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Fence Types Explained: Create a Stylish Garden Boundary

fence types blue painted fence
(Image credit: Thorndown Paints)

When choosing the right fencing types for your garden, you'll need to consider your budget, the style of your planting scheme, the size of your garden, and the materials you have used elsewhere in your house and garden design to ensure that the product you choose does your home justice. 

You may also need to consider the ease of on-going maintenance. Painting a fence can be more difficult with some fence types than others.

If you are trying to decide between the various fence types available you have come to just the right place. In our guide to fencing varieties we take a look at the most common options out there for anyone looking at ways to create a beautiful garden boundary or to section up the various spaces within their landscaping scheme.

We have included both traditional and contemporary fence types within the guide, along with some more unusual and eye-catching ideas too.

Fence Types: The Options Explained

When it comes to your garden design, don't forget that, despite often being an afterthought, fence types should actually be of the first things you research. After all, depending on the scale of your garden, your fencing is likely to form a large part of its overall appearance and can either be treated as a backdrop or as a feature in its own right. 

There are a large number of different fence types you will be faced with when it comes to choosing this all-important element. The most common are:

  • Featherboard (also known as close board)
  • Lap panel fencing (also known as larch lap)
  • Slatted fencing
  • Hit and miss fencing
  • Picket fences
  • Combination fencing
  • Composite fencing
  • Natural screening
  • Decorative panels

Featherboard and lap panel fencing are arguably the most popular type, due to their affordability.

Here, we weigh up the pros and cons of the options of the different fence types in a little more detail.

1. Featherboard Fencing

Featherboard fencing is also often called close board. It is a really popular fencing style, being sturdy and strong. 

It is made up of overlapping vertical 'featheredge' boards and offers good privacy levels being solid, with no gaps between the wooden sections.  

It comes in various sizes and heights, but 6ft panels are the most common. 

Pros:

  • Suits a wide range of garden styles
  • Sturdy construction (when used with good fence posts)
  • High privacy levels
  • Depending on its height, offers security
  • Will contain pets
  • Good shade

Cons:

  • Close panels with no gaps can be prone to wind damage in storms
  • Will need regular staining and maintenance
  • More expensive than lap fencing

garden office with wooden fence in garden

(Image credit: Green Retreats)

2. Lap Fence Panels

Often referred to as 'larch-lap' this type of fencing is affordable so is perfect for anyone worried about the cost to install a fence. It is also ideal for those after privacy and ideal for painting or staining to blend in with the rest of the garden. 

It is a good pairing with more traditional garden schemes and boards are often 'waney' edged, meaning they are a little wavy in their finish as opposed to sharp and crisp.

They tend not to be quite as stable as some other fencing types and for some doesn't hold quite the same aesthetic appeal. 

Pros:

  • Cost effective
  • Can be painted or stained to blend in 
  • Offers good privacy levels
  • Perfect for keeping pets in

Cons:

  • Tends not to be as long-lasting or strong as featherboard fencing
  • Lacks aesthetic appeal
  • Needs regular maintenance

combination fence in garden with garden office

(Image credit: Green Retreats)

3. Single Slatted Fencing

Slatted fence panels are perfect if it is a more contemporary feel you are aiming for in your garden design scheme — the linear form of these panels can also be perfect for those after small garden design ideas

This style of fencing offers a neat, pleasingly uniform finish with solid slats set horizontally to one another, with small gaps in between — great if you want to let a little light in and for allowing air through in high winds and so preventing damage. 

On the downside, the gaps between slats mean less privacy is offered and plants and weeds to have a tendency to find their way through.

Pros:

  • Sleek, modern appearance
  • Can make small gardens feel bigger
  • Spaces between slates allows wind to pass through meaning it is less buffeted in storms

Cons: 

  • Offers less privacy than other solid fence types
  • Weeds may peek through gaps
  • More expensive

timber slated fencing on contemporary patio

(Image credit: Jacksons Fencing)

4. Double Slatted Fencing

This fencing style is ideal for contemporary gardens and, unlike single slatted fence panels, double slatted versions have slats mounted alternately to the front and back meaning more privacy can be achieved. 

In terms of disadvantages, double slatted fence panels tend to be more expensive than lap or featherboard fencing and can be tricky to stain and paint.

Pros:

  • Robust and secure
  • Suits contemporary schemes perfectly
  • Good privacy
  • Looks good from both sides
  • Lets a little air through to prevent wind damage

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Hard to paint or stain

double slatted wooden fence

(Image credit: B&Q)

5. Hit and Miss Fencing

Hit and miss fencing comes in a range of styles to suit both contemporary and traditional garden styles. 

It is a little like double slatted fencing in that it features boards that are mounted alternately to the back and front of vertical battens. However, the panels tend to overlap each other more than with slatted and are commonly contained within a rebated frame around each panel so offer more in the way of privacy.

On the downside, this style of fencing tends to be on the pricier side and weeds can still find their way through gaps. 

Pros:

  • Visually attractive
  • Suits both modern and traditional scheme
  • Good privacy levels
  • Sturdy

Cons:

  • Weeds can grow through slats
  • Fiddly to stain and paint
  • On the pricier side

wooden hit and miss fencing in landscaped garden

(Image credit: Jacksons Fencing)

6. Picket Fences

Picket fences are perfect for those after front garden ideas.  They are typically rather low in height, with a good space between each timber. They are great for creating kerb appeal and neatening up front gardens or for separating areas of the garden off from one another and around ponds or swimming pools. 

Where they fall down is in their ability to visually screen areas. Their low stature won't keep all dogs from crossing them and they offer little in the way of security. 

Pros:

  • Ideal for marking out individual areas of the garden
  • Pretty and perfect for adding kerb appeal
  • Easy to install
  • Won't block a view

Cons:

  • Offer little in the way of privacy
  • Not ideal for pet owners
  • Do not offer security

wooden picket fence at the front of a house

(Image credit: Wickes)

7. Combination Fencing

Combination fencing varies in its design although it is typically comprised of lap, featherboard or hit and miss fencing with a lattice top. The lattice top section offers lots of scope for injecting visual interest and designs vary from arched and wavy to straight.

The lattice is ideal for growing climbing plants through and the combination of solid and open sections offers a good mix of privacy and light.

Pros:

  • Good visual interest
  • Can be used for climbing plants
  • Offers privacy yet still allow light through

Cons:

  • More expensive than simple lap fence panels
  • A little fussy for those after a sleek, contemporary look
  • Only offer privacy up to a certain height

wooden fencing with curved trellis on top

(Image credit: B&Q)

8. Natural Screening

There are several different types of natural screening that can be used for fencing.

Some of the most popular choices include hazel and willow hurdle panels. These are woven from coppiced hazel and willow and offer a surprisingly robust way to fence off your garden.

They are great for creating an English country garden feel and give a good amount of privacy.  

Rolls of reed, bamboo and wicker screening are another popular option. While not as secure or strong as timber fence panels, they can offer good privacy and weather-resistance. 

This type of fencing is typically installed by fitting the panels between two fence posts before they are secured with wire or twine.  

Pros:

  • Great for traditional schemes
  • Easy to install
  • Many different price options to suit all budgets
  • Water-resistant

Cons:

  • Don't offer much in the way of security
  • Can be prone to wind damage 

natural willow screening with white gravel

(Image credit: Wickes)

9. Composite Fencing

Composite fencing is made from wood fibres (or sometimes bamboo fibres) mixed with plastic. It is available in many finishes, from those that mimic the natural appearance of timber to those that are designed to look ultra modern.

Due to their uniform appearance they tend to mainly be specified by those after a more modern look to their outdoor spaces. 

They are simple to install (often they are sold as modular sets) designed to slot into matching fence panels. 

Pros:

  • Straightforward installation
  • Low maintenance
  • Won't warp or rot

Cons:

  • Lack natural beauty of timber
  • Hard to repair if scratched or damaged
  • More expensive

composite fence in contemporary garden

(Image credit: B&Q)

10. Metal Fence Panels

If you want your fencing to make a design statement in your garden, why not consider decorative metal fence panels? They can be used in long runs or, as is more commonly the case, as stand alone panels within a run of timber fencing or hedging.

Steel is a popular material for metal fence panel, either galvanised or given a coat of weather-resistant paint. Corten steel and powder-coated aluminium are other popular options.

While they are visually very striking, if you are looking for a low-cost fencing option, then this might not be the right choice for you. 

Pros:

  • Eye-catching and visually attractive
  • Can be used as a garden focal point
  • Durable 
  • Robust

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Not always suitable where large areas of fencing are required

decorative metal fence screen panel

(Image credit: Logi Firepits)

11. Noise Reduction Fencing

Noise reduction fencing is designed to block sound out and is perfect for homes near busy roads or with close neighbours. 

Pros:

  • Great in noisy urban areas or near busy roads

Cons:

  • More expensive than other fencing types with a similar aesthetic

noise reduction fencing

The Forest Decibel Panel from B&Q can reduce noise by up to 30dB or 8 times quieter. (Image credit: B&Q)

Types of Fence Post Explained

Finally, if you are going to have a fence, then you are going to need fence posts to secure it into place. 

You have three main options when it comes to choosing fence posts: wood; concrete and steel.

  • Timber fence posts tend to be the cheapest and usually the most visually appealing option. However, do check that they have been treated with preservative before buying as they can be prone to rot over time if not. They are lightweight and therefore pretty straightforward to install.
  • Concrete fence posts might lack the attractiveness of timber, but they are a sturdy and long-lasting choice — plus they can always be painted to tie in with your garden scheme. Be aware that they can be heavy so often require two people when it comes to installation. 
  • Finally, galvanised steel timber posts are a great option if you want something lightweight, easy to fit and long-lasting. While they might not appeal to those after an all-natural classic looking finish to their fence, they do come in a wide range of colours to suit many schemes. 

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. She has renovated a terrace and is at the end of the DIY renovation and extension of her Edwardian cottage. She is now looking for her next project.