Fences and Hedges


What’s a fence for?

  • Barrier preventing access or escape (people, children, pets, pests)
  • Boundary marker (though often not an accurate one).
  • Safety - pool access for children, ie; out-swinging self-closing gate no less than 60”
  • But most important in terms of design
  • Theater curtain, backdrop, something that begins to tell and control the story. I don’t want the energy of your yard draining off into your neighbors yard. To whatever degree your neighbor’s home is in your home’s field of vision, you will be dependent on them to tell your story.

Speaking of neighbors …

  • Fences are most often shared (at least visually) and require good neighbor practices
  • Who owns it?
  • How's it look on their side?
  • Where is the Property line?
  • Who's paying?
  • Fences may also require a permit
  • Fence height and composition will also be subject to local ordinances. Sometimes you can build taller than you think. Sometimes not. Always check.

Fixing a fence

Every fence is three things:

  • Post holes
  • Frame (posts and rails)
  • Skin (slats)

Chances are there's something wrong with one of those components, but not all. i.e.: fix some slats, or remove sections of slats & rails to replace a post

Building New - Beware prebuilt fence sections … but you can find some great gate kits. Wood, Chain link, Metal or Vinyl? The most intimidating part of fences—the posts!

  • Post Holes - Depth? - ⅓ the height of the fence - 6' up means at least 2' down. Width?- 3x the post width for wood, or min. 8" wide for steel
  • Post hole digging - your greatest challenge
    • Handheld - if you want a workout
    • Rented auger - two man recommended
    • Have a breaker bar and shovel on hand
    • Distance your posts safely under the max length of your rail material (ie: 8’ rails = posts less than 8’ oc ) You can’t stretch wood!
    • Upside of replacing a chain-link fence ... maybe keep the posts
  • Post material
    • Pressure treated 4x4x8 - $8
    • Galvanized steel pipe or channels - $12—$30
  • Fill holes with …
    • Post hole cement (50lb. - $5)
    • Expanding foam ($12)
    • Dirt? … maybe
  • How do you make a fence line straight?
    • Set end posts first and use a string line (consumer laser levels won’t read in bright sun)
    • Set the string line away from post edges and measure to it
    • Plumb your posts (post level - $6), brace and pour
  • Gates
    • Pool safety requirements have changed greatly - check with your city
    • Otherwise it’s always a good idea for gates to …
      • open out
      • not be easily climbable
      • self close
      • latch no lower than 42” from ground
      • Bottom gap no greater than 4”
  • Hedges - 6 plants used to create privacy hedges in Southern California:
    • Ficus Nitida - fastest, tallest - 20’ - but invasive roots
    • Wax Leaf Privet or Texas Privet - 10’+, drought tolerant, least maintenance, non-invasive roots
    • Podocarpus gracilior “fern pine”
    • Bay Laurel
    • Carolina Cherry
    • Golden Goddess Bamboo (a clumping bamboo, not a spreading bamboo)

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images