Friday, September 28, 2012

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For many, the outdoor spaces are an extension of their living space.  The problem is to use these spaces effectively; we need to create some privacy to keep prying eyes out, the neighbor’s pets (or kids, depending on the situation) or just to help keep traffic noise out.

Those considering adding privacy to their space, should keep in mind, not only their budget but also the upkeep and maintenance the new barrier will require.  Anything you install between you and your neighbor’s property is yours to upkeep including trees, fences and hedges.  If you allow living privacy barriers to overgrow the neighbor’s property they have the option of trimming it themselves, which may not always work with the plan you have, so remember to do your own upkeep.
Neighbors also tend to be less offended when you put in living privacy barriers over the harsh reality of hard fencing.  A six-foot high wood or stone fence gives them reasons to think you don’t want to be neighborly and in some cases maybe you don’t but do consider your neighbors when installing a fence in order to keep them as friends.

Another consideration is to check with the local building codes or HOA rules and regulations before making your decision to ensure you are complying with restrictions such as height or material usage.  You don’t want to get your barrier installed and then find out you have to take it down or get fined because it doesn’t meet the requirements.

Privacy Barrier Materials

1.    The Tried and True Wooden Fencing.  You can purchase readymade fence panels from the local hardware stores or have a fence custom built.  Another option is to use recycled lumber or pallets to make an appealing fence (put up correctly, not just leaning on something, this is not neighborly).  Paint or stain the wood to protect it and to create more appeal.  Remember to use concrete to set the posts, to ensure your fence does not fall down in high winds or storms.

2.    The Privacy Hedge.  A living formally pruned hedge, which not only creates screening but provides sound dampening as well.  This is great for locations that face on a busy road or commercial location.  Use plantings such as privet, arborvitae, Italian cypress, ligustrum or other plantings that will handle heavy pruning.

3.    Stone and Masonry Walls.  These types of walls are beautiful, functional and one of the more expensive options for privacy barriers.  They do require some maintenance to upkeep but it is relatively low and they take up less ground space.  You could also build these walls to two or three foot then place a wooden slate fence or ironwork on top for more added height and interest.

4.    Pergolas, Arbors and Trellises.  These three are built as a foundation for vining plants to run on.  They create screening and beauty at the same time.  Consider adding roses, grapevine, jasmine or other long-lived vines for both color and function.

5.    Ornamental Ironwork Fencing.  This type of fencing is most often custom-made for a location and set into the ground on posts.  The fencing can stand on its own or planted with plantings to soften and create more screening as well as sound dampening.

6.    Lattice and Wood Panels.  Install these permanently on posts and walls or put into containers with rollers to move around for screening where needed.  Plant the containers with flowers and vines to run on the lattice for more beauty.

7.    Large Earth Berms.  Mounds of rolling soil, planted with grasses, trees or other plantings around the property create privacy and sound dampening.  Blending the mound in gently with the existing yard allows for easier maintenance.  This option is best used in larger locations.

8.    Trees.  All types of trees create a privacy barrier.  Evergreens such as magnolias, pines, cypress and junipers provide constant leaf cover for year around screening and deciduous trees such as maples, birch, and oaks are leafed in the spring, summer and fall to create more privacy while you are outside and will let more light in during the cold winter months.

Use one or use several of these options for creating privacy in your outdoor living space.  Once you have your option(s) installed, add even more privacy by adding soothing sounds inside the space.  Running water from a fountain creates not only ambience but also a great spot for relaxing if you add a few water plants or fish to it.  The rustling of leaves in the wind also creates relaxation and sound coverage as does the soothing tinkles of a wind chime.

Jay Preston is Brand Manager at Tool HQ, Australia's premiere power tool supplier.

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