Guide to Fence Types, Uses and Costs

colorful fence of a house

Remember when Tom Sawyer tricked his friends into painting Aunt Polly’s fence for him? Fencing has come a long way since then. You can now find fences in dozens of styles and colors, many of which don’t need painting. We’re here to help you navigate your new fence installation with this guide to types of fencing and their uses.

What Do You Want out of Your Fence?

If you’re looking to fence your backyard, you probably want privacy. You may also need to protect a pet or little one from escaping while they play outside. Maybe you need a fence to keep unwanted guests out of the new swimming pool.

For front yard fencing, you’ll want something different altogether. The front of your house is all about curb appeal, so you’ll want to choose a decorative fence that complements your landscape. Some types of fences can give you the aesthetic look you want while adding an extra layer of security to your home.

Before you start your fencing project, make sure to check your city and county’s fencing ordinances. You may need a building permit. Your homeowners’ association may also have restrictions on the types of fencing allowed and where you can build it.

10 Types of Fences

1. Wood fence

Photo Credit: zeevveez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Uses: Wood fences come in a diverse range of styles that can serve as privacy fences, security fencing, and landscape decoration. Ornamental picket fences are common for front yards. Board-on-board, stockade, dog-ear, and horizontal slats are all popular styles for backyard privacy.

Advantages: Wood is one of the cheapest materials, and it’s one of the easiest types of fences to build on your own. That allows you to save money on installation. With proper care, a wooden fence can last for the lifetime of your home.

Disadvantages: Wood is susceptible to rot, pests, water damage, and warping. You’ll have to power wash, repaint or restain your wood fence every two to three years to help avoid these problems.

Cost of wood fencing: $14-$31 per linear foot

2. Wrought iron fence

Photo Credit: Needpix

Uses: Wrought iron fences are primarily decorative, and they come in any design you can imagine. If you include spiked railheads or similar features, they can also provide security. These types of fences are best for front yards since they don’t provide much privacy in the back.

Advantages: The main draw of wrought iron fencing is its durability. With proper care, wrought iron will last many years. These types of fences are also customizable, and easy to match to your landscaping.

Disadvantages: Most wrought iron fences are custom-built, so they can get quite expensive. They’re also susceptible to rust and need a fresh coat of primer every five years.

Cost of wrought iron fencing: $26-$34 per linear foot

3. Aluminum fence

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Uses: Aluminum fences are similar to wrought iron fences in that they come in many different colors and styles. Some are purely ornamental, while others provide security. These types of fences are good for front yards or backyards depending on the style, and they’re popular choices for pool fences.

Advantages: Like wrought iron, aluminum fencing is customizable. Unlike wrought iron, though, aluminum doesn’t rust, so it doesn’t require much maintenance. It’s also less expensive.

Disadvantages: Aluminum is weaker than wrought iron, so it’s more likely to be damaged in severe weather.

Cost of aluminum fencing: $19-$76 per linear foot, depending on size, height, style, and color of your fence.

4. Vinyl fence

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Uses: Vinyl is excellent for privacy fences, picket fences, and split-rail fences. It can also be good for security, landscape decoration, pool fencing, and pet fencing. Vinyl fencing is perfect for the front or backyard.

Advantages: Vinyl fences are durable and long-lasting and often come with a lifetime warranty. While vinyl itself is more expensive than some fencing materials, it usually comes in easy-to-install panels, so you don’t have to hire a contractor. Vinyl is low-maintenance and stays in prime condition for years with only occasional washing.

Disadvantages: The only significant downside to installing a vinyl fence is the high price tag.

Cost of vinyl fencing: $17-$38 per linear foot

5. Composite fence

Photo Credit: Achim Raschka / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Uses: Solid panels provide privacy, security, and safe containment for pets and children. Because composite fencing is typically tall and blocks views, it’s better for backyards than front yards.

Advantages: The material consists of a durable mix of plastic, resin, and wood pieces. It comes in different colors and designs that look like natural wood, but without the vulnerability to pests and rot. Manufacturers also make composite fencing that looks like natural stone. These types of fences are low-maintenance and require only occasional spraying with water to look their best.

Disadvantages: Their high quality and durability make composite fences more expensive than some options. They’re also difficult to install, so you’ll likely have to hire a fencing contractor.

Approximate cost of materials: $15-$45 per linear foot

Photo Credit: Needpix

Uses: A chain-link fence adds an extra level of security to your front or backyard. This type of fence keeps wild animals off your property and mischievous pets or children inside. While the open design doesn’t provide much privacy, you can purchase attachable plastic privacy slats separately. You can also add a barbed wire top for extra security.

Advantages: Chain-link fences are affordable and easy to install as a DIY project. They’re also durable and maintenance-free.

Disadvantages: Most homeowners agree that chain-link doesn’t add visual appeal to a landscape. Another issue? If you buy material without a protective coating, the metal can corrode.

Cost of chain link fencing: $12-$33 per linear foot. Higher prices apply only to tall, thick-gauge high-security chain-link fencing.

7. Bamboo fence

Photo Credit: Pixy

Uses: You can build a bamboo fence one of two ways: by growing live bamboo in clumps or by purchasing rolled bamboo fence panels. People typically use either type of bamboo fencing for privacy in the backyard.

Advantages: Environmentally conscious homeowners will be happy to hear that bamboo is an especially eco-friendly fencing option. It’s also super cheap and easy to install, so this is another money-saving choice. Most bamboo fences cost $12 – $23 per linear foot.

Disadvantages: Bamboo is one of the most invasive plants on the planet. Live bamboo will take over your yard, and quickly spread into your neighbor’s property. And since bamboo is another type of wood, it’s susceptible to rot and pests (especially roaches). If you use rolled bamboo panels, you’ll have to apply a protective coating and install them a few inches above the ground to avoid rot.

Approximate cost of materials: $3-$6 per linear foot

8. Masonry fence

Photo Credit: Needpix

Uses: Stone, brick, stucco, or concrete fences boost curb appeal and increase a home’s security. If you build them high enough, they can also create private outdoor spaces. Low, decorative masonry fences are perfect for complementing your front yard landscaping, while taller versions are great for the backyard.

Advantages: If installed correctly, a masonry fence will stand the test of time and weather with little maintenance.

Disadvantages: A high-quality stone fence is by far the most expensive option. The materials themselves are pricey, and they require professional installation.

Approximate cost of materials: $10-$80 per square foot (price varies based on the quality of the stone and the thickness of the fence)

9. Wire fence

Image Credit: Ceyockey / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Uses: Hog wire works well as a garden fence. It keeps animals out of your vegetables, flowers, and other plants. You can also use wire fencing for small pets.

Advantages: Hog wire fencing is cheap and easy to install yourself. Aside from small repairs, your wire fence will be maintenance-free.

Disadvantages: Many homeowners find wire fencing unflattering visually. It’s definitely a practical fencing option rather than an aesthetic one.

Approximate cost of materials: $3-$5 per linear foot

10. Electric fence for dogs

Photo Credit: Kurt Sebastian / Pixabay / License

Uses: An electric fence involves an underground boundary that activates a receiver in your dog’s collar. It’s good for keeping your pets in the yard without ruining your surrounding view. Electric fences can cover an area of any shape or size, so you can install one in the front yard, backyard, or both.

Advantages: Electric fencing is cheaper and easier to install than some fences and it won’t get it in your way or obstruct your view.

Disadvantages: Electric fencing will keep your pets in your yard, but it WON’T keep other animals out. Wild animals such as raccoons or coyotes can still get onto your property, leaving your pet with no way to escape them. And since they’re powered by electricity, invisible fences stop working if the power goes out. The static shock used to keep your dog from crossing the boundary can also have negative side effects.

Cost of electric fencing: $1.75 to $2.75 per linear foot (depending on the size of your yard and how many dogs or other outdoor pets you have.)

FAQ About Types of Fences and Their Uses

1. What is the cheapest type of fencing?

At $3-$5 per linear foot, hog wire is the cheapest fencing material. You can usually install it yourself, too, so you won’t have to spend money on a contractor.

2. What type of fence will last the longest?

Wrought iron and vinyl fences tend to last the longest.

3. Can I build an 8-foot fence?

In some places, yes. It all depends on the local laws and ordinances. You’ll need to research your county, city, and homeowners association’s fence height regulations.

When to Hire a Professional Fence Installer

If you don’t have construction experience, you’re better off hiring a fencing professional near you to install fencing on your property. With professional installation, your fence will be more likely to stand up to severe weather and last a lot longer. The job is also more likely to come with a warranty.

You’ll definitely want help from a professional if you’re installing a more complicated and expensive fence material such as composite, stone, or wrought iron.

Whether you’re looking for a new feature to tie your landscape together or you want to make your home more secure, there’s a type of fence to suit your needs. With so many style options, you won’t have to count on your mischievous nephew and a bucket of whitewash to get the fence of your dreams.

Main Photo Credit: Needpix

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.