7 Best Fencing Materials for Small Spaces

white colored wooden fence

The time has come to install a new fence, but you’re worried your outdoor space will feel too cramped. Whether you need to fence off a small yard, garden, or dog run, you should use the room you have wisely. So what are the best fencing materials for small spaces?

The best fence materials will make good use of your limited space. Whether you want functionality, space efficiency, or aesthetic appeal, you have several material options.

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7 Best Fencing Materials for Small Spaces

You can select a material based on curb appeal, cost, or functionality. For example, you’ll want a durable material if you have a dog to prevent them from breaking through and escaping. However, if you’re marking a garden bed, you may want something more decorative. Here are the most common fencing materials for small yards.

1. Wooden Fences

wooden picket fence
Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures

Wooden fences come in many shapes and sizes to suit your needs. Wooden fences add visual appeal and blend naturally with many styles, though you can always paint them to match your aesthetic. You also can pick from several types of wood. They’re suitable for front yards, backyards, dog runs, and garden fences.

Here are some popular wood fence styles: 

  • Picket fences
  • Lattice fences
  • Split rail fences
  • Privacy fences
  • Semi-privacy fences
  • Woven fences

While wood isn’t the thickest fencing material, it could still take up a fair amount of space. Choose a style like picket or rail if you want your yard to appear larger. Use privacy, semi-privacy, or woven styles to secure a dog or block the view. Remember that you’ll need to paint or stain the fence to prevent rotting, warping, and termite damage.

Wood Fence Cost: $14-$31 per linear foot

2. Vinyl Fences

white vinyl fence in yard of a house
Photo Credit: ghornephoto / Canva Pro / License

Vinyl or PVC fences are a popular alternative to wooden fences because they need less maintenance. They are more durable than wood but challenging to repair and customize after installation. This material isn’t just perfect for white picket fences; vinyl fencing comes in various colors and styles, such as:

  • Picket fences
  • Lattice fences
  • Rail fences
  • Privacy fences
  • Semi-privacy fences
  • Woven fences
  • Solid panel fences
  • Faux-stone fences
  • Faux-wood fences

Vinyl fencing takes up a similar amount of space as wooden fencing. While faux-stone vinyl fences may create your desired visual effect, keep in mind that they tend to be thicker than other types. 

Vinyl Fence Cost: $17-$38 per linear foot

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3. Metal Fences

Metal Picket fence
Photo Credit: Pxhere

Metal fencing is one of the best types for small yards since it doesn’t take up much space. It’s also one of the best dog fence types since it’s difficult to break or dig under. Most metal fences aren’t private, but you can install slats into a chain-link fence to block prying eyes.

Pick between iron, aluminum, and steel for your fence. Want a splash of color? Paint it any color you like, or stick to classic silver or black. You’ll have many styles to choose from, including:

  • Chain-link fences
  • Wrought iron fences
  • Aluminum picket fences
  • Wire fences

While chain-link fencing is a doable DIY project, wrought-iron and aluminum fencing can be difficult and costly to install. Metal fences are low-maintenance but susceptible to rust in moist climates and coastal areas. To avoid that issue, get an aluminum picket or chain-link fence — aluminum is naturally resistant to rust.

Cost: 

4. Masonry Fences

masonry fence
Photo Credit: Pxhere

While a full-blown masonry fence might be too big for your small outdoor space, small masonry fences could look good lining your garden. If security is a big concern, a tall masonry fence would stop most dogs and grant complete privacy.

Masonry material options include:

  • Bricks
  • Stones
  • Concrete blocks
  • Cinder blocks
  • Stucco

Don’t install a large perimeter masonry fence unless you’re committed; they’re practically permanent and hard to remove once installed. Consider whether sacrificing the space is worth the benefits.

Since masonry fences vary in height and width, we’ve given the cost in square feet instead of linear feet.

Masonry Fence Cost: $10-$80 per square foot

5. Bamboo Fences

A bamboo fence of a lawn.
Photo Credit: winnond / Canva Pro / License

Do you want a natural fencing option that isn’t wood? Bamboo may be the answer. Bamboo fences come in many forms, including:

  • Picket fences
  • Lattice fences
  • Rail fences
  • Privacy or semi-privacy screens
  • Woven fences
  • Living fences

Living bamboo hedges can be relatively thin, but they’re also prone to spread rapidly. Only plant live bamboo if you’re willing and able to spend time controlling it. 

Bamboo picket, lattice, rail, and woven fences are best for gardens. Bamboo fencing isn’t always the most secure type for dogs. However, quality bamboo fences can be quite sturdy and suitable to contain children and pets.

Bamboo Fence Cost: $3-$6 per linear foot

6. Living Fences

Living fence
Photo Credit: Lusi Lindwurm / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Bamboo isn’t your only living fence option. Shrubs, hedges, trees, and cacti can create a natural, attractive barrier in your yard. We wouldn’t generally recommend living fences for small yards since they take up a lot of space. However, if you want to have plants in your yard anyway, a living fence could serve two purposes.

 Here are the best living fence plants:

  • Boxwood
  • Lilac
  • Forsythia
  • Holly
  • Euonymus
  • “Green Giant” arborvitae
  • Yew
  • Weeping willow
  • Juniper
  • Leyland cypress
  • Japanese laurel
  • Cactus

Living fences aren’t well-suited for garden or pet fencing but create beautiful borders for front and backyards. Only choose this option if you’re willing to sacrifice a little space for some greenery.

Living Fence Cost: Varies by plant species. Visit your local nursery to see what suits your budget and local climate.

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7. Recycled Material Fences

Recycled fence
Photo Credit: Pxhere

If you want to make a statement with the bit of space you have, recycled fencing will do the trick. This option also can be relatively cost-effective, depending on the materials used.

Here are some creative recycled fence ideas:

  • Driftwood
  • Sticks
  • Bottles (plastic or glass)
  • Surfboards
  • Old doors
  • Window frames
  • Pallets

Recycled fencing is primarily a decorative option rather than a practical one. Collecting and arranging materials may take time, and they likely won’t be as structurally sound as traditional fencing. However, you could use traditional fencing as a base to attach recycled materials. 

This option is perfect for lining garden beds (as long as they don’t need protection from wild animals). However, it isn’t ideal for dog runs. Even if you find a tall or sturdy material, it’s not built to keep animals in or out and could have holes or cracks. 

Cost: Varies by material and how you acquire it. Check local regulations to see if there are any rules around salvaging materials. Here are some ways to find supplies:

  • Reuse materials from old projects or your recycling bin for free
  • Browse secondhand marketplaces and neighborhood groups
  • Ask local contractors if they have scrap materials from demolition or remodeling projects
  • Search for recycling organizations in your area

What Makes a Fencing Material Good for a Small Space?

If you know what features to look for, it will make your fence search that much easier. Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • What is your fence for? Is it for a front yard, backyard, garden, or dog run?
  • Do you want your yard to feel open or cozy?
  • Do you have a minimalist or maximalist style?
  • Do you need privacy or security?

Every homeowner’s small space is different. What one person likes in their small yard may be utterly unappealing to another. With that said, let’s dive into the factors that help maximize your space.

Color

Color can affect the way you perceive an area. Here’s how various colors could enhance your yard:

  • Light colors will open up a space and a good choice if you want your small space to feel bigger. Want to embrace the size? Create a cozy and intimate space with dark or natural colors. Stain a wooden fence for a lovely natural or rustic atmosphere. 
  • Natural colors can make fences disappear or look less harsh. If you’re installing a garden fence or dog run, you may not want it to stand out too much. Green and brown fences blend into the landscaping and harmonize with your yard’s natural elements. Match the color of whatever’s behind your fence for the best effect.
  • Bright colors, patterns, and murals make things pop. This color could turn a small, boring yard into a bright and cheery area. You don’t need tons of space to create a beautiful painting. Paint trees, flowers, animals, people, or abstract designs. You could even paint a landscape to make it look like your yard extends farther than it does.

Vinyl, composite, and vinyl-coated chain-link fences come in several colors, so choose your preferred color from the start if you don’t want to paint it later. 

Thickness

When working in a small space, you want every inch you can get. A thick fence will take up more space than a thin fence. That rules out some materials like masonry fencing. That’s not to say you can’t use them, but understand that they’ll make your space smaller. 

Thin fencing materials include:

  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Composite
  • Metal
  • Bamboo 

Thick fencing materials include:

  • Masonry
  • Faux masonry
  • Hedges or living fences

Design

Like height, your fence style can make your yard feel closed off or open. Open fence designs are perfect for making your yard look bigger. 

However, that doesn’t mean privacy fences are bad. Sometimes you need to obscure the view or make it harder for people and animals to get into your yard. Choose a color and thickness that makes things feel open or cozy, depending on your preferences. If you don’t mind small gaps in your fence, a semi-privacy design will provide more openness and light.

Open fence designs:

  • Picket
  • Lattice
  • Rail
  • Chain-link
  • Wire

Private and semi-private fence designs:

  • Solid panel
  • Board on board (horizontal or vertical boards)
  • Semi-privacy (horizontal or vertical boards)
  • Woven

How To Make Your Yard Look Bigger

Fences aren’t your option to make your outdoor living space look bigger. Here are some guides for landscaping specific areas:

Add small plants: When landscaping any yard, scale is vital. Large trees, bushes, and shrubs can make your small space feel cramped. Focus on small and medium plants to add greenery. You should also limit yourself to a smaller lawn. While it may seem counterintuitive, you’ll have more space for a patio, garden, or other landscaping features.

Layer your landscape: Layers also make your space seem larger. Install a stepped garden, and add a waterfall fountain for a touch of elegance. This ample vertical space will allow you to see more of your garden at once and provide a beautiful view through your window or from your patio. A trellis or vertical garden also can add greenery while not occupying too much space. 

Install dual-purpose features: If you have a patio, choose two-in-one furniture when possible. Chairs and tables with storage in them will save space. Look for existing seating and surface opportunities, such as tree stumps and short retaining walls.

Section your yard: Splitting your yard into “rooms” or sections can make it feel bigger. Leave out gates to make the space feel more open while still separate. However, don’t clutter your outdoor area too much. Too many decorations, plants, and furniture pieces can reduce your space.

Let the light shine: Good lighting can be the final touch to make your space feel bigger. Allow as much natural light into your yard as possible by trimming or removing shady plants and using light, reflective colors for your decor. Install lighting around the perimeter of your yard so that shadows don’t swallow the corners at night.

FAQ About the Best Fencing Materials for Small Spaces

What is the least expensive fencing material?

Wire is the cheapest fencing material at $1-$4 per linear foot. Bamboo also can be affordable at $3-$6 per linear foot. Want a more traditional fencing material? Chain-link and wooden fences are the most commonly recommended budget materials at $12-$33 and $14-$31 per linear foot, respectively.

What type of fence has the least maintenance?

Vinyl is the lowest-maintenance fence type. No rust, rot, termites, or repainting help these fences stand out. However, they can become brittle over time and be trickier to repair than wood. You’ll still need to clean them to keep them looking their best.

What can I put up instead of a fence?

Living fences are a great option if you don’t want a traditional fence. You also can use free-standing lattice panels with or without plants. If you don’t need privacy or security, a decorative rock border will mark property lines while still looking stylish.

When to Hire a Pro

Many fence installations are DIY-friendly. Buy fence panels or pickets from your local home improvement store and build the custom fence of your dreams. 


However, you may struggle to decide what’s best for you with many options. Some materials are hard to work with (or just plain heavy). That’s where a fencing pro near you can help. They can advise you, give quotes, and build whatever fence you like.

Got fence questions? We’ve got answers… Find a fencing pro near you

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Lauren Bryant

Lauren Bryant is a freelance writer currently based in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys long walks and baking in her free time. She understands how essential fences are for privacy and safety and is most interested in long-lasting solutions.