner Lot
Since different contexts create different choices, I often use each of these fencing materials on different projects just in the same week. I do, however, have a general favorite these days, and that is a galvanized and powder-coated steel fence that incorporates attachable boards. I find that it offers excellent security and privacy, and the flexible nature of the system allows me to change its configuration to meet the needs of the yard. Here’s what I like most about this type of fence:
- Provides Security: A fence that looks and feels strong and sturdy is already on the fast path to security. Because it has few toe-holds, a steel rail and picket fence with or without an infill is one of the most secure choices you can make. While wooden and vinyl fences can also provide security, as they age and weaken boards may come loose or crack, leading to openings. A solid steel fence that’s well protected from the elements should not have these issues.
- Provides a View (or Not): Whether for aesthetic or security reasons, it’s sometimes desirable to be able to see through a fence. A wooden infill fencing system allows for flexibility, as you can choose whether to add the boards or not. You can even choose to add boards to one section of fence and not to another, which can be a huge asset for homeowners with corner properties who might want a fence that doesn’t obstruct the view at the back of the property and a closed privacy fence along the side of the yard.
- Low Maintenance: One of the qualities I most appreciate about the higher-quality, newer steel fencing on the market is the advanced coating system being used. While most of the market uses a powder coating for protection, this doesn’t quite cut it where moisture is concerned. The better lines of fencing go further, using a premium powder coating on top, with an e-coating and an extra zinc layer beneath. This creates an extremely tough, moisture and UV-resistant fence that won’t rust and require painting or sealing. And because a steel fence with wooden infill doesn’t depend on wooden posts or rails, you won’t have to replace either of these components after a few years of standing water has caused them to rot out. This makes an iron and wood security fence a great low maintenance option.
I still use all of these materials on a fairly regular basis, even vinyl, if I manage to find a sturdy enough system. But when a client is looking for beauty, durability, and quality, then I jump at the chance to use a galvanized steel fence with wooden infill. The first system I show my clients is the one manufactured by Fortress Fence. Constructed with an advanced coating system, this particular steel fence will resist corrosion for years and years, and looks beautiful with either natural wood or sturdy composite slats. When clients are working on other projects around the home, I usually also recommend they look through Fortress’ full line of innovative building materials, as I’ve found everything they carry to be dependable and high quality.