Fences Around a Backyard: Pole Side or Smooth Side?

Post side in. Fence side out.

Because you have to think about how it looks to the neighbors, and they don’t want to see posts, they want to see a nice smooth surface.

Some places have an ordinance about this

Also because when the marauding hordes of distort mutants arrive to prise you from your freehold and devour your entrails, they will find it inconvenient if there is a wall between them and the structures that support that wall.


FWIW - Our backyard fences (3 sides) have all been built a different times but to a simiar design - 6 foot vertical wooden pailings. Rule of thumb here is he who builds the fence (or is willing to fork out the extra moollah) gets the choice on what side faces their own house

Example, our back fence. Neighbour was renovating and the exisiting fence didn’t ‘suit’ his plans and was coming to the end of its life anyway. He came to us with the plans, we paid half for the material, he built it - so flat side to him

Side #1 has posts on the neighbours side with cross beams on our side

Side #2 posts and cross beams on neighbours side (i.e. flat on our side)

Back fence has posts and cross beams on our side (i.e. flat on neighbours side)

As we’ve been working through adding bits and peices to the garden we’ve done nothing to Side #2 (flat), however with the other two side we’ve nailed bits and peices as we’ve seen fit (trellis for climbers, nails to hange stuff on etc. etc…)

We’ve done this 'cause it’s simple to whack a nail or two into the posts without having to think about asking the other people.

The flat length of fence doesn’t lend itself to be added to as I haven’t though of anything (apart from a big f’off painting - which Mrs Bender ain’t keen on).

So I suppose it depends on your plans - if you backyard has a ‘clinical’ clean lines design, then go flat. If it’s a ‘cottage’ style, them make use of dem poles.

I heard that the person building the fence is supposed to have the posts face towards their yard, the smooth side facing their nieghbors. My parents did that on the two sides of our yard that they fenced in, and mom never forgave our neighbors for not doing the same on the side they fenced. It’s amazing how long someone can hold a grudge in suburbia.

Oooh, this has become a big issue in certain towns here in NJ. Some towns have even put in ordinances about it.

But the rule is–smooth side towards the neighbors.

Evidently, my OP didn’t appear in my thread. One of the questions I had was if you decided to have the smooth side facing your yard, is it considered, legally speaking, the neighbor’s fence? What are the legal ramifications, if any?

Matters not. If it’s on your property, it’s your fence. Orientation doesn’t matter. The property line determines ownership.

On a fence dividing your property and a public area, it’s also a good idea to put the rails on the inside as the sheer face of the fence on the outside is just that little bit harder to climb.

Man, would I be pissed if a local ordinance dictated this to me. It’s my goddamn fence. Who even says there’s going to be a smooth side? I’ll put the beams on both sides, you bastards! What if I happen to think the side with the beams is prettier, and that’s what I want people to see when they drive past my house?

Also, I’ve seen a lot of fences where it alternates – one section of fence will face one way and the next section of the fence will face the other way. Are those fences illegal where the ordinance specifies which way the fence has to go?

It’s called a “stockade fence” for a reason – the “pole side” should be on the inside, as with a real stockade.

I’m an urban planner, and I’m in the process of rewriting a zoning code. Yup, fences are a point of contention that can turn once-friendly neighbors into bitter enemies. Here’s what I wrote …

*Finished side out
Fences must be placed so the finished side faces out, towards the public right-of-way and/or adjacent properties.

They’re called “shadowbox fences.” Both sides are usually considered “finished,” so they’re usually legal where zoning codes and restrictive covenants regulate fence appearance.

And here was I thinking it had to do with the direction of the prevaling wind.
Smooth side towards the wind make for a more stable fence.

So could you claim your fence with the smooth side in is just a “shadowbox” fence with really long alternating sections? :slight_smile:

In case anyone is interested in what a certain communities fence regs look like, I happened to know portions of my village code were available on line. §a(3) addresses the OP. Personally, now that I know it is permitted, I’m looking into an electrified barbed wire with glass shards between me and this one neighbor…

a. Limitations:

  1. 50% open in front and corner side yard
  2. Material (such as barbed wire, electrified, or
    any matter) that creates a system that is
    inherently dangerous to a pedestrian using
    the public sidewalks or public rights-of-way
    is prohibited
  3. Exposed structural elements shall face
    toward the property on which the fence is
    b. Height:
  4. 3’ maximum in visibility triangle
  5. 6’ maximum for fence located no closer to
    the street than the principal structure on a lot
  6. 4’ maximum all other areas of the lot
    c. Allowance:
  7. On lots fronting on two non-intersecting
    streets, a 6’ tall fence shall be permitted if a
    no-access provision has been recorded for
    that frontage, and the fence shall be
    positioned 4’ inside the property line and
    maintained with viable shrubs planted 4’ on
    center along the outside of the fence in
  8. Masonry columns no greater than 2’ x 2’ in
    size and placed no closer than 8’ on center

Anytime you are containing animals with your fence (horses, dogs, etc.), the board side should go in. If the board side goes out, they lean against it and push the boards right out of the posts. Super-fancy animal fencing has boards on both sides of the posts.

In the neighborhood I went to high school in, we lived in a brand spanking new subdivision. Somehow, in our 'hood, it alternated. It was something like 10 feet of post in, and then 10 feet of post out, all around the property.

Pretty prozac California if you ask me.