The Difference between a Fence and an Outdoor Privacy Screen

If you want to create more privacy for your backyard or garden, you might think a fence is your only option. But there are several ways to hide your outdoor space from neighbors, including putting up a privacy screen. What are the major differences between a fence and an outdoor privacy screen? And which one is better for your home?

In this guide, you'll learn which questions to ask when choosing between a fence or privacy screen. Plus, five ideas for creating beautiful outdoor privacy screens.

As a quick note, keep in mind that privacy screens come in all shapes and sizes. Colour Tree sells fence screens, which are installed on existing fences to either create more privacy or add aesthetic appeal. They're like a combination of fence and privacy screen. So while Colour Tree's fence screens are not standalone privacy screens, like the some of the ones covered in this article, they do help you keep your outdoor space more private.

Now, let's look at whether a fence or a traditional outdoor privacy screen is better for you.

How much privacy do you need?

The first question is how much privacy you want. Fences tend to offer more privacy, blocking your neighbors' view of your yard completely. A fence typically wraps around your entire yard or outdoor space as well. Privacy screens only section off one part of your garden or patio, and may not cover your entire yard.

If you're looking to keep your entire backyard private, then consider constructing a fence. If you only want to create a small private space like a patio, garden, or deck, then a privacy screen would be better.

How much do you want to spend?

Cost could be a determining factor in your choice between a fence and privacy screen. As fences tend to be bigger, sturdier, and longer-lasting, they're more expensive than privacy screens. A fence might also have to be installed by a professional if you don't want to build one yourself. The cost for labor could drive up the price.

In most cases, a privacy screen will be less expensive than a fence. Of course, it depends on the materials you use to construct your privacy screen, and how big you want it to be. You can usually build and install a privacy screen yourself - or even order one that's premade - saving you money on installation costs.

Do you need a planning permit for a fence or outdoor privacy screen?

If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowner's association, you might be limited on the type of fence you can build. To build a fence, you might also need a permit. A contractor will know which permits are required, if you decide to hire someone to build the fence for you. If you're constructing the fence yourself, you can call your local building officer to ask about requirements. There could be limits on height, materials, and even style when it comes to privacy fences.

Outdoor privacy screens, on the other hand, are less of an undertaking. If you want a privacy structure but don't want to worry about planning or permits, then a privacy screen is usually better than a fence.

What are the material differences between a fence and privacy screen?

Privacy fences can be made from many materials, including wood, plastic, brick, or iron. Tall shrubs or bushes at the edge of your yard can also act as a fence. When building a fence from scratch, you should carefully select which material to build with. Wood will have more considerations than plastic, for example.

You have a wider selection of possible materials if you build a privacy screen. Because privacy screens are simple barriers, you can create one from almost anything. As long as a material is weatherproof and sturdy enough to stand on its own, you can make a privacy screen out of it. And if you're at a loss for privacy screen ideas, there's a list of five them at the end of this article!

Where do you want to install your fence or privacy screen?

Your final consideration when choosing a fence or privacy screen is where you'd like to position it in your yard. Do you want to seal your backyard off completely from neighbors' prying eyes? Or would you just like to enclose your patio? A fence is better for closing off a large space, whereas a privacy screen works best for smaller areas like patios, terraces, and decks.

If you already have a fence but it doesn't afford you much privacy - as with a wrought-iron or chain-link fence - you can cover it with a durable, canvas screen. Putting a screen on your existing fence is an elegant solution that doesn't require you to construct a new fence.

5 Outdoor Privacy Screen Ideas

Looking for inspiration for your outdoor privacy screen? Here are five ways to create more privacy in your outdoor space, either with a standalone privacy screen or a fence screen from ColourTree.

1. Close In an Above-Ground Pool

outdoor privacy screen installed around an above-ground pool

Want a quick way to make your above-ground pool private without having to build a fence? Simply take a privacy fence screen and wrap it around posts attached to your pool. You'll want a screen that's durable and waterproof so it won't be damaged when you splash around in the pool.

2. Finish a Basketball Court or Driveway

basketball court with a tall privacy screen fence

To create more privacy for your basketball court - and to keep the ball from flying into your neighbor's yard - add a tall privacy fence and screen. This type of privacy structure is best for recreational areas because it's durable. A wood lattice frame or a garden wall wouldn't be good for a basketball court - functionally or aesthetically.

3. Cover up a Slatted Fence with a Fence Privacy Screen

outdoor privacy screen for a slatted fence

If you already have a slatted or wrought-iron fence, you can add charm and privacy to your outdoor space by adding a privacy fence screen to it. Turn a drab garden or patio into a relaxing oasis by placing colorful potted flowers and planters.

4. Make a Natural Privacy Screen

ivy-covered privacy screen for a patio

If you want to keep your outdoor area as natural as possible, why not install a plant wall as a privacy screen? Hang small potted plants on a lattice frame, or cover a trellis in ivy, then position it at the edge of your patio or terrace. Like the idea of a wall of plants but don't have a green thumb? Try artificial ivy instead.

5. Hang Outdoor Curtains

Curtains are an elegant way to keep your deck or patio private. They're also versatile - keep them open when you want to see the rest of your garden, or close them when you're gathered on the deck with friends and want some privacy. Outdoor curtains are also easy to install, but they work best for spaces that have a roof (covered decks, patios, etc.).

Fence vs. Privacy Screen

The choice between a fence or privacy screen depends on several factors. Each backyard, patio, and deck is different, so find the option that works best for you. And if you already have a fence that needs covering up, you can opt for a fence screen from ColourTree.

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