How to Make a Fence Look Better: Dressing Up Your Ugly Fence

how to make a fence look better

A good stain and high-quality, decorative hardware can take a fence from bland or even outright ugly to a stylish complement to your home.

When we moved into our house, it was very clear that the old fence had been installed with just one thing in mind: utility. Let’s not mince words: this fence was just plain ugly and aesthetics were obviously not taken into consideration.

We purchased the house as a bit of a fixer-upper, so it was basically impossible to convince my wife that we should postpone an interior remodeling project and instead, put the money toward installing a new fence. Yet the summer months were rapidly approaching and our family tends to spend a lot of time outdoors, grilling, playing and just enjoying the warm weather. I knew I couldn’t make it through an entire summer looking at that eyesore so I set out on a mission to find ways to improve that awful fence.

It took some hard work, but I was able to transform our fence into something that was actually quite attractive. In fact, I may even allow it to remain standing for a couple more years before we invest in a replacement. So if you’re wondering how to make a fence look better, I have a few answers. It’s all about getting creative and understanding why your fence is so unsightly in the first place.

Refinish the Fence to Create a Cohesive Look

Many ugly fences–mine included–are that way because they have an inconsistent finish or have an overall look that doesn’t fit with the rest of the property. Mine had problems in both areas. The prior homeowner had started stripping the paint off the fence, but only got halfway down one of the three sides. So one portion was bare wood, while the rest was a hideous shade of brown. It appears they tried (and failed) to match the color to the house and shed, but it was about five shades too “orangey.” Instead of creating a look of cohesion, it clashed. Painfully. To make matters worse, the deck was yet another shade of brown.

The wood of the fence was actually in good condition, so I chose to strip off all the old paint (a painstaking process) and then used a long-lasting combination stain and wood sealer to create an even, cohesive look that matched the deck and complemented the house. The right stain can really transform the look of your fence, bringing out the wood grain and natural hues and helping you avoid a structure that looks “too new” and out of place. If you’re stuck on what color to choose, we have some tips on how to choose a stain color for your fence.

Improve Your Fence with New Hardware

The original fencing company had used cheap hardware. What’s worse, they weren’t even consistent, as some hardware had a silver tone, other pieces were golden, and the gate hardware was black. So I set out to install new fencing hardware that wouldn’t corrode away in a couple years, including the bolts, brackets and gate hardware. I was also careful to pick out hardware that would match with the hardware that I’d purchased to build a new pergola. And obviously, make sure you find the right replacement parts for your fence hardware.

I tend to prefer black hardware, as doesn’t look too prominent, especially at a distance, and it gives things a more finished, less industrial, look. So if you feel like your fence “sticks out” too much or looks cheap, black hardware can be a great trick for improving the overall appearance. Painting metal fence posts can also help as well, although you’ll need to choose a metal-friendly paint and you’ll want to be sure to prep the metal before painting. Also, use a bit of sandpaper to scuff up the metal’s surface; this will help the paint adhere more effectively.

How to Make a Fence Look Better with Decorative Additions

Some fences don’t look good because they’re just plain and unfinished looking. This is an area where you can have a bit of fun. Consider these methods for dressing up a fence:

  • Add decorative hardware inserts: These are most commonly used on gates, but you can use them on the fence itself as well. From doggy peek-ports to fleur-de-lis scrolls and star accents, inserts come in lots of different styles, so there’s one to suit your home’s style and your personal aesthetic preferences.
  • Install fence post caps: These are decorative toppers that can be added to the top of wooden or other types of fence posts. Many are wooden in nature, while others are simple metal caps, which serve the dual purpose of adding decoration and protecting the cut end of the wood (which is more prone to deterioration).
  • Add a strip of trellis atop the fence: If you’re feeling “boxed in” and you have a wooden fence, consider cutting down the fence slats (but be sure to leave the fence posts intact!). Then, add a strip of wood trellis atop the fence, replacing the section that you just cut away. This lets you maintain the same fence height while improving visibility and opening up the feel of the yard.
  • Add plantings at the base of the fence: If your grass extends right up to the fence, then a great option is to remove a strip of grass and add in a garden that runs the length of your fencing. In time, plants and shrubbery will conceal portions of the fence, making it largely “disappear.” If you’re impatient and want a more immediate solution, it’s generally best to opt for larger, more mature plantings and shrubs, or fast-growing shrubs like forsythia and evergreen holly.
  • Use hanging plants to disguise the fence: In addition to adding plantings at the base of the fence, you can also use hanging plants to help improve the fence’s appearance from the top down. Ivy or pothos are two common choices, as these plants grow quickly and can be “trained” to grow along the fence.

You can also find (or, if you’re crafty, make) lots of cool outdoor decorative garden hangings, ranging from signs to more sculptural creations. For example, we live near the beach, so my wife found some shells, a couple small buoys, and other miscellaneous beach finds and intertwined them with a fishing net, which she then draped across a section of fence. It was a nice touch.

Don’t let an ugly fence get on your nerves this summer! You want to enjoy your time in the great outdoors because before you know it, the cooler autumn weather will be upon us. If you’re planning on replacing your hardware or need to buy inserts for your fence, I recommend making your way to OZCO Building Products, as you’ll find everything you need to get the job done. And if you’re an avid do-it-yourselfer like me, then you’ll really enjoy OZCO’s DIY project plans, complete with step-by-step directions and supply lists. They’ve got enough project ideas to keep you busy for lots of summers. It’s everything you need to have a fun and productive summer…one that’s free of ugly fences!

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