Good fences make good neighbors, so I need a damn good fence fix

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Sun Patterns
Photo by ozzzie. Used under Creative Commons license.
I have a little painted-brick '50s track house in a less-than-beautiful neighborhood and our house came with chain-link fence in the front and back yards. The problem is, the can piles and discarded cars in our neighbors' lawns aren't attractive.

I sometimes see sheet metal with cut out shapes used to replace or cover the chain link, but I can't seem to find out what these sheets are called or where to get them. I'm looking for solutions that are cheap and beautiful. Thoughts?

WHOA I never realized those things had a name. Research provided a name: privacy slats. But that's all I know, so we've got to turn to the readers for more information.

Have you had privacy slats or other sorts of chain link fence panels? Do you recommend them? Do you have alternative ideas for Jen? Speak up in the comments!

  1. I see most people use the PVC slats. They come out and fade over time, but it's certainly going to be less expensive than a new fence.
    Alternately, you can use landscaping fabric and just wire it to the fence.

  2. It takes a little while, but if I were you, I would grow a plant over them. I think that looks nicer and more natural than metal sheets.
    Species like Common Ivy (Hedera Helix, green all year round) or Clematis (nice flowers!) or Passiflora (very nice flowers, grows very quickly) would be suitable. (Just type'm on wikipedia and you get pictures).

    • One option would be to get privacy slats in a deep green now, and plant shrubs and/or vines (just avoid the invasive English Ivy if it's a problem in your area) across so that it's a little more pleasing to the eye. That way, you can get rid of the slats when your plants provide enough coverage. It'll be a bit nicer looking and will let a bit more light through so your yard won't get dark.

      • Another creeper that is awesome to cover unsightly fences is the Black-eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata). It grows obscenely fast and flowers all year long.

  3. Agree with the privacy slats – you can always take some time to spray-paint them if you can't find colours that you like.
    Another good plant to look into would be honeysuckle – it grows fairly fast and smells divine on warm summery nights.
    Passion flowers are another good choice – I had some at my old house that took over a little 4-foot privacy fence in a matter of months.

    • One caveat with honeysuckle and wisteria – they can both be pretty invasive depending on the area you live in. Here in the south, it is not uncommon to come across trees and even buildings covered with the stuff.

      • Not sure what your concerns about planting a non-native species would be, or your climate, and so forth, but I've seen bamboo planted in rows as "fences" too. It grows really fast and would grow as tall as you wanted (just trim it back when it's tall enough).

        • Just don't get the runners! They will eat your yard, the neighbor's yard, everyone's yard. Unless you are willing to dig five feet underground and pour a concrete retaining wall, or keep them in containers and cut off the little escaping rhyzomes, runners are a bad idea.

  4. When I was young, we used to decorate our school fences with some pieces of fabric and transform the fence into beautiful pieces of colorful wall art. You just need to cut some rectangles out for different fabric and tie a knot on each wire!

  5. The cheapest fix is always going to be vine plants–Honeysuckle in our backyard grew all over the fence, and improved the view so much we totally forgot we had neighbors!

  6. Our back neighbor (his garage butts against our yard) uses these in the chain link that separates our spaces — and I hate it. It looks just as craptacular as the chain link on the other side of the yard that's shared with a vacant house, meaning there's all kinds of debris and weird plants growing on it. I feel like it adds to the kind of urban squalor depressed look. We had the idea of buying lattice panels and somehow affixing them to the chain link and then growing plants on the lattice until we can afford to rip out what chain link we can and put up true privacy fence.

    • You can use those plastic zip ties to affix the lattice to the chain link. They will hold up in the elements, and if one breaks, just replace it with another one 🙂

    • Actually, clumping bamboo is non-invasive so you don't have to worry about it spreading everywhere. Running bamboo is the type that spreads. Just make sure you find out which type of bamboo it is before you buy.

  7. I had the same problem years ago. I went to Home Depot or Lowe's and bought wood fencing panels. I attached the panels over the chain link fencing. It took no time at all, looked like I'd replaced — rather than covered up — the old fencing and was much cheaper than replacing the old.

    http://www.lowes.com/pd_20206-18047-37001_0__?productId=3159813&Ntt=fence+panel&Ns=p_product_price|0&pl=1&currentURL=%2Fpl__0__s%3FNs%3Dp_product_price|0%26Ntt%3Dfence%2Bpanel

  8. Grow plants as mentioned above or climbing roses, just cut off any branch that had a flower each winter. Or use branch cuttings from your yard to weave into the fence like you would the commercial slats. Gives a more natural look, but will take longer to fill it in completely.

  9. I totally agree with planting something and letting it grow but that can take time. I'm not sure if you have them over there, but here in Oz you can buy lengths of bamboo/reed screening (like at the bottom of this link http://www.reao.com.au/forum/showthread.php?3321-Backyard-a-Blank-Canvas-Looking-for-ideas ) It is relatively cheap, depending on how much you need and you could put it up and then plant something in front of it so you have a nice screen whilst the plants are growing and as the screen starts to look a bit worse for wear with age, the plants will have started to cover it up giving you a nice lush looking fence line.

  10. hey folks!
    i like the natural bamboo reed fence, and i really like the idea of plants, but our yard is also quite shaded; the honeysuckle i planted two years ago is maybe three feet tall and is one piddly vine.

    i really like the idea of corrugated metal; it's kinda a them we've been using throughout the house but for 100' or more of fencing, it might be cost prohibitive. any thoughts on where to get used, even slightly rusty corrugated metal? maybe barns being demolished? how would i find such a thing?

    the one other thing i've seen, liked, and tried to figure out: large 4' x 8' sheets of thin sheet metal with a repeating design cut from it, used to replace the chain link on the frames. i would have guessed they come from some metalworking shop's discards, but i don't know what they're called and i can't find a single picture on the internet!

    i'd also be in for a ski fence if y'all want to gift me your old dead skis. thoughts on where to acquire skis for free?

    or – another friend suggested strawbale/cob fence. might look a bit like a compound, might be sweet. is this cheap?

    with the privacy slats – they're effective, if cheesy, but since our chain link fence is a cobbled-together effort lacking top rails, chunks of chain link patched together, and general disarray, it's got to go. i'll take pictures of the sad fence tomorrow when it's light out…

  11. I grew Honeysuckle too hid the uglies in my yard – they've doubled in size every year I've been here!
    Morning Glories are also very pretty, and their vines hid a lot. I would have grown them, but I didn't have anything like chain link for them to latch on to. Good luck!

  12. Cob and strawbale can be cheap. It's a matter of taking time to source free and cheap materials. You can do it yourself from many helpful books. If this link works, you can see a cob garden wall to the right of this awesome cottage: http://www.cobcottage.com/dawn

  13. If I had to deal with this situation i think I would get out the dremel and buy some plywood. Cut to size and literally cut in the patterns you want to see… I often use trees and other objects that can be turned into a cutout easily. Coat it with a good coat of varnish, stain or even bees wax. and it will hold up until your super done with it and want to make a new design.

    Get even crazier… sandwich two plywood boards together with 1×1 in between… staple outdoor solar powered LED strands onto the back panel and cut the front panel to suit. Throw a yard party, every one will be so busy gawking at your amazing led lit fence the neighbor's house will disappear….

    I am placing one at my brothers house next week I will try to post pictures soon. 🙂

  14. Honeysuckle is a good idea but ivy is better as it fills more gaps. I have both! Slats are ugly! My neighbor put ugly brown slats up and didnt finish her fence which is on the line i am not allowed to put things on her fence. So i took 2×4's and attached lattice to them stuck them down in the ground and planted honeysuckle took over in a months time.

  15. I've updated several houses in the past few years and have dealt with issues of ugly fences and fences with holes (mainly chain link) where the outside world wasn't glamorous. I've purchased blue privacy slats from an online retailer: http://privacyslatking.com/store/ – the slats were clean, a deep blue, and rather easy to install. It looks like they also have hedge slats and even an American Flag slat kit.

    If you're going for beauty, in my opinion I'd nix the chain link and go with vinyl or wood fence – vinyl is somewhat easier to maintain, and usually cheaper – for a solid, prettier privacy. Granted that is a more expensive endeavor, but just my opinion!

  16. I am having the same problem. My new neighbors has turned our nice neighborhood into a flat out trailer park. They live right beside me and they throw trash and toys on my side of the fence. There dog jumps the fence and is always on my side. I can't enjoy my back yard from the smell of dog poop and looking at car parts. What should I do to my metal fence.

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