THE REAL DIRTT: Going Horizontal

April 14, 2017
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“Love your neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge.”

Benjamin Franklin

If you’ve driven through northeast Los Angeles lately, you’ll notice that horizontal fences are now all the rage. But the trend isn’t exactly new.

Indeed, until about 40 years most fences were horizontal. They only started standing upright in response to new safety codes and ordinances that required fences to be 42-inches high so they would be made more difficult to climb, especially around swimming areas.

But with land at a premium, horizontal fences also create an optical illusion, fooling you to think your yard is more expansive than it actually is, hence the explosion of horizontal fences in land-challenged, more urbanized areas of the Southland like Silver Lake and Highland Park.

Horizontal fences also seem to suggest a more subtle approach to fencing your neighbors out. It’s a softer perimeter. Depending on the gaps between the slats, you can still peek at your neighbors and, yes, they can still peek at you.

Some fencing experts believe the current surge in horizontal fencing takes its inspiration from California’s multiple wine regions, where sprawling wine estates and easy living are associated with their horizontal fencing.

Whatever your reason or inspiration for going horizontal, whether you build the fence yourself or hire a contractor, here are a few things to consider:

Don’t start digging the holes for your posts until you call 811. A utility company will come out and let you know if you’re about to dig into a pipe or power line.

  • Check with the city about the height of your fence. If your fence isn’t higher than six feet, many cities don’t require any special permits. Higher than six feet, you may run up against some city regulations.
  • Dig your post holes about a third or half as deep as your post. You want them to stand up against that once-in-a-decade windstorm that strikes Southern California.
  • Go horizontal if you’re seeking a more modern or contemporary look.
  • Go horizontal if you want to expand a small space.
  • Vary the width of the slats to create more visual interest.
  • Choose woods that are more resistant to rot and decay like cedar and redwood.

Horizontal fences are back in vogue. What’s important is not whether you are setting the trend or following it, but simply whether you like the way they look and make you feel.


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