Residential garden fencing doesn’t have to be expensive. In many cases, pricey fence panels can give your garden an overly formal and unwelcoming look. There are definitely a few garden fence ideas that can turn a small budget into a creative challenge to showcase your resourcefulness and creativity.

Bamboo fencing. In a world where hardwood and softwood lumber is becoming more scare and expensive, bamboo is cheap and plentiful, since it’s essentially a fast-growing grass. One of the more unique characteristics of bamboo is its “Wabi-Sabi” aesthetic, which refers to the austere beauty it acquires with age, in contrast to regular lumber that simply looks like it needs to be replaced.

Stone fence designs. Unlike brick and concrete, properly stacked stone fencing requires no additional reinforcement from mortar or rebar. As a found material, the price of stone is unbeatable. More importantly, stone fencing is extremely durable and, like bamboo, only looks better with age; and if replacements are necessary, they can be done one stone at a time, unless wood or metal, which needs to have whole panels replaced.

Recycled brick fence designs. Recycled bricks aren’t just for driveways and tile. Unlike stone, you’ll actually need mortar for brick fencing, and you’ll have to make sure that the weathered look is what you want — there’s a fine line between something that looks antique and something that simply looks second rate. If you’re less concerned with privacy, you can minimize the amount of mortar needed by staggering the bricks for a gapped pattern.

Rusty iron. Rusty iron fence panels procured from the local salvage yard can be covered with vine and climbing plants. This is essentially the Western version of the Wabi-Sabi concept: age adds character. Compared to the huge expense of some decorative garden fencing like wrought iron, which is sometimes patinized for an artificially aged look, rusted iron fences are extremely cost effective.

Bottle fence designs. Fences made from recycled wine bottles are popular in rural areas. These can range from very simple arrangements: a series of upturned bottles with their necks planted into the ground, a series of upright bottles sandwiched between wooden cross-members, or another upturned set mounted on poles between rails.

Picket fences. They might not be original, but good old-fashioned white picket fences are pretty economical in the scheme of things. If you’re willing to spend a little more on the front end, think about installing a vinyl picket fence to virtually eliminate your long term maintenance costs, since vinyl doesn’t rot or fade over time. Always remember that most of your wooden garden fencing costs will go to replacement and maintenance, unless you take preventative measures.

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Garden fence designs are largely determined by the material being used, such as bamboo, aluminum or dry stone. The volume and texture of each type will impart its particular ambiance that either complements the house and garden to which it belongs effectively, or does so less effectively. Let’s take a look at a few popular garden fence ideas.

Vinyl and Wooden Garden Fencing

Stockade and picket fences are the most prevalent types of wood fencing. While wood is usually homeowners’ first choice of material, consider vinyl fencing, which is essentially faux wood. Vinyl is less prone to rot and weather than wood, resistant to insects, and has far lower maintenance costs in the long run. Of course, while vinyl can have a wood-like grain pattern when viewed from a distance, the truth is that, on close inspection, nothing beats the organic texture of an authentic wood fence.

A stockade fence is designed primarily for privacy fencing, typically employing a tongue-and-groove joinery to eliminate gaps between panels. Naturally, the privacy you gain comes at the expense of visibility from the house, or from any direction beyond the perimeter. A picket fence is the most widely installed fencing, allowing a view of the garden from the outside, while still cordoning off the property.

Somewhat related to stockade fencing is bamboo, since a bamboo garden fence is also ideal for privacy. While bamboo fencing is perhaps more limited in application, since it implies use with zen gardens, it’s extremely economical and ages well — it tends to look better with additional weathering. Moreover, bamboo privacy fencing looks less imposing than traditional stockade panels.

Aluminum and Wrought Iron Fence Designs

Wrought iron fencing is a favorite for public gardens, but it’s often beyond the budget of homeowners, who might be willing to spring for a wrought iron gate, but not the cost of a full set of wrought iron fence panels. For residential fences and garden gates, it’s become more common to install a steel or aluminum fence.

Aluminum fencing with a black power coat finish has a look that’s essentially identical to iron gates while being much lighter, more weather resistant, less prone to rust, and cheaper up front and over its lifetime.

A chain link fence, while inappropriate for decorative garden fencing, is a pragmatic choice if the main goal is to keep children and pets from coming in or getting out. It’s possible to soften the utilitarian look of chain link fencing by covering it with vine. There’s almost always a way to make functional fencing look at least somewhat decorative.

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Garden gates can be hard to choose. Should your garden gate be wood or metal? What style of gate best compliments and enhances the look of your yard? Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular materials and styles.

Wooden Garden Gate Options

A good practice for selecting a wooden gate, or having one custom made, is to look for a style that resembles the house to which it belongs. A house that’s more rustic in design would get a garden gate in the back that’s similarly rustic. Consider whether or not you want the gate to be plain or accented with wrought iron ornaments. Do you want a single gate or dual gates? For a single gate, would you prefer a sliding gate, or the more popular swing gate?

Dual, solid arched gates are particularly effective for wood fences or stone uprights. For privacy, it’s common to use tongue and groove lumber for a stockade look, where there are no gaps between the slats. The hinges are traditionally placed on the garden side to keep them from being visible when entering the garden.

A Z-frame gate is another popular option. Z framing refers to gate frameworks where parallel boards that act as upper and lower members of the frame are joined by a longer, diagonal member. As with the hinges, the Z-frame is mounted on the garden side of the gate.

Metal Garden Gates

On paper, iron garden gates may seem incompatible with something as organic as a garden, but seen together, they blend exceptionally well. Wrought iron garden gates are preferred if you can afford them, but galvanized steel is a cost-effective substitute. A black power coat finish is applied to a steel garden gate for a wrought iron look. Metal gates of either type are best used with stone uprights, both for aesthetics and long-term structural stability.

Wire gates are another option if you have a chain link fence, or another style of metal fencing. Some wires gate are themselves made of wrought iron, featuring a garden trellis pattern. Mesh gates offer a lighter touch, showcasing more the garden beyond the entrance. Wire gates can be attached to fencing in a few ways. The most common is to have a pair of hinge tabs or L-shaped brackets welded to the gate to attach to your post.

Your choice of wooden or metal garden gates will most likely depend on the fencing you already have in place, but don’t fail to consider an option simply because it initially seems incompatible with your existing fence. You may be able to make your preferred garden gate mesh very well with your fencing and landscaping by simply replacing the uprights with a different material.

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Dog gate and baby gate products are fairly similar, with subtle but important difference. While babies can only rove around the house slowly, and are only a danger to themselves, dogs can cover a lot of ground quickly, and are potentially dangerous to children, adults, and even other pets. Let’s look at a few critical features in safety gates for dogs.

Dog Gates for the House

Dog gate indoor products are often simpler in design than child safety gate products, which require extra measures to keep babies from falling down staircases. Some dog gates are designed to be free standing, while others are pressure mounted. As the term suggests, free standing pet gates are not secured to wall, door or stair fixtures; only their weight and wider footprint keep them in place, which obviously is ideal for cats and smaller dogs. They’re also more convenient for the owner, since they’re easy to reposition, and require no installation. Free standing brands are almost always designed for pets, as opposed to hardware or pressure mount gates, which are the two main types used to restrict children.

Pressure mounted pet gates should be used for larger dogs, or puppies that are expected to grow into larger dogs. A pressure mount gate features bolts that slide or screw outward to brace against a door frame, a wall, or the newel post of a stair railing. These gates have adult release latches operated by handles or foot pedals, so the gates can remain in place while allowing people to pass through them easily. In this respect, child and dog safety gate products are identical.

Extra Tall and Extra Wide Dog Gates

First time dog owners sometime underestimate their pet’s ability to leap beyond what seem to be sufficiently high barriers. It’s always better to err on the side of getting a gate that’s too tall. An extra tall dog gate is usually classified as such when it’s a least 40 inches in height, which is about human waist level.

Extra wide dog gates are ideal for cordoning off hallways and decks. An extra wide dog gate is usually classified as such when it’s at least 48 inches in width, or wider than an average door frame. Since gates become less stable as their width increases, models mounted with pressure screws are often preferred over free standing gates, and while pet gates of all types are available in a variety of materials, metal dog gates are recommended over wooden dog gates to discourage biting. But the material is less important than the height and width of your dog gate, since the main point is containment, not protection against bites and blemishes.

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Wooden gates may be less coveted than gates of iron or steel, but they’re often more appropriate and certainly more common, especially for garden and entrance gates. For privacy, stockade fences with no gaps between slats are more opaque than almost any kind of metal fence. The organic texture and ambiance of wooden garden gates and driveway gates can blend in more seamlessly, and seem less imposing than wrought iron or aluminum. Vinyl fences can be more durable while offering a similar look to wood, but up close, the heft and grain of boards made of actual wood is unmistakable. But some woods are more manageable over time than others, so let’s examine a few options.

Types of Wood for Gates and Fences

Cedar is a naturally moisture-resistant stock that doesn’t need to be treated with chemicals. The most popular type for fencing is Western red cedar. Knotty cedar is the most recognizable, with knots, blemishes and imperfections that give it more of a country style character than clear grade cedar. Clear grade lumber, however, lasts longer (up to 40 years with proper care), and has a cleaner look. Another softwood to consider, of chemical treatment is acceptable, is Southern treated pine.

Among hardwoods, oak is a popular choice for stockade fences. With its naturally high tannin content, oak fences are resistant to pests and fungal infections. Northern red oak and white oak are used most frequently for residential fencing. Teak, particularly in older stock, is a long-lasting wood which, like clear grade cedar, will last around 40 years. Also in common with its softwood counterpart, teak doesn’t require chemical treatment, and is naturally impervious to pests and harsh weather.

Installation Considerations for Wood Gates

Special attention needs to be paid to the structural properties of wooden driveway gates and fences. Wood posts planted in the ground will degrade and lose their strength, so if you don’t find it aesthetically inconsistent, steel posts are recommended. This is especially true for gate posts, which are much more prone to creep out of alignment with repetitive opening and closing. When fitting the gate, ensure that the posts can handle the load, since wider gates mean heavier panels. If you must use wood posts, pick a material resistant to rotting like redwood or cedar, or a pressure-treated lumber.

Gate hardware should either be made of rust-free components, like stainless steel or molded plastic, or be coated for rust resistance with epoxy or polyester. A wooden gate frame should have an anti-sag gate kit, with a hook and eye turnbuckle, to adjust for eventual wear.

If you take the time to examine the lumber options and fencing styles available for wooden gates and fences, you’re certain to find a solution that’s aesthetically appropriate and within your budget while keeping maintenance hassles to a minimum.

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Baby gates, sometimes referred to as stair gates, child gates, or baby safety gates, can be extremely effective for restricting your child’s access to unsafe rooms and staircases. They’re offered in different types with different strengths and weaknesses that should be carefully examined before settling on one particular model.

A typical baby safety gate is 42 to 72 inches wide, which should be sufficient for most doorways and stair landings, and 30 to 34 inches tall, which should be tall enough for most infants, toddlers and pets. Wooden and plastic baby gate models are available in a variety of colors and textures to blend in with their surroundings.  For wider openings and taller children, extra wide and extra tall gates are available. There are three main types of baby gates for stairs and doorways: pressure mounted, hardware mounted and retractable. For fireplaces, there is a separate product category of fireplace safety gates, not discussed here, which are usually made out of some kind of powder coated iron or aluminum.

Pressure Mounted Baby Gates

A pressure mounted baby gate is favored for portability and easy of installation, usually requiring no tools. They feature screw-out pads that brace the unit in the doorway or between the wall and newel post of the stair landing. Many older pressure mounted gates were one-piece constructions (also true of many hardware mounted models), which encouraged parents to unsafely step over them, but modern gates tend to have an inner swing gate with a release latch for easy adult access.

Hardware Mounted Baby Gates

The biggest disadvantage of pressure mounted baby gates is that they can slip out of place gradually, especially if pets or children meddle with them. A hardware mounted baby gate is the safest option by far. These feature brackets that screw directly into the door frame or newel post, which makes them harder to reinstall in different locations, but being embedded also makes them impossible to be nudged. While pressure mounted frames have the gate in the middle of the unit as a smaller section, hardware mounted child gates are usually single-piece units which, when unlatched, swing open with hinges mounted on one set of brackets.

Retractable Baby Gates

A retractable baby gate is the most flexible option. Some models are have clamp-on brackets, hardware mounted brackets or pressure mounted frames; but what they have in common is a polyester mesh screen that draws closed and retracts open across the doorway or stair landing like a sideways window shade. The component that spools and stores the screen when retracted, the roller, can be detached from its wall bracket, so that the brackets can be left in place if the screen needs to be removed. Unlike a pressure mounted gate, where the entire frame needs to be moved or stored, only the roller of a retractable gate needs to be removed, so it’s very compact for storage. Unlike the other two types of gates, whose width needs to be known before purchasing in order to ensure a correct fit, retractable gates can extend to just about any width.

This is not the idea choice for a stair gate. Retractable baby safety gates should only be used for doorways and the bottom of stairs. Since they’re not rigid, and don’t offer exceptional resistance if pushed by a determined child, placing this these gates at the top of stairs may result in the child falling through, which obviously has more severe consequences than falling on a level floor.

Which type of gate you choose should be determined largely by where it’s meant to be installed. For the top of stairs, a hardware mounted child gate should probably be your first choice. For doorways, either pressure mounted or retractable gates are sufficient. If you’re interested in a gate that can be taken to other parents’ homes, retractable baby gates are the most practical choice.

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Fence panels are the sections of fencing that get attached to posts. Each fence panel consists of slats, chain link or a mesh material, and two or more rails that run across them. They can be assembled from scratch in DIY fashion, or, more commonly, purchased as prefabricated units. Fencing panels are avilable in a wide range of styles, from ornamental to utilitarian, and for a wide array of applications ranging from privacy fencing to animal containment.

Installing Fencing Panels

Panels are typically sold in 5″ to 8″ lengths. You’ll need to measure the total footage of the enclosed property’s perimeter, then divide by them your panel’s length to determine the number of panels needed. The posts are placed in the ground centered at intervals corresponding to the panel’s length — they go between the panels, usually on the inside of the property, and the panels are attached with lag screws. The exception would be the first and last panels, which will either overlap with the first/last post be a few inches, or will be cut to the edge of the post.

Common Fencing Panel Materials

Wood is the most commonly used material for residential fencing, particularly for stockade fences designed for privacy. Redwood, spuce and cedar are excellent materials for wood fence panels that weather better than cheaper wooden fence panels like pine. Bamboo fence panels also weather nicely, and are ideal for decorative garden fencing while being quite affordable.

If you’re interested in the look of wood, but would rather not have to deal with the long-term maintenace issues like moisture damage, rot or chipping, consider vinyl fence panels. They’re lighter, weatherproof, and already colored (and therefore don’t have to be painted).

Metal fence panels come in a variety of styles. Like vinyl, aluminum panels require no painting. Also like vinyl, aluminum fence panels are impervious to rust. Aluminum provides a similar look to wrought iron fence panels with a much lower price tag. Aluminum panels are easy for home homeowners to install themselves, since they’re usually sold with a posts that are prepunched for simplified attachment. Mesh and chain link fence panels are usually meant for sports, animal containment, crowd control and other temporary fencing rather then residential applications.

Concrete Fence Panels

Panels for precast concrete fence walls are by far the most strongest, heaviest and most expensive material, with individual panels often costing more than entire fences made of wood, vinyl, or even wrought iron. More often than not, concrete walls are intended for commercial enclosures. For residential fencing, they’re more commonly found in Great Britain than the United States.

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Stair railings are nearly as important as stairs themselves. Material selection is the first priority when choosing a stair railing systems. Handrails for stairs and balusters are available in different types of metal, wood, vinyl, stone and composite materials, each of which offers its own advantages in terms of decoration, durability or economy. This is an overview of the most popular types of modern stair railings for indoor and outdoor installation.

Indoor Stair Railings

Being more organic and less formal than wrought iron, wood is the most common material to install indoors, with oak stair railings being the most popular. Wood stair railings can be stained or painted to match virtually any interior, not only in color but in texture. For hardwood floors, it’s common practice to apply a stain finish on the railings to give aesthetic consistency to the landings.

While it’s a popular material for gates, wrought iron railings are less popular for homes of average size, especially for the expense. In smaller houses, wrought iron stair railings tend to look rather heavy, so it’s more common to see more lightweight metal stair railings, such as aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum railing is quite durable, coated with a baked enamel finish that makes it suitable for either indoors or outdoors.

The most modern stair railing systems for industrial homes use stainless steel and glass. Cable stair railings feature widely spaced balusters with steel cables stretched between them horizontal, typically ever 4 inches. Glass stair railings also have wide balusters, with rectangular glass panels (or panels of parallelograms) inserted between them with steel brackets.

Outdoor Stair Railings

Vinyl railing systems are usually considered the most cost-effective solution for porches and decks, offering a somewhat of the look and feel of wood to the casual eye without the wood’s tendency to warp from prolonged exposure to rain. Composite railing, though more expensive, has an even more wood-like texture, and is less likely to yellow or flake than vinyl. Since decks are more exposed to rain than porches, composite decking is more economical in the long run, with lower maintenance costs, than wood decks, so composite deck railing is a logical choice.

Wrought iron stair railings are great for decks. While railings made entirely of wrought iron are common, combinations of wood and iron, or vinyl and iron, are effective alternatives, where the banisters are made of wood or vinyl, and the balusters are wrought iron. Balusters are often sold in packs ranging from 10 and 200 pieces.

With a wide array of materials to choose from, you’ll not only have to consider how the possibilities for stair railings mesh with the look and feel of your existing stairs, but how much they’ll cost, how durable they’ll be, and how safe they are for your family. There’s more to think about than decoration.

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Automatic gates, also known as electric gates have a few benefits over manually operated gates, but two of them make the electric option essential. They make swinging or sliding rather unwieldy gates open and closed as simple as pushing a button. More importantly, they offer several optional tiers of remote access control and security.

The mechanics of hinges and guide rails of swinging and sliding gates are essential the same for manual and automatic gates. Gates of either type may consist of metal, wood or vinyl. What’s different are the components that do the heaving lifting, alternately known as gate openers or gate operators. Strictly speaking, an electric gate opener is meant to refer to a controller for light duty residential gates, while an electric gate operator is intended to for heavy duty commercial installations; but in practice they’re often used interchangeably.

Electric Gate Openers and Operators

A gate opener is the heart of an electric gate. This is an electromechanical or hydraulic armature enclosed in a waterproof hood for above-ground installations. In swinging gates, the motor’s arm extends to the center of the gate panel. For a dual gate opener, a separate operator is positioned at either end. Underground swing operators contain the mechanics inside of metal boxes underneath the plates for the gate’s hinges. Since underground gate openers have no machinery visible to the onlooker, they’re usually considered the most aesthetic. They’re also the most expensive type of automatic gate openers.

Whether or not electric gates are a viable option depends on your location, or rather, the proximity of the fence to the power mains. If the gate is too far from your residential power source, which is often the case for farms and other sprawling properties, it’s still possible to power the operator’s batteries, which typically need 24 volts, by solar panels if they have access to adequate sunlight.

Sliding Gate or Swing Gate?

Whether or not you opt for swinging or sliding gates is largely a matter of personal preference, but there are logistics to consider, like the slope of the site or any possible misalignment of posts as the ground expands and contracts with changes in weather conditions. In most cases, sliding gates, while more expensive than swing gates with above-ground controllers, are more likely to maintain alignment due to their guide rails. You will, however, need as much track in the open position as you need in the closed position. In other words, if your dual gate spans 24 feet between posts, you’ll need an additional 12 feet of track beyond either post. If you’re installing a dual swing gate on a higher-than-normal grade, you’ll probably need to have a concrete foundation poured between posts to connect them and keep them aligned.

Access Control Systems

Finally, electric gates offer different levels of access control, depending on your budget. This can mean, for instance, that you can enter and exit your driveway with a remote controller that spares you the trouble of getting out of your car. Or you can install a programmable keypad controller at the entrance that can be set with temporarily assigned access codes for service workers, like handymen or maids. You can manually buzz guests in without having to walk to the driveway entrance. If money is not an object, you can install a full-featured controller with an intercom and security camera. Electric gates can give you all the convenience, functionality and security you could possibly need.

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Driveway gates come in an overwhelming array of styles, so it’s important to focus on the critical features that make for a satisfying long term purchase. Let’s take a look at these features, focusing on modern automatic driveway gates instead of manual ones.

How will your gate opener be powered, and where will the power come from? If your houses electrical mains are too far away, as is the case in most rural settings, you’ll have to rely on solar power. If you need a solar panel, you’ll have to ensure that any surrounding trees don’t block the sunlight.

Driveway Gate Materials and Build Quality

The materials and build quality should be considered before settling on the design of the driveway gate. Do you want wooden driveway gates, metal driveway gates, vinyl? Regardless of the fence panel material, posts should be installed at least 5’ deep to account for wind and any irregularities in slopes, and 5” square tubes of 3/8” thick steel is a good standard for a secure foundation. The tubes for the posts and the rest of the gate should be acid-washed and treated with primer. Acid washing ensures that the final paint job will properly adhere to the metal, and the primer protects the gate against rust. Fence panels made of hot dipped galvanized steel offer most of the look, feel and durability of wrought iron driveway gates at a much lower cost.

The style of gate will depend on your needs and priorities. Economy style gates are quite popular, since sliding driveway gates aren’t feasible for many suburban residences with narrow driveways where the house and the property line are only three or four yards apart. In this situation, a single swing gate is the most practical option. A typical model is a 12” gate reinforced with three cross-members, controlled by a swing-arm opener. This is the most common setup for a do-it-yourself installation. The cost of the gate and the controller (the hydraulic or electromechanical assembly that operates the swing arm) is often under $1500.

As implied above, swing gates usually require less installation and maintenance that sliding gates for residential purposes, unless you already have a fairly large fence to begin with, or live a a pronounced slope. Single swing gates are most often cheaper than dual swing gates by half, since you’re not committed to buying a pair of driveway gate openers. Unless you’re aesthetically attracted to the symmetry of the dual swing gate design, a single swing gate is usually more pragmatic.

Remote Gate Control Systems

Finally, consider what kind of remote access control you’ll want to control the gate. The simplest and most economical style is the one-button remote with a visor clip, like ones for garage doors. The next level would be a keypad controller, allowing the resident to leave the remote behind. The most expensive and feature-complete option would be a keypad with an intercom and camera, allowing the resident to verify guests and buzz them in.

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