Decades ago, when my main (OK, only) consideration when renting an apartment was price, I experienced an unnerving event. I emerged into the cold darkness of a very early November morning in a triumphant mood after a hard-won Call of Duty match to make a run to the local pharmacy for some snacks. At the bottom of the stairs was a young man hacking furiously at the shrubs with a machete. Since it was early for landscaping, I asked him what he was doing. He looked up at me with frightened eyes, then slid a hockey mask of the sort you find at costume stores down over his face, replied “nothing,” in a belligerent tone, then vanished into the woods, machete clutched in hand.
Needless to say, I reported this incident to the police, and when the apartment’s front office opened on Monday I informed them that I would be vacating the premises immediately due to this and other unusual events that had taken place on the property. These were events that could have been prevented by something as simple as a perimeter fence around the property to keep non-residents out. In this post, we’ll give some perimeter fence ideas for apartments in need of a security barrier.
Apartment Complexes Need Security
The mysterious machete man wasn’t the only odd incident that happened in that complex. My downstairs neighbor was arrested for breaking the washing machines in the laundry room while trying to steal quarters. When he was released, he broke the window to his apartment in order to retrieve his stuff, and the window remained broken for months. The day they finally got around to replacing it, I was awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of shattering glass. His daughter had broken it again to retrieve her stuff from the unit. I used my copies of the police reports from these two incidents to justify breaking my lease not long after, and never looked back.
Apartment complexes are ultimately temporary housing with a constant influx and outflow of people. Due to sheer numbers alone, not every tenant will be trustworthy, and some will be forced to vacate. At least a few of these are going to hold an unreasonable grudge against the complex and its management and might seek redress in the form of vandalism or theft. This can drive reasonable, paying tenants away from the complex. Fencing for a residential development helps keep former tenants out, preventing them from causing damage to property.
But a fence has another important purpose: to keep out people who don’t belong on the property. The machete man is an example of someone who doesn’t belong on the property. I don’t believe that he was doing anything beyond trying to spook people, but tenants should be defended from mischievous pranks as well as criminal intent. Failing to do so can prompt the flight of tenants, starting the complex on a downward spiral.
Perimeter Fence Ideas for Apartment and Townhouse Complexes
The first and foremost concern when choosing a fence is to secure the property from interlopers, but for apartment complexes which are always trying to bring in new tenants, looks are of equal concern. There are a few types of fences commonly available, but not all of them are equal in security, or in looks.
- Wooden fences score pretty highly in the looks department. They’ve been around for hundreds of years, and when people think “fence” this may be the first image that pops into mind. Security varies depending on the style of the fence. Wood privacy fences provide decent security, while low white picket fences are more likely to impede the landscapers than secure the property. The real issue with these is maintenance. Wood rots, cracks, and boards and rails often come loose. That means complexes which install these need to have a budget to maintain them, both for security and for looks.
- Chain link fences aren’t particularly good looking. They’re also climbable, which means they’re pretty lousy at securing property unless barbed wire is added to the top. However, this does nothing to improve their looks and is likely to be an active deterrent for potential tenants. The main advantage chain link fences have is that they’re very cheap.
- Perimeter sound walls are probably the ultimate in apartment security when built high enough. Not only do they secure an apartment complex’s perimeter, they also block noise from the surrounding streets. However, they’re quite expensive, to the point where they’re usually only found around the entrance of an apartment or where street noise is loudest. This is also the reason that they aren’t usually built high enough to double as a security wall. Chiefly, they’re built to dampen noise, but if heightened they can provide attractive and low-maintenance security if cost is not an issue.
- Steel fences occupy a good spot where security and appearance overlap. High steel fences are very secure, their pickets don’t provide easy footholds for climbing, and high, pointed finials make the final pull over the fence more difficult. The space between the pickets also provides visibility; you can see the stymied man holding a machete on the other side of the fence. Most manufacturers offer the option to purchase pre-made or custom steel gates to go along with a steel fencing system. And, if made by a quality manufacturer, they will last years with little to no maintenance. Their biggest drawback is their expense–steel fences are more expensive than other fencing, though cheaper than walls.
So what’s the best fence option for a residential complex? Well, a sturdy wall sounds pretty good. But while sound walls are durable, block noise, and secure the property well when they’re built high enough, they rarely are. This is because it’s expensive to build a cinder block or brick wall. A wall that is six feet high or more will need special footers and reinforcement with concrete and rebar at regular points to avoid toppling over. Occasionally, you will see faux versions of these walls built using lumber and stuccoed over to make them look like block walls. These faux walls have maintenance issues and will need to be replaced after a few years, at which point they will also have started to look shabby (a trait shared by wood fences). Chain link fences start off cheap, but as they are likely to deter all but the most desperate tenants from renting they come with an income penalty.
From a purely practical standpoint, steel fences are the wisest option. They provide attractive fencing that looks like wrought iron and secures property well. They are also cheaper than a sound wall, and in the long term are likely to be cheaper than a wood fence–with its maintenance requirements–or a chain link fence that deters renters. And although they do not dampen noise the way a solid surface does, most apartment complexes prefer the greater visibility offered by a wrought iron-look fence.
The V2 fence made by Fortress Fence is an excellent example of a steel fence system for apartments. This system is carefully-designed to stay not just functional, but beautiful, for decades. The steel used is pre-galvanized, then coated with an e-coat (to prevent rust) and a high-quality powder coat (to prevent rust, provide an attractive appearance, and to prevent UV damage). Security brackets will let you and your tenants feel confident about security, while a hidden pin system makes it easy to install on slopes. Fortress also makes the Estate Fence, which provides the privacy and sound deadening of a wall or wood fence with less expense than a wall and less maintenance than a wood fence. Innovative solutions to common problems are a hallmark of Fortress Building Products, from their fences to their virtually maintenance-free railings to their composite decking. If you’re looking to upgrade railings or decks in addition to your fencing, give Fortress a call.