Board-to-board fences can be dressed up with color or other stylized design features.

What Is a Board-to-Board Fence?

by Brian Barth

If you want maximum privacy in a fence, a board-to-board fence is the way to go. Many styles of wood fencing involve space between the boards, such as the classic "picket" fence. However, for private backyards and swimming pool areas, you probably don't want gaps between your fence boards. This fencing style looks the same no matter what side you're standing on, which is a nice favor for your neighbors -- or for yourself, if it will be used to divide two parts of your own property.

The Basic Design

Board-to-board fencing can refer to fence boards installed so the edges are flush together with no gaps, or the boards can be placed so they overlap each other in an alternating pattern. In this style, the boards are generally placed inside a wood frame between each post, rather than mounted to the "front" face of the fence. This means that the posts are exposed -- which is a nice touch -- and is why the fence looks the same from both sides.

Design Options

Like any wood fence, a board-to-board fence can be stained or painted to suit personal tastes and tie it in with the rest of the landscape. As framing for the fence boards, you can choose from all sorts of decorative trim to further personalize your fence. For the posts, you can use the standard 4-by-4-inch size, or go with 6-by-6 posts if you want something more substantial looking. Architectural post caps are another finishing touch to customize the design. Vertical board placement is most common for a board-to-board fence, but horizontal boards can be used for a more exotic look and feel.

Construction Basics

Board-to-board fences are easiest to build on flat or gently sloping land. They can be built on steeper terrain, but the carpentry involved starts to get complicated. The fence will need posts every 8 feet and the corner posts need to be extra deep -- about one-third of their height below ground -- and anchored with several bags of concrete. The fence lines need to be laid out perfectly straight using a string tied tautly between two stakes. Ideally, corners are perfect right angles to avoid having to do some complicated cuts and measuring. If you need part of the fence to run in a diagonal, consider making the transition in several increments with a series of right-angle corners.

Further Considerations

Many people are surprised to learn that constructing a fence usually requires a building permit, though this depends on your jurisdiction There are generally restrictions on the size -- 3 or 4 feet in the front yard and 6 or 8 feet in the rear of the house are common standards. However, sometimes there is an allowance to make the fence taller using a section of lattice on top, which is great place to train vines to beautify your fence and add even more of a sense of privacy. Make sure you plan for good access through the fence, too. Consider whether each gate needs to be big enough for just a person to pass through or oversize for a garden cart, or even a vehicle. Finally, you need to call 811 to have the underground utility lines marked before finalizing the fence layout. If there are underground lines in the vicinity of the fence, you will need to modify the design to avoid hitting them when digging post holes.

About the Author

Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.

Photo Credits

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