Projects & Inspiration

What is Proper Fence Etiquette?

July 24, 2019

Posted by Ashley VanderWall

Often, when you’re putting up a fence, you’re impacting a neighbor. Practicing proper fence etiquette will help ensure the experience is a positive one for both you and your neighbor. Read on to learn four important fence etiquette tips.

Fence etiquette tip #1 - Know your property lines

Before embarking on your fence project, confirm your property lines. Check your house’s plat or get it surveyed if you’re unsure. This will eliminate future headaches and help you avoid a potential boundary dispute.

It’s standard to install your fence at least 6 inches inside your property line (or as required by local ordinances).

For more information on fence preparation, check out How to Survive your First Fence Install.

Fence etiquette tip #2 - Communicate with your neighbors

Although you may not be required to, it’s a good idea to discuss plans with any neighbors along your proposed fence line before starting your project. It’s courteous, and you could eliminate any frustration or dispute that could happen during construction. And it could save you some money - if you're building a boundary fence, your neighbor may be willing to split some of the cost.

Fence etiquette tip #3 - Give your neighbor the “good side”

Many traditional fence styles have a “good side” and a back side. The back side shows the posts and backer rails, while the "good side" shows the full, finished fence style.

Back side, showing posts and backer rails
Good side, free of backer rails

If you’re putting up a fence with backer rails, you should face the “good side” toward your neighbor. It’s the polite thing to do. It’s also the standard. Your fence would look backward if you faced the “good side” in.

Do you want your share of the "good side", or are you splitting the cost of the fence with your neighbor and need to compromise? One option – you can alternate which way the panel faces. This gives you and your neighbor equal share of the good and the not-as-pretty.

The other option is to install a neighbor-friendly fence.

What is a neighbor-friendly fence?

A neighbor-friendly fence, sometimes called a good neighbor fence, describes a fence style that looks the same on both sides. While traditional fences have a “good side” and a back side, a good neighbor fence provides both neighbors with an equal view.

The most common neighbor-friendly fence design is a Shadowbox, pictured below. This fence style provides some privacy while allowing some flow of air and light.


Other good neighbor fence styles include:

Closed good neighbor fence
Modern horizontal

Are you stick-building a fence? You can build a good neighbor fence with individual components. Choose a fence design that eliminates the backer rails and can be installed between the posts.

Fence etiquette tip #4 - Maintain your fence

Proper fence etiquette doesn’t end after the fence is installed. It’s important to maintain your fence to ensure it looks good and performs well for years to come. A decrepit fence is an eyesore and can negatively impact home values.

Not sure how to maintain a wood fence? Check out our maintenance plan here!

A note about fence laws

This article is specific to fence etiquette, not specific regulations. It’s important to understand all state laws and local ordinances before embarking on your fence project. There are no state laws regarding fence aesthetics. However, local ordinances and CC&R’s may regulate that. Some states do have laws surrounding the installation of a fence on a boundary line.


Ready to start that fence project? Check out our complete line of wood fence products!