Garden fence etiquette – should the “good” side face towards you or your neighbour?

Close board fencing on driveway

If you're erecting a garden fence between you and your neighbours, you might be wondering if there are any UK laws to tell you who gets the "good" side. There can be strong opinions about this, so read on to find out which way round to position your fence panels.

UPDATED 05/01/2022

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!).

So which side of the fence should face towards your property? 

You’ve probably always assumed that the nicer side of the fence should face into your own garden, and why not, if that boundary is your responsibility and you’ve paid for the new fence? So it can result in an unpleasant conversation if your neighbour complains at having the less attractive side turned towards them. They might even insist that the “good” side should face their own garden.

Unfortunately, with a few exceptions which we describe below, the UK doesn't have any hard and fast laws about this aspect of garden fences. 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.

Considerations and exceptions

Neighbourly relations!

If you’re the courteous type and enjoy getting along with your neighbours, it would be generous to show the smooth side of the fence towards them, but this is far from being an established convention and there’s absolutely no obligation to do so if you don't want to.

One boundary - two fences!

These days, homeowners sometimes erect their own fence along a boundary line, even though their neighbour has already 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 you're sharing the cost

If your neighbour has made a 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 strict 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!  Although there is no law as such to enforce it, in this situation, the usual convention is for the more attractive side of the fence to face outwards.

Can you put up a fence without your neighbour's permission?

What if your neighbour is responsible for the boundary between your gardens and they have put up a fence you don't like? Maybe they have given you the less attractive side of the fence to look at! Can you put up your own fence to hide or disguise it, without their permission? Generally, yes, you can, but you must make sure that your own fence is inside the boundary of your own property, and it mustn't exceed the maximum two-metre height limit without planning permission. 

Which boundary is legally your responsibility?

You will have gathered from reading this that some of the considerations here take into account whether you or your neighbour is responsible for the boundary on that side of your property.  We've written another article to offer guidance on finding out whose boundary the garden fence sits on - it's not always straightforward! 

Gates have a "good" side, too!

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 863428 or 07900 938061 to talk about your requirements.

Released On 5th Jan 2022

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