Front yard fences are among the most visible elements on your property. It’s no surprise then that the design of a front yard fence has a big impact on curb appeal.
To help you navigate the world of front yard fence design, we’ll share our thoughts on how to choose a fence that achieves your design goals. We’ll also take a look at a range of Yardzen-designed fences to inspire your own front yard fence ideas.
Let’s get to it!
What Are Your Goals for Your Front Yard Fence?
Decisions about fence design should be rooted in functional goals. Here are a few of the most common functions people ask from their fences:
Some fences are purely decorative, intended to mark the property line, provide a visual frame, and express a certain look. These fences are not restricted by other functional requirements, so style and cost tend to guide their design.
Boost Curb Appeal
Fences that look both attractive and inviting tend to help curb appeal the most.
While style preferences vary, certain rules of attractiveness always apply to front yard fences. If curb appeal is your goal, your fence should appear to be in good condition, suit the context of the neighborhood, and, most importantly, look cohesive within your overall landscape and home exterior design.
Fences that offer some level of visual permeability project a more inviting feel, which has an overall positive impact on curb appeal. Opting for fences around waist height with plenty of light shining through will project a more inviting scene than a tall or fully opaque fence design. The gaps in picket fences and the transparent fence panels of hog wire fences offer plenty of visibility to project inviting vibes to people on the street.
Note that zoning and other local ordinances often dictate maximum fence heights for front and backyards.
Contain Kids + Pets
Fences intended to contain children or pets can take many forms, but they must avoid any openings large enough for kids or pets to slip through. If you have small kids, avoid gaps larger than 4” between fence elements, to avoid anyone getting their head stuck.
Fences designed to keep people out need to be taller, and have features like pointed tops and other impediments to climbing. The challenge with these fences is to maintain an attractive, pleasant look from the street while achieving the necessary level of security.
As with fences built for security, privacy fences come with trade-offs. Opaque walls can make front yards feel smaller from the inside and uninviting from the outside. Quite often, privacy fences tall enough to block views of the house will reduce curb appeal considerably. For clients who want a private front yard space, the exchange can be worth it, but we tend to advise a more visually permeable approach to front yard fencing.
Fence Materials + Style
The style of your fence should appear cohesive with the overall front yard and home exterior design. When viewed from the street, your house and yard should come across as a single, harmonious design vision.
When it comes to choosing a type of fence, then, you’ll want to consider the colors, textures, forms, and materials used throughout your front yard home and planting design. You’ll also want to zoom out and consider the overall style expressed by your front yard. Lastly, you should pay attention to the pros and cons of different building materials, which will have a big impact on the longevity and durability of your fence.
Wood fences are used in every style, easy to install, and typically cheaper than fences built from other materials. The softness of wood relative to metal also projects a more homey, approachable feel, particularly with traditional fence styles.
Downside? Wooden fences weather more quickly than other materials, and require periodic painting or staining to avoid damage from sun and water exposure.
Wood Fence Styles
- Vertical board fences arrange boards of uniform width along the length of the fence, and are the standard for back- and side yard fences. This style is quick to install and, as fences go, cheap. Back- and side yard fences are usually installed without gaps, but in front yards this style appears more inviting when installed with gaps up to 4” between vertical boards.
- Horizontal board fences are the modern cousin of vertical board fences, arranging slats in parallel horizontal rows. These are harder to install, and can cost twice as much as a result, especially when designs integrate multiple board widths, metal components, or tropical hardwoods.
- White picket fences are iconic of traditional American yards. We’ve seen versions where the curves of the pointed picket tops are replaced by straight lines and sharp angles—this approach moderns things up a bit, and works well with modern farmhouse designs.
- Split rail fences are simple to construct and use a minimum of materials, making them the most DIY-friendly of the wood fence options. The classic split rail has three horizontal boards spanning between fence posts. This leaves plenty of room for kids or dogs to sneak through, but keeps costs low and allows front yard planting to attractively poke through and brush the sidewalk. When built with unfinished lumber, split rails ooze rustic charm. When built with finished boards, they look more buttoned-up, and are a better match for yards with a traditional design aesthetic.
- “X” fences are similar to split rails, but opt for an “X” formation between the top and bottom rails. Paint these white and they’re fabulous for modern farmhouses. Paint them dark gray against a row of ornamental grasses, and they’ll sit comfortably in a modern design. As with classic split rail designs, they also make for great garden fences, thanks to the ample space they allow for plants to weave under, through, and around them.
Metal fences cost a good deal more than wood fences, but they last much longer and require far less maintenance. In practice, most residential metal fences are custom-built, requiring on-site welding, though there are tons of prefab metal fences available.
Metal fences tend to be black, or if not black, white. That said, they can be painted or powder coated in any color under the sun.
In general, we advise keeping things as simple as possible with metal fencing. At best, they fade into the background as the eye is drawn instead to more prominent details in the front yard landscaping or home exterior design.
Metal fence styles
- Vertical metal fences are ultra-common, featuring a basic flat top and bottom rail, modest posts, and slender, evenly-spaced vertical pickets. They’re not particularly exciting, but they work in any style, and are your best bet if you want your fence to aspire toward invisibility. Adding details like post caps or points at the tops of pickets tends to push their look in a more traditional direction. Pointed pickets are also useful for security purposes.
- Horizontal metal fences look more modern, just like their wood counterparts, and pair well with homes and yards with more contemporary aesthetics. One caution: metal fences with horizontal bars between posts also make for a ready-made ladder, and may not be a fit when children or security is a factor.
- Wrought iron fences look great on Southern balconies and surrounding Spanish-inspired patios, and are generally a match for traditional styles that indulge in a bit of opulence. Their twists and turns also make them great for supporting vines. Opting for prefab wrought iron fences can usually save you from the significant costs of custom metal work.
- Chain link fencing is cheaper than other metal fences, but has a utilitarian look that detracts from curb appeal.
Tip: If you have a chain link fence and can’t replace it, you plant vines or other ornamental planting at its base to obscure it.
Wood + Metal Hybrid Fences
Some fence designs blend wood and metal elements to achieve a range of different styles.
Wood + Metal Hybrid styles:
- Hog wire fences have wooden posts and rails which frame panels of gridded hog wire. They’re cost-effective, pretty easy to install, and adaptable to a wide range of styles. They look best in designs that are informal or rustic—they’re not a great fit for designs that aspire toward a pristine, formal look. When the wood is left in natural color, they look particularly informal. Paint the wood white or black, and the look of the fence elevates.
- Custom fences run the gamut for design variations, and can make for striking architectural statements, albeit expensive ones. It’s especially common to see modern horizontal wood fences dressed up with metal posts, top rails, and door hardware.
- Metal gates are a popular option when clients want the mixed material look but are trying to control costs. By limiting metal features to just a focal gate, the rest of the fence can be built at cheaper standard wood fence prices.
Vinyl + PVC
Prefab Vinyl and PVC fences are cheap, durable, and come in a broad range of colors. They usually look like vertical board wood fences.
In practice, fences made from vinyl or PVC are not always as attractive as wood or metal fences, so be choosy when browsing options. There is also some concern around polluytion from the manufacture of vinyl fencing, and the potential to leach chemicals into the soil.
Opting for hardscape walls usually costs significantly more than a front-yard fence, due to the costs of working with concrete.
That said, low, white stucco walls are dynamite at expressing a Spanish or Latin-American patio style, and are very effective for delineating courtyards or other sub-areas within a front yard.
Tall walls are often not permitted along the front edge of a property. If allowed, they often require a building permit, and run the risk of diminishing curb appeal – nobody likes to look at a fortress wall.
In some climates where wood isn’t a viable fencing material, like arid Arizona, cinderblock walls are common for side and rear yard fences, but even in such scenarios, it’s best to opt for something more attractive and less utilitarian in the front yard.
Front Yard Fence Examples
Now that we’ve walked through the basics, it’s time for some inspiration! Let’s take a look at front yard fences from Yardzen designs.
Modern Hog Wire Fence
The hog wire panels of this Southern California fence allow grasses and groundcovers to poke through, repeating a motif we see along the shaggy edges of the front path. The panels also allow a clear view into the property, putting the informal, slightly wild planting design on full display. The blonde wood of the posts and rails matches the posts of the front porch, helping to establish that all-important connection between the fence and other design features.
Picket Fence with Planting
A traditional white picket fence is spiffed up with flowering vines and shrubs, which climb over the top and poke through the gaps. The vine-laden arch is a booster shot of cottage garden charm.
By opting only for white-flowering plants, the fence and planting work together to express a consistent color palette.
Stucco Walls with Wood Gate
This low, white stucco wall repeats materials from the house to achieve a cohesive look. The warm tone of the wood gate alludes to the color of the home’s adobe roof, and complements the tan decomposed granite used in the driveway and front courtyard. The contrast between the bright wall and dark gate makes the gate a compelling focal point. Keeping the walls low allows views into the yard, maintaining a welcoming feel.
The natural wood tone of this X-style split rail fence appears in awnings over the garage and front porch. This repetition portrays the fence as an integral component of the overall design.
The X style suits the landscape, allowing ornamental grasses on either side to visually engage with each other.
Horizontal Metal Fence
This metal fence allows clear views into the yard, and promises for low maintenance and durability against the heat and cold of the Colorado climate.
The black metal is repeated in architectural details on the house, as are the sharp angles and parallel lines of the fence.
Multi-Material Custom Fence
This custom Idaho fence design incorporates a few different materials to achieve an elevated look while still feeling inviting. The natural wood portions expose posts toward the street, making things feel less formal. Planting along the base softens things up as well.
The gate is flanked by concrete pillars and black path lights, and is framed in black metal. A panel of fence is painted black to match the house and make address numbers pop. Cumulatively, the details draw the eye to the gate, and to the gabled roof centered behind it.
Simple Fence, Fancy Gates
This modern home makes a basic vertical board fence look intentional by matching it to wood detailing from the home’s front facade.
More investment is made in the front and side gates, which playfully invert each other: wood gate flanked by metal posts for the side gate, and metal gate framed by wood columns for the front gate. These showy features maintain the home’s upscale looks by pulling the eye away from the more down-to-earth fence.
Classic Metal Fence
The wet Florida climate makes wood more susceptible to moisture damage. By opting for a metal fence, this homeowner may pay more up front, but will avoid the hassle and expense of maintaining and repairing a wooden fence.
The basic, vertical design lets plenty of light through, and fades from attention, allowing the eye to wander to more striking details like the palm-framed front porch.
Ranch-Style Driveway Gate
This Texas fence design merges the “X” and split-rail fence styles. The center break on the gate reinforces the symmetry of the planting to either side of the gate. The style may be casual and rustic, but the framing, symmetry, and long curve of the driveway lend grandeur to the scene.
Modern Horizontal Wood Fence
This Los Angeles fence uses parallel, horizontal planks of richly-hued hardwood to achieve a modern look that complements the equally modern home. Again, the wood color of the fence is repeated on the home’s exterior, establishing a connection that helps the overall design look cohesive from the street.
A large white home, expansive green lawn, white-barked birch trees, and white-flowered foundation planting firmly establish a tight palette of greens and whites and express a strong traditional style. This is a perfect setting for a white X-fence, which we see here plugging in perfectly along the side of the home.
Rustic Horizontal Wood Fence
This wine country fence design embraces the texture and weathered look of reclaimed wood to establish a look that is stylish but organic. The gapless construction lends a little extra privacy to the front yard, but the low fence height maintains an inviting feel.
Wall and Fence Hybrid
To complement a traditional landscape design, this fence uses a low stucco wall, punctuated by evenly spaced stucco pillars. Simple metal fencing spans the gaps between pillars.
The colors of the multiple materials mimic the dark roof and bright walls of the home, while the rhythm of the vertical pillars evokes the potted columnar accent plants dotted throughout the yard.
Split Rail Fence with Pillars
The ranch-style feel of this split rail fence feels appropriate in California’s Central Valley, a region known for farming. The low, long profile of the fence also mirrors the low, wide architecture of the ranch style house. The wood picks up on colors from the roof, while the chunky brick pillars have been painted to match the home’s off-white walls.
The pillars add heft to the fence design, break up long expanses into smaller, more visually pleasing units, and add a touch of formality by framing entrances to the driveway and front path.
Gray Wood with Multiple Sizes
For a client seeking extra privacy but not wanting to sacrifice curb appeal, Yardzen designed a fence horizontal board fence painted a warm, calming shade of gray. The boards are uniform for the fence, but the driveway gate features more slender boards at the top—again, we see gates additional investment in gates to use them as focal points within the fence.
Trimmed hedges require regular upkeep, but for those willing to take on the maintenance, they make for a striking front fence when integrated to a broader traditional landscape design.
This hedge works because the entire design shares its formal, geometric style—we see symmetry, sculpted shrubs, and a unifying central axis at work everywhere in this yard.
Hedges are extremely common in residential landscapes, but they tend to lack the punch we see here when they are the only part of a design that is held to such rigorous geometric standards. Front yard fences must be cohesive with the overall design, even when the fence is a plant.
Wood Accent Fence
It’s a stretch to call this a fence—it’s more of an accent wall. Whatever you call it, it’s working well in this design.
A simple structure of parallel 4×4 posts adds up to more than the sum of its humble materials, providing a warm yet architectural and modern design feature that makes for a big-time curb appeal asset.
Front Yard Fence FAQs
Before we send you on your way, let’s walk through some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about front yard fences.
A typical front yard fence is between 36” – 42” tall. Local regulations often mandate certain fence heights—check with your city or HOA prior to building a fence.
Fences designed to fully block incoming views are usually between 6’ – 8’ tall. Again, check local regulations to confirm allowable fence heights on your property. Fences in this height range are not common along sidewalks, though they are typical in back- and side yards, as well as running across sideyards to connect to the front walls of a house.
Depending on your needs, there are a few fence options in the lowest end of the price spectrum.
T-post fences, which drape wire mesh between tall metal stakes, do not require post footings, and so are inexpensive to install, though these are typical for edging large, rural properties, and not appropriate for front yards in typical developed neighborhoods.
Among fence styles viable for front yard designs, split rail fences, vertical board wooden fences, and traditional picket fences are all low cost relative to other options.
Material selection depends on how much you are open to spending on the initial installation. Wood is usually cheaper to install than metal or walls, but will require maintenance or replacement sooner than more durable materials.
Materials also need to address climate. Arid climates and wet climates can both be tough on wood, increasing the rate at which wood deteriorates. In such a climate, opting for more resilient materials is a better investment.
Finally, material selection should be influenced by design style. This boils down to personal preference.
Fences intended to keep kids or pets contained within the yard should avoid gaps where anyone could sneak out. Gaps should also be small enough to avoid a child or pet getting their head stuck in the fence.
Pet fences should also be tall enough to avoid dogs leaping over them, while kid fences should be designed so that small children can’t climb over them or operate the door handle to let themselves out.
When containing kids or pets is a requirement, we prefer hog wire fences, metal fences, wood fences with 4” gaps between boards, and other visually-permeable fence styles. By allowing clear sight lines into the yard, these styles preserve an open and welcoming feel. They also give the dogs and kids the ability to see out of the property into the world around them.
Some fence styles are easier to build than others. Installing metal fencing or walls is typically best left to professionals. Wood fencing can be handled by DIYers with solid building experience, but it is often worth engaging a professional to ensure a quality build that will endure over the years. Most fences require installing posts with concrete footings, a task that many can manage, but which requires precise execution to avoid big structural problems down the road. Some fences also require permitting, which is something local contractors have experience navigating.
Planting is extremely useful in helping fences feel like cohesive parts of the overall landscape design.
Adding plants at the base of a fence softens the transition from vertical to horizontal planes, and visually stitches the fence into the landscape. Allowing plants to pierce through or climb up a fence gives the sense of the landscape taking precedence over hardscape, creating an informal, organic feel that is coveted in both modern and traditional design styles. Repeating species from elsewhere in the yard alongside the fence establishes a relationship that helps the fence to feel like an integral part of the overall design.
Depending on your design style, you can use one or several different plant species along a fence. Whatever plants you choose, we advise keeping most of them (or all of them) a bit below the top of the fence in height, to preserve views into the property.
Get Started With Your Landscape Design by Yardzen
Yardzen’s award-winning online landscape design is tailored to clients in all fifty states in the US. Through the American Rewilding Project, we are committed to creating designs with climate-adapted and habitat-providing plants as well as water saving landscaping principles in drought-prone regions unless homeowners specifically opt out.
Our design process begins with understanding your space, your aesthetic preferences, and a discussion of your budget and vision to minimize surprises when it comes time to build.
Our top-notch designers then develop a personalized vision for your yard, shared through 3D renderings, 2D plan drawings, and plant and material lists. Your design will capture the look, feel, and function you are hoping for, all while keeping costs within range.
Once your design is complete, we’ll help you connect with a local contractor from our Pro Network of vetted professional landscapers to install your new design.