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The Home Depot

Fence Etiquette for You and Your Neighbors

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Fence > Fence Etiquette for You and Your Neighbors
Fence Etiquette for You and Your Neighbors

There are many old bromides concerning fences. The guy who came up with Babe Ruth’s nickname – Sultan of Swat – also said, “A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't climb over it.”


Knowing about your city’s zoning regulations and property lines are the first pieces of fence etiquette you should practice. Armed with that information, those two tidbits will keep you legal, both with next door neighbors and local leaders.

  1. A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't climb over it.

    1.Property Lines

    It’s just a common courtesy to talk to your neighbors before erecting a fence. You don’t have to give chapter-and-verse of your plans. Just keep them abreast of the fact that you’re going to be doing some construction on your property.


    Another way to ensure that no one’s toes get stepped on, when you begin measuring for the fence, put it a-foot-or-two inside your known property lines. A couple of things occur when you take this approach: You’ve solved any property dispute issues and you’ve just made sure that the neighbor cannot legally put anything up against their side of the fence.

  2. 2.Local Regulations And HOA Rules

    Regulations vary from town-to-town. There are threads that somewhat run through most local laws. For example, just about every city has a rule pertaining to front yard fences; limiting their height to 4-feet. For backyards, law generally dictates that the fence must be 6-feet or less high.


    Don’t want to follow the rules? Petition your local zoning board for a variance.


    Members of Home Owner Associations (HOA) have their own set of rules. For continuity sake, a HOA may require that any new fences constructed be colored white. Some may not allow a fence of any type be erected. Check their regulations before placing anything permanent on your property.

  3. 3.Ugly Materials

    How would you feel if your neighbor were to construct a fence around their property, then painted the side that you looked at with disturbing images? Get the point? What you may think is fun could really upset the next person.


    Some homeowners likewise figure that since they’re shelling-out the money to erect the fence, they should be able to look at the best side when finished.


    Practicing fence etiquette would tell you that the rail-side should be on the inside.


    Being a good neighbor means that you might consider something like a cedar fence that looks the same on both sides. Once in place, you can decorate your side of the fence with whatever your heart desires.


    A smart rule-of-thumb is remembering that a fence adds a high return on investment if you were to sell your house. Matching your design with the predominant look of other fences in the area makes good neighborly sense.

  4. 4.Maintenance

    More likely than not, the law requires that you take care of both sides of your fence. The hands-down easiest materials to keep clean are vinyl fencing. A medium-pressure hosing every couple of months should do the trick with plastics. A higher maintenance fence is made of wood. They’ll generally need to be cleaned and resealed every 3-years or so.


    Making your fence pleasing to look at will usually disarm a neighbor who might be thinking of complaining. It may be your fence, but if it’s attractive, it becomes a feature of your entire neighborhood.

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