Front Fence

December 9th, 2010

After we rehabbed the side yard fence I started to consider what could be done about the ugly broken down fences in the front yard. Unfortunately, these are not salvageable and whatever design is chosen it needs to be sympathetic to the slatted redwood screen, provide privacy, be easily DIY’d and be cheap.

While perusing RO/LU’s landscaping projects I stumbled on a fence idea that I enjoyed very much. It appears that they used 6×6″ posts that are held in place by 3/4″ steel rods with a spacer between. The things I love about this?

-No ugly side.
-Steel doesn’t rot.
-Easy to build. (I think).

This idea sort of fits all my criteria and could be adapted for the 16′ run on the side of the house, as well as a division between the cat neighbor and us. Hooray. Problem solved? Right?

Um. NO.

So, 6×6″ redwood is not what I would call standard in any way. I called around and got a quote for $126 for ONE ten footer. YIKES. Seeing as I needed 22, that’s almost 3K in just wood for one section of fence. No thanks.

Here are my three fence design ideas. Floating in spaaaacccceeee.

6×6″ option. I love you. You will not happen, unless someone has a clever idea about where to get 6×6″ redwood for cheap.

4×4″ option. Hmmmm. I am not loving you. I think you are too busy and I like the beefy of the 6×6″. You need 32 4×4″ posts plus 1/2″ spacers. You will cost something like $300.

1×12″ option. You were my very first idea. I liked you, I just did not like that you had an ugly side.

You need five 4×4″ posts to keep you in place and then they are all naked for the world to see. I got some quotes on you and you will be about $300 in materials.

What do you guys think? Remember, from our backyard we will see this:

Plus you will be really close to the fence while lounging in the stock tank pool. Also, we need privacy for swim time.

And the front will be important since it dictates the little side fence and will be the backdrop for our minimal landscaping and we got to show off that sexy sail.

Modern fences. Why must you be so complicated?

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  1. Isabelle on 12/09/2010:

    Would making a “hollow” / camouflage 6×6 version be an option? You could build it like the front porch system: 4×4 (or whatever) wooden posts – and tuck 6 inch wide planks against it from both sides (if you need the “nice” look also from the garden side. You could end the side with one of these posts, so that it will look solid and not “hollow”. Is it understandable what I am writing here? I am not English mother tongue ;-))
    BR from Isabelle in Zurich

  2. Isabelle on 12/09/2010:

    I just realized that what I am describing to you is already shown in the second pic that you posted …..

  3. danielle on 12/09/2010:

    have you tried looking into the costs of cedar? it’s really similar to redwood as far as durability but i believe it’s cheaper – comes in a reddish color though you could always stain it too. any decision you make will be great i’m sure, your blog makes me excited to have a house one day to fix up and rearrange!

  4. THE BRICK HOUSE on 12/09/2010:

    Isabelle, I could, but it doubles the material cost. That’s why I haven’t really seen it as a viable option yet. I could always add later.

    Danielle, we did the front screen in redwood and I am reticent to mix cedar in now. It has a Penofin clear stain and I want to keep them looking cohesive – especially since they are so close.

  5. GoVintage on 12/09/2010:

    Why don’t you change completely plan?
    Why don’t you abandon the nice, but expensive, wood option and don’t you consider an hedge?!

    Hedges don’t have ugly sides, normally, are cheaper, they give you privacy enough, easier to set up and you can surround your house with a green wall! 😀
    I think it could look even cosier…
    The only problem could be that need time to grow and cover properly…

    What do you think? 🙂


  6. Brismod on 12/09/2010:

    What would Blake Dollahite do?

  7. The brick house on 12/09/2010:

    Be cooler than me.

  8. sally ogilvie on 12/09/2010:

    What about a plain old chain link fence with some great vines growing all over it? I should say that may not be an option in your neck of the woods but we have done it at our place and as long as you pick the fastest growing vine you get good coverage in 3 – 6 months. Or even bamboo – ours fully screened out our neighbours in 1 year.

  9. lisa on 12/09/2010:

    What about using all 1x2s? You’ll need more but they’ll cost less.

  10. Kris on 12/09/2010:

    Option number two might actually look really good with the front privacy plank thingies, even if it does have an “ugly” side. Maybe you could paint the posts, that I presume would be poolside, in that dark almost black colour you painted the porch, and just make a feature out of them? Then again maybe not, but it’s a thought.

  11. J on 12/09/2010:

    I love the horizontol fence. When our fence (which was more dilapidated than yours) finally fell after one of the hurricanes, we built a horizontal one. It looks great, especially with our flat roof style house. I would eventually love to do a major overhaul of the front of the house, but you know…money. We’ve had neighbors stop us to ask us who did our fence. Just an FYI, it’s easier to climb then a regular fence. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  12. Tonia on 12/09/2010:

    You’re looking good, I like that idea that Lisa gives you seems to be a little bit more easier on the pocketbook.

  13. Gwen on 12/09/2010:

    Why not do 1×6, it will be much cheaper than 6×6 and really the “ugly” side isn’t bad. That is what I built my fence with and it really looks good on both sides.

  14. Jess on 12/09/2010:

    I think you should go the fence with the ugly side. Then on the ugly side plant something that will cover it, while providing some extra shade for when you’re in the pool!

  15. ModFruGal on 12/09/2010:

    The only part of the fence where the ugly side is an issue is the pool area, right? Splurge and double face just that side..and the ugly side on the rest goes to the cat creeps. Or, perhaps create a functional wall out of the ugly side for the pool..shelving and hooks for towels etc.. so it disappears? You’ll work it out..

  16. Nina on 12/09/2010:

    How about you use the same kind of material as on the front porch and instead of leaving a space inbetween you could put the wood on both sides – like one from the front and then right below one from the back, that way you practically cannot see through it, it doesn’t have an ugly side and it relates to the proch screen.

  17. erin@designcrisis on 12/09/2010:

    Ditto Modfrugal (she is so smart, you know). If you can’t double face and don’t want hooks, etc, then I would build some planters and plant bamboo in them to cover the ugly side. Just don’t put bamboo straight into the ground unless you want a panda bear forest in your backyard…

  18. Adrienne on 12/09/2010:

    Are Western Red Cedar fence posts not an option? Certainly cheaper than redwood, and I think probably easier to work with.

  19. Susan on 12/09/2010:

    Have a bake sale, raise the funds for the 6×6’s. They are stunning.

    Although, Modfrugal’s idea is quite nice.

  20. drea on 12/09/2010:

    how about a horizontal shadowbox fence….pretty on both sides, and would compliment the porch screen.

  21. Sophie on 12/09/2010:

    When I was growing up we had horizontal fences something like your 1 X 12 option. Except the slats were attached alternately on each side of the fence. The only example I can find is this one which is vertical, so you may have to use your imagination… Might be an option to consider…

  22. Sophie on 12/09/2010:

    Whoops, here’s the link

  23. Coletta on 12/09/2010:

    go for the least expensive option AND put the ugly side on your neighbors side. screw them and their cats! if they aren’t chipping in for it….then they get NO SAY and the ugly side!

  24. maya on 12/09/2010:

    i like the link DREA posted, it could be great looking with the front patio!

  25. becca on 12/09/2010:

    How about 4×6” installed like the 6×6? that wouldn’t be so busy but might be cheaper.
    If not, build an ugly-side- version, cover the ugly with bushes or a hedge… if you chose low plants you could still double down from the fence top, so you might not need so much planks. (does anyone understand what I want to say? Sorry if not, I’m also not a native speaker) For the neighbor side I could imagine a low brick wall, pained white to match the house.
    I really wouldn’t want to bring in another type of wood, maybe some more rusty steel could be a cool solution, too… certainly not cheap, I know

    I’m sure however you decide, it will turn out awesome 🙂
    greetings from snowy germany

  26. janine robinson on 12/09/2010:

    why don’t you put up that awesome 6×6 redwood fence along part (10′?) of your fence line–it would be like a giant sculpture/visual barrier,—and then continue “fence” on either side with plants (i have tons of bamboo and am doing the mid-century-junk-i think i’m turning japanese-look and LOVE it. we used “buddha belly,” a clumper that has cool bulging node things in the stalk.

  27. Jennifer on 12/09/2010:

    Do the cat creeps know you have a blog? I would like a cat creep guest post please. It would be hilarious.

  28. the vintage cabin on 12/09/2010:

    I’m kinda with Doei (aka GoVintage). Does it HAVE to be wood slats? You live in Cali-fuckin-fornia and you don’t want to use some sort of foliage as a fence? I know it doesn’t keep cats out and pervs can crawl through it when you’re naked in the pool and try to fondle you but i think a hedge, as boring as it sounds, could look awesome there. Of course, I’m thinking a well manicured, 6 foot wall style of hedge (you know how I feel about well maintained bushes). If you wanted, you could still have a cheap wood fence behind it that has the nice side facing the pool. Anyway, I know you hate this idea already and are cyber strangling me so I’ll shut up now. I just think that one slat wall is enough and another one may get TOO slatty, if you know what I mean. (wood whore).
    God bless you and your blog.

  29. mimosa on 12/09/2010:

    I’m with Doei too- go for a hedge..what about some yew? (podocarpus macrophyllus). It can be trimmed into a really clean straight wall. It’s hardy, evergreen and has a nice dark blue green color that would go well with your over all look.

    also have you checked out any of Luis Barragan’s landscape work? His clean lines and simplicity fit right in with your designs. I love his bold use of color too- if only I could get my neighbors on board with those fabulous concrete mustard walls of his…

  30. Stoney on 12/09/2010:

    You could make a planter box out of redwood horizontal planks that’s a good foot and a half high then fill it with clumping bamboo (it HAS to be clumping, otherwise it’ll bust out of the box and take over the yard. Clumping bamboo stays in place, just gets fatter at the base.)

    You’d have the wood to bring it all together and something green to shade/give privacy, and it would still be private in the winter.

    Or build a cement block wall and clad it in thin redwood strips to look like it’s the solid wood wall of your dreams?

  31. DelishMag Tamara on 12/09/2010:

    Good lord I agree.

    We are moving into our new home in one week – a place we have been pining over and trying to sell our house so we could move into it – then we did and now we have a world of similar design dilemmas. Starting with the fence. We’d like privacy, our pooch needs security, but we don’t have a ton of money and yet we want it to work with the aesthetic of the mid-century mod pad we bought and now need to rehab.

    If I come across any fence porn I’ll send you linkies.


  32. Gaidig on 12/09/2010:

    Like Becca, I don’t see any reason it needs to be 6×6, as long as the boards are 6″ in one direction. Obviously, 1×6 is too thin to to the floating system, but could you get 2×6? I would think that would be thick enough to put a metal connector and spacers between, though you would probably need vertical supports for the panels at the corners. See what your carpenter friend thinks is feasible.

    Also, I really like the fence Lisa linked to. A two sided fence with 1x boards on either side would certainly be cheaper than an all 6×6 fence, and the 1x1s at the top, above chest height, would reduce the cost further and tie it visually to the porch screen. If you just put one more large row on one side, it would stagger the smaller slats, lending more privacy.

    Finally, if you need to do a one sided fence for budget reasons, , while I like the ideas of clumping bamboo or making it intentional looking with hooks and shelving, why not just do it in stages? One side one year, and the other side the next year. If the inside of your porch screen doesn’t bother you too much, then the inside of your fence shouldn’t be too bad.

  33. Maya on 12/09/2010:

    Why no love for the 4×4? I think it works the best with the porch screen by far.

  34. romeoandjewels on 12/09/2010:

    We live in So Cal too – and used the super cheap cedar with dog ears for our horizontal fence!

    Lowes has nice straight ones for about $1.99 for a 1x6x6. We just cut off the dog ears (about 1/2 inch from the top) so that we had straight pieces. We then used Cabots stain for a dark brown look – but you could stain yours to match your existing slats. FYI – Get the lightest ones, those are the most dried out and won’t warp.

    We actually attached our directly to our ghetto-ass wrought iron fence – attaching the cedar vertically every 5 or so feet and then drilling the horizonal pieces onto it using spacers (1/2″ space). We get sooo many compliments on our fence and everything thinks we got it professionally done. We had about 120 feet of 4 foot fencing (darn corner lot!) to cover, so we definitely weighed out all the options and prices first.



  35. pam on 12/09/2010:

    How about corrugated metal, installed with the lines running horizontally? very cheap and you could do both sides (and use metal posts so they don’t ever rot at the bottom). Plus it’s a different material to add to your mix.

  36. Erin on 12/09/2010:

    I like the foliage folks idea. Can do really cool things with Espalier…plus it is fun to say. Oh…and second the bamboo warning…pot that stuff.

  37. jiye on 12/09/2010:

    Hi! I’m new here and just spent way too much time poring over all your archives. You have a beautiful home and I love all the unique pieces that tell stories or seem to anyway.


  38. The brick house on 12/09/2010:

    Shurbs need time to grow, I think we are doing shrubby things elsewhere, but we need privacy and dog security now. Plus it might look a bit strange with my desert landscape plans…

  39. Isabelle on 12/09/2010:

    Is it really reaching the same costs if you use wooden posts and add 1×6 or 2×6 planks on both sides?

    I think using bushes or whatever on the side of the pool would not change the costs of the wood much, would it – and wouldn’t be what you are looking for, is it?

    I am curious what you are coming up with in the end.

    Horizontal fences rock in any case. we are going to install a few ones next year in our garden when the snow has gone.

  40. Fiona on 12/09/2010:

    Lisa’s suggestion in the wood of your choice, no question, with modfrugal’s idea to double front only the side between your front and back yard. Because it’s got the lovely narrow horizontal slat thing your porch has but with a twist.

  41. Mr. Meadowbroke on 12/09/2010:

    How about you use the 1×6 redwood on the front- leaving a gap between the boards that is the same as the slats on the porch divider. With that large gap, it will not only be cohesive to the front, but also be less red wood. Then you can use horizontal cedar in the back the same way, but staggered so that it covers up the gap for swim time privacy fun. The cedar in the back will be much cheaper and will match the rest of the backyard fencing.

  42. pete on 12/09/2010:

    Great blog. Great comments. I built a deck last year and after reading this I wish I had had a blog to harvest ideas from. Have you thought about something like this?

    Tweaked for your needs…Maybe you could tie your desert plantings in, play with the rhythm laid out in your porch, create visual links to the front yard while still keeping privacy and security.

  43. Matt on 12/09/2010:

    This is great inspiration. I’m glad you’re doing the research… I need to work on some fence-action in the spring and I’ve been putting any planning off due to utter avoidance!

  44. Kate on 12/09/2010:

    After reading about 10 of your posts, I decided this the best blog I’ve ever read. Being an architecture student stuck in the crafty home-maker blog-world is fun for a while, but you’ve got it all. And you’re hilarious. Stay golden!

  45. DD on 12/09/2010:

    ***** Is this a dumb question?*******

    why can’t you build the 1 x 12 and also put planks on the ugly side? so it’s kind of like posts, with horizontal slats nailed to both sides? so there is no ugly side?

  46. The brick house on 12/09/2010:

    Doubles the cost…

    1×6″ might be the answer.

  47. Julie on 12/09/2010:

    I have a suggestion that may fit your requirements and I don’t believe it’s been suggested yet.

    – Finished on both sides
    – Easy DIY
    – Design that was common in 1950’s
    – Cheaper than it looks
    – Provides visual privacy, but allows air to circulate
    – May be too much texture for your location
    – Requires “clear” redwood boards that may increase the cost over standard “knotty” fencing materials

    (It’s #6 on this page for a bit more info on board dimensions:
    also take a look at #9 on this same page.)

    Note: I’m not sure why they encased steel posts in wood for the construction. I believe this fence can be built using standard vertical wood posts (4×4 or 6×6). Perhaps it’s cheaper to use the encased post technique, worth investigating as it doesn’t detract much from the look.

    If this style is too busy for you, then check out (#9 on the link above). It’s a Variation on the fence Drea linked & might be a great solution, especially if you could build it in a horizontal pattern rather than the vertical one pictured.

    As others have suggested, consider using 1×1 boards in your design to help integrate the fence with your porch screen. I’m sure you’ve already considered this, since you’re the designer!

    Really enjoy your blog. Thanks for all the eye candy, realistic DIY info, and motivation.

    Lisa, that fence you posted is gorgeous! If The Brick House can afford it they should do it. Pete’s suggestion is clever if privacy is less of an issue. Might consider something like that between the driveway and the breezeway to the garage for a future Brick House project.

  48. ricky on 12/10/2010:

    Not sure if this is cheaper, but what about a cinder block fence with a three 6×6’s on top. the rods can be put through the holes in the cinderblocks. The cinder blocks can be painted white and topped with 3 6×6’s. i think that would look AMAZING! just my humble opinion. Not sure if it is any more cost effective.

  49. Sanna on 12/10/2010:

    Have you thought about building a wall between the backyard and frontyard instead of a fence? Make it look the same as the exterior of the house. I live in Sweden and here we have something called leca-blocks which are cheap! You should have something similar, it’s like a concreteblock with a lot of air in it. Then build the fence between you and your neighbor and stick them with the ugly side. I think it would look great!

  50. Lisa on 12/10/2010:

    What a rad fence! It reminds me of this:

    You could just skip the steel bars and go for magnets instead. ; )

  51. Zero34 on 12/10/2010:

    as a mash up between this post and the previous one, have you thought about making it out of rammed earth and just using some 1×6 or 1×12 attached to the face of it? it would lack the space between them for light to get through, but it would give different textures on either side…

  52. christina on 12/10/2010:

    what about doing the 1×12 option with the pretty side facing your yard and the ugly side facing your neighbor’s yard. then, at some point, tier the 6′ height down to more like a 4′ height (perhaps 2 bays worth or something that seems reasonable for the scale of your yard) and double-clad this shorter “wing wall”? it will look beefy and lovely from the front/street side, will add a bit of interest as it increases in height, and hopefully your neighbor’s shrubbery will cover up the ugly side when it emerges from the 4′ span.

  53. Tami on 12/12/2010:
  54. Tami on 12/12/2010:

    Also stone-filled gabions:

  55. Joseph on 12/13/2010:

    I noticed in your previous posts you initially were thinking of extending the brick wall; if you have moved on from that, why don’t you continue the hot rolled steel planters into the front? You could vary the plantings to provide more/less privacy, and even sneak a little more greenery in.

    Another option would be the inspiration you posted from D-Crain (plant wall).

    Frankly, I wish there was a door/entry to the side yard from the front entrance (right near the house) – by extending and wrapping the front privacy fence and porch, you could have hidden the doorway/entrance.

  56. Bill on 12/14/2010:

    Check out this guys fence designs. There’s a couple of really inspired designs that look easy enough for a Carpenter Craig type person.

  57. Gwen on 12/14/2010:

    I did forget to mention, with the 1 x anything you will have to reinforce them vertically to prevent warping. This will make it a little busier on the back side. Something to keep in mind.

  58. redneckmodern on 12/14/2010:

    how handy are you with a table saw and dado? you could dado channels into a 4X4 post (3/4in deep, perhaps) and drop 1x8s into the channel and cap the top to prevent sway. or you could create your posts from a pair of 2X4s with a spacer in the center. using the right type of wood-glue and sealer would be essential, but possible:

  59. dantimdad on 12/16/2010:

    know anyone with a table saw?

    If so, here’s my idea:

    Buy 5/4 redwood deck boards. Have your friend bevel the edges at a 45. Assemble 5″x5″ “boxes” 10 feet long. You will have the look of a 6×6, less cost, less weight to move around and it’s easier to drill through than a 6×6 post.

    Just a thought…

  60. Lynn on 12/17/2010:

    I will be honest, I didn’t take the time to read the other 59 comments, so this may be a repeat… If I were building it, I would do the 1×12 slat (with ugly side in) and eventually add 1x12s to the ugly side to make it pretty when it was within the budget. 🙂 Have a great day- love the blog

  61. suzanne on 12/27/2010:

    we bought old heavy rusted corrugated metal and built the fence/wall so the corrugation ran horizonally. you could use steel or wood posts. you could also cap top and bottom with channel iron if you want a finished look. nice on either side.

  62. janine robinson on 01/01/2011:

    i keep thinking about your face. how weird is that? anyway, saw this on cool blog called studio g:

  63. liz on 01/07/2011:

    What about doing the 1×6 on the front side and a metal mesh on the back side. There are literally hundreds of options and could grow vines through it eventually. you could even do tension wires through the posts on the back side and grow vines through that.

  64. I just do not know if I should charge hourly or by the task? And also want to know if i can earn a living doing this? Doing houston wall repairs hand rails, ac cages,.

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