Do fences make good neighbors?

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Do fences make good neighbors?

No, we’re not going to quote Robert Frost here, but we are going to talk about fences. For homeowners seeking a little more privacy or to keep children and animals in (or out), we’ll discuss when you can and cannot put up a fence and the best materials to use for your construction.  

”There’s definitely a lot to think about when you’re installing a fence,” declares Bethany Gonzales, the third generation working at a local fence company founded by her grandparents. Her father is Joe Phillips, who operates as Joe Phillips Fence in Madison as well as Charlottesville Fence Company. Says Gonzales with a chuckle, “I do everything but install the fences.”

Before you even start shopping for a fence, she recommends checking with your local zoning and planning agency to see if there are specific rules on fences. In addition, many homeowner associations have bylaws dictating height, materials, and locations.

“If you’re close to a road, especially on a corner,” Gonzales continues, “you can’t do a solid fence that would hide traffic. You even have to plan about where the plow might push the snow.”

Once you’ve decided to go ahead, it’s time to consider the kind of fencing you want. Nowadays fences are made from a variety of materials and can be installed at any height, although four feet or six feet are pretty standard.

*Chain link is durable and provides security by keeping animals and children in. (Or, in some cases, keeping them out.) Some chain link is vinyl coated and slats can be used to add privacy. While chain link is often the most cost-effective, many people find it institutional in appearance and prefer more attractive boundaries around their homes.

*Wood is classic, whether as a decorative picket fence, post-and-rail installation, or a solid stockade fence. Wood can be stained or painted to compliment the property. More expensive than chain link, but a handy homeowner can usually install a wooden fence.

*Vinyl fencing comes in a variety of colors and in styles similar to wood including pickets, panels, or rails. More expensive than wood, but it’s durable and maintenance free.

*Aluminum can be manufactured to look like traditional wrought-iron fencing complete with ornamental gates. It comes in a variety of colors and it’s low maintenance and durable. The cost is comparable to vinyl.

Once, you’ve chosen your fence, Gonzales says, “surveys are definitely a good thing to have when you have a small lot to be sure the fence is on your own property.” With a large property a survey isn’t so important, she says, because you can easily build the fence inside the property line.

She also suggests consulting with neighbors if the fence will be between your properties.

”A lot of times I recommend that they write something up or at least have a verbal agreement in case there are any damages to property when putting up the fence,” she says. She adds that neighbors will often share the cost, but not always.

And of course Gonzales has a fence. “I’m working weekends on my own fence,” she says. “It’s aluminum across the front so that’s prettier where people can see it. I’m doing a post-and-wire in the back which is more cost effective and almost invisible against the landscape.”

Invisible Fences keep pets at home

“To keep my dogs safe and from wandering, I chose to put an invisible fence around the entire perimeter my property,” says REALTOR® Sara Greenfield, Associate Broker for RE/MAX Realty Specialists and Principal Broker for Charlottesville Fine Homes and Properties. “They learned that going past it was not a good option, although I must say that if the collar battery is low it’s not as effective.”

Greenfield, who lives in Albemarle County, suggests plantings along an invisible fence line as an additional visual reminder. “I have bayberry plants, and trees close to my line,” she says. “Invisible fences are not inexpensive, but they work. The Invisible Fence Company here in town installed mine and they do a good job of warranting their work.”

Fences Are a Must for Pool Safety

Pool and Spa owners are required by law to install a childproof barrier at least five feet from the edge of any in-ground, on-ground, or aboveground pool or hot tub that can hold water more than two feet deep. There may be additional specific requirements which can differ from one jurisdiction to another regarding pool alarms, self-latching gates, and other safety features.

General fencing requirements are:

*Fence must be at least 4 feet tall.

*No more than a 2-inch gap below the fence.

*Openings must be small enough that a 4-inch sphere cannot pass through.

*The fence can have no decorations that could be used to climb over it.

*The maximum mesh for a chain link fence is 1¼ inches.

Glenn Pribus lives with his wife in Albemarle County near Charlottesville.

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