Garden fence etiquette – who gets the “good” side?

Close board fencing on driveway

Most fence panels and gates have one side that’s more attractive than the other – one side is usually smoother, displaying the best features of the design; the other is where the supporting posts and rails can be seen (not quite so pretty!).

You’ve probably always assumed that the nicer side of the fence should face into your own garden, and why wouldn’t you if that boundary is your responsibility and you’ve paid for it?

So you might be surprised to learn that it’s not unknown for neighbours to voice some strong opinions on the matter, and even to insist that the “good” side should face their own garden.

So are there any rules about which side of the fence should face you and which should face your neighbour?

Usually, the answer is “no”, though there may be exceptions, which we’ve outlined below. If the boundary between you and your neighbour’s garden is your responsibility (check your property deeds) and you are paying for the fence, it can face any direction you like.

What to consider

If you’re the courteous type and enjoy getting along with your neighbours, you might decide to give them the smooth side, but this is far from being an established convention and there’s absolutely no obligation to do so.

These days, homeowners sometimes erect their own fence, even though their neighbour has put up an existing fence behind it. If your neighbour has erected their own fence on their side of the boundary, they’ve saved you some soul-searching! Your conscience is clear to face the “good” side towards your own garden!

If your neighbour has made some financial contribution towards the new fence, it’s a good idea to agree which direction it will face before it’s installed. You might take into consideration whose boundary the fence is on and the proportion of the financial outlay on both sides.

When to take advice about your fence

If you live in a Conservation Area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or a listed building, it’s a good idea to take advice from your local Planning Office, as there could be rules about erecting or altering fences and gates that affect the direction it faces, especially if it fronts the highway.

When you should face the “good” side away from you

If your fence faces the road, i.e. on a front garden boundary, it would look rather odd to have the post and rails visible from the street – almost as if it had been put up back-to-front!  In this situation, the smooth side of the fence ought to face outwards.

Remember that gates also have a “good” side – gates that face a road or footpath are usually erected with their best face forward.

Win-win fencing styles

Some fence styles look good on both sides. If you want to keep your neighbour happy but don’t want to spend money on a fence that they get to appreciate more than you do, why not consider Hit and Miss fence panels? With pales running either vertically or horizontally, the pales on this type of fence are fixed alternately on the front and the back to create a distinctive pattern on both sides.

If you live in or around Oxfordshire, find out more about installing Hit and Miss fencing in your garden.

Please call 01865 739005 or 07900 938061 to talk about your requirements.

Released On 9th Jan 2019

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