Good Fences, Good Neighbors: The Essentials of Fence Etiquette

Your fence is often the element that completes your yard. In the front, it adds boundaries and curb appeal. At the sides and back, it adds privacy, definition, and increased function. No matter the reason for installing your fence, part of your fence plan should include fence etiquette. You need to consider the impact your fence will have on the neighbors and the community.

Even though it is your property and you might like your fence to be a certain material and certain height, it’s good manners (and sometimes the law) to make sure you’re working with the needs of others who share your city block.

HOA and City Guidelines

You should be sure that your fencing company knows the necessary restrictions on fencing, including material and height, for your community.

For example, if your home is governed by a homeowner association, you might only be able to choose wooden, vinyl, or metal material or a certain style of fencing. There can also be height guidelines in HOA rulebooks to make a home look uniform with the rest of the street. If you were hoping to use chain link or a unique design, it’s especially important to check your HOA guide first.

Cities and towns can also have restrictions on residential fencing. On a corner lot, for example, you might not be able to install a fence right next to the street, as an opaque privacy fence could obscure visibility for traffic. It’s much less expensive to move or change a fencing material before it is installed, plus you avoid the chance of racking up pricey fines.

Finally, your fencing company should be able to help you have the right permits to build. Some communities require a permit to make any property changes, especially if those changes include digging holes or using heavy machinery. Your fence company will need to know about buried gas and power lines before digging post holes.

Property Boundaries

Another essential consideration of fence etiquette is making sure your property boundaries are correct. Fence disputes can become expensive and ruin your relationship with your neighbors. Before having your fence installed, have your property surveyed professionally to make sure you know exactly where the property lines are.

You should also check the property illustrations available in your abstract or on county tax documents if you are unsure about where your property line is. Even after you have the line marked, you should still bring the fence in a few inches just to be on the safe side.

Neighbor Concerns

Technically, you don’t have to inform your neighbor about your fencing choices, but it’s a good idea to discuss your fencing plans with them. There are a few reasons why getting neighborly input can be important, including the following.

Traffic and Construction Noise

During installation, there will be disruption and noise. If you need a lot of fencing material, the trucks to haul it in could be a nuisance for other neighbors, even if it’s only temporary. A simple warning and explanation can help curb neighbor complaints and annoyance.

Fencing Corroboration

When planning your fence, it’s a good idea to speak with your neighbors, as they might have fencing plans of their own. If you know what material they are planning on using and what style (especially if you share a property line), this could affect your decision for your own design.

Shared Costs

When you fence your yard, you often also fence a side of someone else’s. If both of you are planning to fence your yards, you might split the cost of the side you both share, thus reducing expenses for both parties.


Do you have any concerns about how your neighbors might treat your fence? For example, if your neighbors have several dogs and you get a wood fence, you might be concerned about the effect of dog urine on the finish of the shared fence. Talk about these concerns before making your final design choice.


Some fence materials require more maintenance, and on a shared fence, maintenance can be a two-way street. If you have to seal or paint your wooden fence, getting both sides taken care of may mean a trek into your neighbor’s backyard.

Trees and Cumbersome Landscaping

Sometimes, trees and shrubs can be located quite close to a fence. You might have a tree that hangs over into your yard but is actually on your neighbor’s property. Talk about who should care for the tree and whether or not you can cut back branches that might affect the fence finish or that might threaten the fence in the event of a storm.

Cooperation with your neighbors is not as essential as making sure you follow your town’s laws, but as far as good relations with your neighbors go, it could end up making the most difference.

For more information about fence etiquette and community guidelines, contact us at Carter Fence Co.

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