For whatever reason, you’ve decided that you need a fence between your yard and your neighbor’s yard. This is a very common issue, but it can often raise some sticky questions, and you’re going to want to think them over–and discuss them with your neighbor–before you begin.
Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall
The American poet Robert Frost wrote in “Mending Fences” that “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” In that poem he asks what he was walling out or walling in, and whether there was a need for it. When it comes time for you to build a fence between you and your neighbor, these are questions that you need to consider carefully. You’re going to be neighbors for a long time–maybe for the rest of your lives–and you want to make sure that you’re making the right decision about putting up a fence between you.
When it comes to what you’re walling out and what you’re walling in, there may be very good reasons to put up that fence that will be apparent to both of you: maybe one or the both of you have pets that are constantly getting into the others’ yard. Maybe one or the both of you have kids that are getting into mischief. (On the other hand, maybe one of you loves the fact that your pets and kids get together and play, and the other neighbor doesn’t. This can be a source of friction.) Maybe one of you has put in a pool or water feature and you want to be safe about keeping kids out of it. Maybe one of you has a garden that the other’s dog loves to dig up. Maybe one of you has a chicken coop that is getting harassed by the other’s animals.
Whatever the reason, you need to figure out what you’re walling in and what you’re walling out. Knowing this–and being able to articulate this–will make the ability to have that difficult conversation with your neighbor a little more smooth.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
Also in Robert Frost’s poem, he says that “Good fences make good neighbors”, and that may very well be the truth. If you have plans for your backyard that include leisurely afternoons on the back patio, listening to nature and reading a book, and your neighbor has plans to use their yard as a recreation outlet, full of noise and ruckus and commotion, then odds are good you’re going to want a privacy fence. If you like to sunbathe on the back lawn and don’t want the prying eyes of the neighbor’s teenagers, then you might want a privacy fence.
Other Reasons For Wanting a Fence
Of course there can be other reasons for wanting a fence that have nothing to do with the habits of your neighbor, their kids, or their pets. It could very well be that you’re looking for security and you want a fence to keep burglars and vandals out of your yard. It might be that you’re simply trying to amp up the aesthetic look of your yard and know that a good fence can really enhance the look and feel of a yard. These are all good reasons to want a fence.
So what do you say to your neighbor when you tell them that you’ve decided you want to put up a fence between your yards?
Tips For Talking To Your Neighbors About Fencing
It can be a tricky conversation, because first, you don’t want to cause any friction between you and your neighbor. Maybe they love that their kids and your kids play back and forth between the yards–but you don’t. Maybe they don’t mind their dog wandering the neighborhood–but you do. Maybe they see nothing wrong with their loud boisterous parties that go long hours into the night and don’t see why it should bother you.
You’re going to have to approach the situation with tact. Here are some tips to make it easier.
Talk About the Positives
You can absolutely bring up the fact that fences add to the value of the property. They really do, and the fence that you put up will add to their property value, too. You can bring up safety concerns, and liability concerns, if you’re worried about pets and children in each others’ yards. These are perfectly legitimate issues. You can bring up the fact that a security fence in your yard is going to add security to at least one part of their yard (maybe that fact alone might encourage them to add a fence of their own!)
Do Your Research
Before you start talking about fences, make sure you know where your property line is. If you’re even one or two feet over the property line in your placement of the fence, that can cause a lifetime of resentment between you and your neighbor. The same is especially true if putting up the fence is going to necessitate cutting down some trees or bushes. Knowing exactly where your property ends and their property starts–preferably with the plans in hand so they know you’re not trying to cheat them–will go a long way in making this conversation more pleasant and agreeable.
The Look of the Fence
Discuss the look of the fence with them. Maybe you have your heart set on a certain type of fence that you absolutely love. Maybe it was your spouse’s idea and they have their heart set on it. Here’s a situation where you absolutely must be willing to negotiate with your neighbor unless you want to completely sever the relationship between you. They’re going to have to look at that fence as much as you are, and they’re going to want something that’s pleasing to them, too. Granted, you may have to push a little bit more if you want privacy fencing and they want something with pickets they can see through, but being as open in communication as possible is essential to this process.
Bring them your fence catalog, or show them the fence manufacturer’s website on a tablet so they can see what you’re envisioning. Let them swipe through the options and see if you can land on something that you’ll love equally. It would be a shame if you built an aluminum fence that you thought looked nice and they just put up a privacy fence beside it to hide it from their view.
Who Should Pay For the Fence
You should have the conversation of who is going to pay for the fence. If this was totally your idea and they’re not interested in the fence, then it’ll probably be you who foots the bill, and rightly so. But if they’re in agreement that a fence should go up, you can have the conversation about who is going to pay and how much. It might be fifty fifty. It might be sixty forty. Maybe they can’t afford to pay for a new fence, but they’ll offer the labor to install it. And then remember that if this is a joint purchase, work out who is going to maintain the fence: who is going to repair it if it gets damaged or starts to rust.
But if they’re against the fence from the beginning, and you’re pressing the issue, don’t expect them to fork over any money to build the thing.
Communication is Key
The biggest thing in all of this is to communicate. Talk through every step of the process. Talk about why you want the fence. Talk about what benefit you’ll both get from the fence. Talk about exactly where on the property line the fence is going to be installed. Talk about who’s going to pay for it. And talk about what kind of disruption there will be to your yards during the fence installation.