In or Out: Which Way Should a Fence Face?


Not sure what side your fence should face? The answer is simple!

The face, or the finished side, of a fence should face out, towards neighbors and the street, while the back of the fence should face inward, according to most city codes and HOA regulations, as well as by the common consensus of neighbors.

The good looking, polished side of the fence is called the “face”. The not-so-good-looking, unfinished side of the fence is called the “back”. There are a few factors that go into deciding which way your fence should face.

General Fence Etiquette

Installing a fence is a feat all on its own and requires lots of attention to detail. Some details you never even thought you would need to consider! There are some general fence etiquette guidelines that need to be followed.

Talking to your neighbors about your fence is one of these details. Considering how your neighbors feel about a fence, in general, is always a good idea, and talking to them about is an even better one! Sometimes, they’ll even split the cost with you.

If that’s not the case, however, it’s important to understand there is a specific etiquette that comes with building a fence. One that requires you to have the good looking part of your fence face your neighbor’s house rather than your own yard.

This may not seem right, but that’s what is expected before starting your journey to building your dream fence: make sure your neighbors are happy with the decision to build a fence, as well as the type of fence you plan to build.

City Codes and HOA’s

Sometimes, it’s not only up to you, but to codes as well.

City Codes

Before you start your fence-building adventure, there are a few things you need to be aware. These specifically include local area/city codes and regulations.

Every city has specific fence codes that have to be followed in order to build a fence around your property.

Typically, it needs to be a certain distance from the street, it can’t inhibit sight from the roads and corners, it has to meet and can’t exceed a certain height, and there need to be certain points of entry, depending on where your house is located.

A very good place to start your project is either at the city offices or on their website.

You need to obtain a permit and licensure and make sure your plans are all up to code before you can actually start installing your fence. This includes making sure your fence faces the correct way.

Surprisingly, most city codes do have an ordinance about which way your fence needs to face.

HOA’s

Just like city codes, the HOA has its own set of rules and guidelines you need to follow. These are usually in accordance with city codes but are just a bit more detailed.

Typically, HOA codes are about the same as city codes when it comes to the height, distance, and measurement aspects of a fence.

However, because every neighborhood’s esthetic is catered specifically, and very different than the next, their HOA can require extremely detailed and specific guidelines.

That being said, because the face of the fence is the polished, clean looking side, almost all HOA’s do require that the fence face the road and your neighbors- which is almost always in accordance with city codes.

Ways to Avoid Conflict

Because of the requirement to have the face of the fence face your neighbors, lots of people have discovered ways around that requirement- ways that meet city and HOA codes, still ensure that your neighbors are happy, and help you achieve your fence goals!

The main way around this specific requirement is just the type of fence you choose to build. Just like anything else, there are so many different types of fences and many of them are great options that keep everyone happy:

  • Shadow Box Fence
  • Vinyl Fence
  • Aluminum Fence
  • Chain-link Fence

Shadow Box Fence

One of the different types of fence is a shadow box fence. This is a normal, picket wood fence- built with the face out and the back in, but with a twist: a shadow box fence has two faces!

Once you’ve installed your regular wood fence, with the back facing your yard so you’re in accordance with code, you just add another layer of fence boards to the back, polish it up, and voila! You’ve got 2 beautiful fence faces and have accomplished building a shadow box fence.

There are lots of benefits to building a shadow box fence. This type of fence helps with added privacy, makes it harder for things to escape (like your beloved pets) and it’s difficult for anyone to climb it due to the smooth finish on both sides.

Vinyl Fence

This seems like an obvious kind of way around this fence face rule, but it doesn’t occur to some of us!

With a vinyl fence, because it has that beautiful, finished look on the face and the back, the issue of which way to face it becomes irrelevant. Vinyl fences look nice, usually, no matter which angle you can see them.

They are also good for privacy since there isn’t any space between the boards and they’re smooth so they’re difficult to climb.

Vinyl’s a great option, all around!

Aluminum Fence

A third way to get around the fence face requirement is to install an aluminum fence. This typically isn’t the option you would choose if you want any privacy, but it looks great and you don’t have to worry about which way the face and back are facing.

There are different styles for an aluminum fence, but it usually follows the typical, traditional, picket fence style: space in between the rods, detail at the top, and lots of space to peer into your beautiful yard!

Chain-Link Fence

Chain link fences also fall into the “aluminum” category. Although this is probably the least desirable type of fence that people gravitate to, it does alleviate the face and back requirement that so many people have an issue with.

Finally, as per typical fence etiquette, don’t forget to check your local codes, HOA requirements, and with neighbors! Especially if you’ve decided to install the last option (chain link fence) make sure your neighbors support the idea- not many are keen on the esthetic of this one and it could raise an issue later.

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