The whole purpose of a fence or wall is to place a barrier or obstacle between your property and the rest of the world. Whether it is there to keep your pets in, or a security fence to keep the world out, the purpose will dictate what kind of fence you use. If it is purely for function and form isn’t a consideration then the choices are fairly simple to make. If you want it to look a good and add to the look of the property rather than detract from it, then you need to give things a lot more thought.

Deciding what you wish the fence or wall to achieve is the first step. If you have pets then of course, it needs to be able to contain them and offer sufficient peace of mind you won’t spend every moment away from the property worrying if the dog just got out and is off terrorizing the neighbourhood. Some pets are great diggers and can burrow under a fence in no time. Others, like cats, are good climbers and it would need to be a pretty high fence indeed to deter the average feline.

Fences are also used to mark out the boundaries of the property and divide your land from the land of your neighbor. In this case the fence is referred to as a ‘dividing fence’ and there are a lot of laws and regulations concerning such constructions as they are often at the root of many neighbourhood disputes. The NSW Trade and Investment Department website defines a diving fence as:

“…a structure that separates neighbouring properties. It will usually be on the common boundary between the two properties. A dividing fence can be made out of all sorts of materials, for example bricks, metal or wood. It may also be a ditch, embankment or vegetation, for example, a hedge. It does not include a retaining wall, unless the wall is needed to support and maintain the fence.

This leaves the property owners with considerable scope as to which materials to use but usually it will be either wooden palings or colorbond steel panelling Wooden paling fences are the cheapest to construct other than chain link or wire fences and are often the ‘benchmark’ for costing fence repairs and obtaining a share of the cost from the other property owner. Most local government jurisdictions handle such matters and have in place a rule that if one property owner wishes to renew the fence dividing their property from the next one, both property owners much contribute equally, to the value of the cheapest option (usually a wooden paling fence).

Some property owners will accept steel panelling is more durable, more attractive and more secure but they only have to agree to pay half of the lesser, wooden paling cost. It pays, therefore, to try and stay on the best of terms with your neighbours if only to save money and have them pay half of the kind of fence you wish to divide your adjoining properties. When planning your fencing  project, keep in mind you will probably have neighbours on both sides and behind you, you may even have more than one per side depending on how the lots were set out and divided up in the first place. This could require serious levels of diplomacy as you negotiate with all of them to replace your shared but rapidly deteriorating old fence.

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