How Does a Good Neighbor Fence Work?

  • The old expression, "Good fences make good neighbors," is attributed to Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall." Almost every culture has a version of the saying, as it is considered an almost universal truth. A good-neighbor fence lets people have their own defined space, which affords a feeling of privacy.


  • Fences work in two ways: They keep something out, but they can also keep something in. The purpose of a good-neighbor fence is mostly to keep something in--be it a cow or other livestock, or the family pet--to prevent it from destroying neighboring property. Fences also draw a visible boundary that tells a neighbor, "This property is mine; do not enter without permission."

How They Work

  • In days gone by, good-neighbor fences helped keep livestock on the owner's property and not crossing the line to the neighbors'. Today, for the most part, they establish boundaries between two pieces of property and perhaps keep the family dog in his own yard. In many subdivisions and other suburban neighborhoods, homes sit very close together, and a good-neighbor fence between lots gives the homeowner valuable privacy from nearby neighbors.

Types of Fences

  • A good-neighbor fence can be made of wood, stone or metal. Chain-link fences are a popular choice, as are privacy fences made of wood or other material. They can be as short as 2 to 4 feet high, or they may be as tall as 8 feet. In the country, electric or barbed-wire fences are still the norm, as they are most often used for keeping livestock from wandering off. The idea behind a good-neighbor fence is that simply looking at where the fence sits provides a good indication of where property lines are drawn.

Erecting a Fence

  • To erect a good neighbor fence, the property owner should be aware of exactly where his property begins and ends. Before building the fence or wall, the owner should have the property surveyed to determine the lines. The fence should then be erected several inches from the inside of the line. When this is done, the neighbor cannot dispute where the fence is built. Even if both neighbors are erecting the fence, a survey is a good idea, so neither party can dispute the property lines.

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