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Friday, October 21, 2016

Fencing for a Residential Development: Choosing Materials Based on Value

You’ve probably been involved with a few housing development projects that slapped standard wooden security fencing up around its boundaries as quickly as possible. It’s a standard move because it uses easy-to-find materials and isn’t expensive. At the same time, though, I’ve seen a few of these wooden privacy fences that decayed and threatened to fall apart as soon as 3 years after installation.

When it comes to restoring and maintaining fencing for a residential development, keeping up the shared exterior walls often falls on the developer, particularly if the neighborhood has an HOA. In other cases, maintaining the fence may fall on individual homeowners. In either case, installing a quality fence is a good investment, whether it’s to save the HOA on repair and maintenance costs or to attract high-quality residents. Whatever the case, people always enjoy getting good value for their money, and in my experience, some types of fences tend to deliver a whole lot more value than others. Here’s a breakdown of residential fencing materials and their characteristics.

Best Fencing Materials for Security

Sometimes security is a big concern. When that’s the case, it makes a big difference which material you choose.

  • Wood: If you’ve ever worked on a development, you probably have the stats for wooden fences down. They’re the go-to choice because they’re sturdy, inexpensive, and their 6-8 foot height provides some security. While they can be scaled, very often a simple wood fence is enough for residential security needs. The only drawback to this type of fence is that it doesn’t offer visibility, which can be helpful in some areas.
  • Brick and Masonry: Brick and masonry walls are strong and not easy to damage or break through. While they can be scaled in some cases, making sure the bricks are flush with the mortar and finishing the wall with a coating can eliminate toeholds. Adding spikes or steel finials at the top of the wall can also maximize their security value.
  • Steel: Steel fences, specifically rail and picket fences, offer excellent visibility. This is obviously a drawback in some situations but is a desirable security feature around sensitive areas like exits and entrances, where it discourages casing and loitering. While the rails can make for good toeholds, designs which place them low to the ground and near the top aren’t easy to climb, especially when the pickets are topped by sharp finials. For this reason, they also make great gated community fences as well.

Best Fencing Material for Privacy

Most homeowners are looking for privacy, and many developments are placed on flat farmland or have had most of the trees taken down during the building process. During the time it takes for trees and shrubs planted by developers and homeowners to mature, the development often needs something else to block lines of sight. This is one of the primary reasons why wooden privacy fences and 6-foot masonry walls are so popular in newer developments, especially when facing busy roads. The biggest drawbacks to wooden fences are the maintenance and the appearance (especially after a few years of wear and tear), while masonry walls can be expensive to install. In my experience, when there is ample foliage on the edges of the community or there aren’t busy roads to take into consideration, steel fencing paired with fast-growing shrubs or with wooden or composite infill boards performs just as well.

Getting the Most Value out of Fencing for a Residential Development

Whether it’s the value that comes from easily attracting residents, keeping ongoing maintenance costs low, or from better resale value, some walls and fences pay off more than others. There are two qualities that really make a difference when it comes to this value.

  • Beauty: For higher-end developments, beauty is the quality that really differentiates the good from the great. While beauty may very well be in the eye of the beholder, there are very few who think a wooden security fence has the same elegance as an ivy-covered brick wall or a jet black steel fence topped with ornamental finials. A high-end development really begs for a frame as beautiful as the homes within it.
  • Durability: Over the years I’ve found failing wooden fences to be too common a phenomena to recommend wood for durability. Stone and brick, when used skillfully, are about as durable as boundary walls come, and if that’s all that matters to an HOA or developer, that’s what I often recommend. But if cost, simplicity to install, and having a line of sight are also important, a virtually maintenance-free black steel fence is always my product of choice. While traditional steel and iron fencing was too prone to corrosion to be considered particularly durable, new versions of steel fencing protected by several advanced UV- and moisture-resistant coatings are as long lasting as any material, and as such, I’ve found steel to be one of the best fences for resale value.

 In my experience, high-quality developments that easily attract and retain residents don’t cut corners, even when it comes to fencing. They choose beautiful and durable materials that will stay that way for many years. Wooden privacy fences are a quick and easy go-to, offering a baseline level of security and privacy, but they can’t match up to masonry or steel in terms of beauty and durability.

In my experience, classic black steel fencing from a good manufacturer is usually the most beautiful, durable, and hassle-free choice. It doesn’t require maintenance, keeps trespassers out, looks great in almost any context, and is simple to install. Fortress Building Products produces an unusual series of steel fencing products that are protected by several coatings: a zinc precoat, an e-coat that resists moisture, and a powder coat that protects the steel from UV damage. With the help of these coatings, Fortress fencing can stay beautiful, maintenance-free, and safe for much longer than other fencing. While Fortress is a great place to begin fencing research, they also produce a wide range of other building materials that are worth looking into, like railing, decking, and powder-coated hardware.


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