a yard with a wrought iron fence

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

By: Steve Hembree
September 17, 2020  | ,

Be it a rental property in Riverside County, Orange Country, or anywhere else, the adage is true: good fences make good neighbors. I'm sure you have heard that at some point, right? Well, if not, ha! You have now!

Said adage is very real, even if it does not necessarily deal with the actual condition of fencing itself. Really, the saying pertains to setting boundaries more than anything else, and a fence is, well, a boundary.

In many parts of the country, yards just sort of blend, one into the next, with no real separation. That would drive me bonkers! I'd be all "Hey, where is the order! We need order!" while I'm out throwing up fences. Or, instead, paying to have them put up.

Back to Fences

In this article, we're going to address several aspects of fencing, such as common types of fencing, like:

  • Wood fences
  • Vinyl fences
  • Block Walls

We will also journey to the land of "financial responsibility" for shared fences between neighbors, as well as the advantages - and value - of replacing a worn fence versus refurbishing one.

Wood Fences

Wood fences are a cost-effective method of securing a property. As I mentioned above, many places, like back east, back yards, just sort of merge together with no fencing. How psycho-disorganized-wacky is that!?! “I'm so O.C.D.” Here in southern California, we're a little more particular – and organized – about our yards.

Wood fences are cheap to build, relatively cheap to maintain, but if you have termites or don't seal the wood (paint it, in other words), you will eventually have what amounts to a long horizontal Jenga game. Wood will be falling willy-nilly all over the place. And, even with good maintenance, that fence may last you 20 years if you're lucky. Mine is now 15 years old at my house, and it's getting a little ratty. I know I still have a good five years or so, and I have already talked to the neighbor on one side, and they're up for sharing the cost to upgrade it.
I'm getting a little ahead of myself; we'll come back to that later.

Vinyl Fencing

All the downsides to wood fencing are erased like magic with vinyl fencing! It is as sturdy, if not more so, and it does not provide termites with free meals! Yet, it does cost more. How much more, you ask? Well, your cost per linear foot (that's how fences are calculated when installing) is generally about $2 to $5 more than wood fencing. Nope, I'm not coy; I'm totally aware that I have not addressed wood fencing cost yet, because I's be getting ahead of myself again. However, if you're chomping at the bit for a cost, click to this website, but I'll forewarn you, it's about 10% to 15% lower than average California prices.
So, How much does fence installation cost?

Vinyl Fence Drawbacks

While vinyl fences are more expensive than wood fences, and they are very sturdy, they do have another downside, which is also an upside: They come in various styles (just as wood fences do) and colors (as does wood) but picture this if you will. Right side, neighbor Walt puts up one style in gray, left neighbor Betty puts up another, this in beige, and you want a white fence. Congratulations, you now have a Fun House yard! The way to avoid this is to know your neighbors and talk, regardless of the fence being in the way.

On that thought, if you have "Neighbor Wilson" next door (an old reference to the Tim Allen show Tool Time), you may want a really tall fence!

Block Walls

Ah yes, the granddaddy of them all, the block wall fence! There is no better way to divide properties and keep "theirs over there, and mine over here" than a block wall. I grew up with block walls all the way around, so of course, I'm biased. You can not see through them (except the fancy-schmancy-frilly topped ones), they are reliable, but they are expensive!

When calculating the cost of a block wall, things are a little different. You're pricing both the linear feet, or length of the area to be fenced, and the height of the fence, thus generating a square foot cost for the fencing. Fifty feet long of the fence, by 6 foot in height, is 300 square feet of fencing. By the way, locally, that much block wall fence will cost you about $4500. Vinyl for the same fence, about $1650, and wood, $1500.

But I digress...

Who Owns That Fence? Who Pays?

In California, a shared fence is owned equally by all properties that benefit from the said fence. It does not matter who has the "beauty side," that being the side sans the support structure. It only matters as to who benefits from the fence existing. So Walt next door? Nope, handoffs sir, that's my fence too!

So, when it comes time to fix (or replace) that fence, it's best to have open communication with the neighbor as to share that cost. But keep this in mind: Promises mean nothing! If your neighbor says they're willing to share that cost, it's all cash upfront. I don't care how well you know your neighbor.

Other Fencing Not Really Addressed

There is a whole slew of fencing styles, but, realistically, I'm only chasing down the most common types. There's a chain link, which is excellent for separating off unimproved lots, cost-effective too. Split rail fences for a western look to, say, a front yard. Wrought iron has it's purpose (better paint it regularly or you'll have an expensive repair bill down the way!) and can be attractive. And if you adore the feeling of being in Alcatraz, well...

The main thing I want to express is, like exterior paint, fence styles/types can reflect who you are.. At the same time, a fence in poor repair reflects your property care, like it or not. If it's leaning and dilapidated, your house probably is too. Or at least that's the perception, and many times that which we perceive IS the reality.

Steel and Metal Fences

Much like you can get porcelain flooring that resembles good wood, you can also get steel fences that resemble wood as well. The advantages are easy to understand, primarily strength. Downside, cost, corrosion, etc.


My son investigated the topic of construction permits for me sometime back when I was debating on adding a block wall to my front yard, and yes, in most cases, you have to pull a permit. Check with your local building department, ALWAYS, when making significant changes on your property. There is nothing worse than spending money and energy building something only to have to take it down due to someone else power trip, justified or not. Well, ok, mushrooms are worse, but anyway...

Your Neighbor

Whether you regularly dine with your neighbor, wave to each other occasionally, or whatever, that neutral ground of fencing between you and them serves a purpose. It contains your liability (and theirs), and it, well, helps make good neighbors.  Be a pal; fix your fence.

Check out more information on repairs...

A model house surrounded by hand tools

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