Cheap fence ideas: 11 inexpensive ways to surround your backyard for privacy and shelter

These cheap fence ideas perfectly demonstrate how stylish screening needn't cost a fortune

Raised by rivers garden designed by Nicola Oakey for RHS Tatton Park flower show 2018 with woven cheap fence ideas
(Image credit: RHS)

For those that are budget-savvy, cheap fence ideas are the ideal solution for surrounding a plot. And, just because they're less expensive, doesn't mean they're any less stylish. 

Every backyard can benefit from good garden fence ideas. They provide shelter to a space, help to keep little ones (including pets) safely within boundaries, deter nosy neighbors, and can look great too. What's more, fences are quicker and cheaper to install than a wall, and as you'll soon see, can be easily customized for an extra level of pizzaz. 

Sure, there are some pricier options out there, but with a bit of know-how, you don't have to splurge all your savings to get the same effect. We've rounded up some of our favorite ways to screen a space for cheap below.

Cheap fence ideas: 11 top looks

These cheap fence ideas will get you inspired for your own garden – from colorful looks, reclaimed materials, stylish accessories, plus more.

1. Customize a slatted style with hanging plants

high fence with hanging baskets and furniture from Matalan

A tall, slatted fence complements this scene from Matalan perfectly

(Image credit: Matalan)

A slatted fence can be surprisingly inexpensive – especially if you go for one made of softwood. So, if you're looking for height when it comes to your cheap fence ideas, then something like this might be just the ticket.

Not only will the gaps allow a relaxing breeze to flow through, but they're also ideal for hanging accessories from. Here, potted plants atop hanging shelves are suspended from rope and sturdy hooks, offering a chic, boho vibe. We love the cute sign, too.

A style like this is also good for smaller plots, as it prevents them from feeling too 'boxed in'. However, if you're looking for more privacy for your garden screening ideas, you could always opt for a climbing plant or two in a pot below. These will create a natural barrier of leaves and blooms – perfect if you want more greenery in your plot.

2. Make a screen with sleepers

garden sleepers as cheap fence ideas behind pizza oven

Sleepers make a rustic backdrop to this pizza oven

(Image credit: Joanna Henderson/Future)

Garden sleeper ideas are a popular choice for all types of landscaping features, and fences are no exception. Whether you opt for new or reclaimed is up to you – both are generally affordable. Just remember to check that they're creosote-free if opting for secondhand.

You'll need to be handy with a few DIY skills – but the idea is to dig a trench, line up the sleepers vertically, then backfill the trench with concrete to ensure they stay sturdy. You can also build a wooden wall by laying the beams horizontally on top of one another. Use metal strips to connect them together, for extra stability. 

It might not be the solution for you if you want to surround a larger space, but for screening off a small patio, it can be a perfect choice. The finished look is ideal if you prefer a sense of rustic charm – like in this gorgeous Mediterranean-style plot.

3. Upcycle pallets for a cheap fence

blue pallet fence at the Regeneration garden Dewin Designs, Jane Grehan & David Lewis at RHS show Cardiff 2012

These pallets have been given a new lease of life when used as cheap fence ideas

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)

An even less expensive approach for cheap fence ideas is to use old pallets. These can often be bought at a very affordable price, or are sometimes going for free – check online marketplaces, reclamation yards, and large local stores. 

This is a lovely example and demonstrates how the middle beams can be used as handy plant containers, too (just secure a piece of wood to the bottom). A lick of cool blue paint lifts the look further, giving it contemporary appeal. 

There are plenty of pallet furniture ideas you can try too, to give your plot an extra boost for little money. Our guide is full of tips.

4. Paint an existing fence for a sophisticated look

painted fence in athenian black and olive by annie sloan

A smart fence painted in Athenian Black by Annie Sloan

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Perhaps you've already got a fence around your garden, but it's way past looking its best. Before you splash out on a brand new set-up to give your plot the boost it needs, consider reaching for a pot of paint, instead.

As long as it's sturdy and rot-free, a coat of the best exterior wood paint can be all it takes to make a difference. Give the panels a good clean first to get rid of any algae or general dirt – soap and warm water should do the job just fine. 

Once it's dry, apply a couple of coats of your chosen color. A moody black tone like this is great for modern gardens, whilst pale shades will have a more brightening and airy effect. But, if you want to make more of a statement, why not opt for something bolder?

5. Add woven wicker panels for an organic touch

Raised by rivers garden designed by Nicola Oakey for RHS Tatton Park flower show 2018

The Raised By Rivers garden, designed by Nicola Oakey for RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2018, features attractive woven fencing

(Image credit: RHS)

If you need a quick and easy fix for your privacy fence ideas, then a woven panel or two might be all you need. They're beautifully decorative whilst setting a laid-back tone, and look great when mixed with other tactile textures nearby (rattan furniture, for instance).

Ones made of willow tend to be cheaper than hazel. They're great for screening off a seating spot – simply attach them to a few fence posts to keep them secure. Or, if you have a very simple fence made from wire that's already in place, this is a way to give it a smarter look, fast.

6. Opt for a trellis

tartan fence panel from jacksons fencing

The Tartan panels from Jacksons Fencing offer a unique twist on a trellis

(Image credit: Jacksons Fencing)

Trellis ideas for gardens are useful for all sorts – whether it's pepping up a blank wall or supporting your favorite climbers. 

Sturdy versions can also be used as cheap fence ideas when attached to posts. They're ideal if you just need a subtle screen to divide areas of your garden, whilst still allowing plenty of light and air to flow through. 

If you're looking for a more exclusive feel to your outdoor zone, then opt for designs that have smaller gaps. However, we adore this unique design above, which looks even more stunning with summer blooms poking through.

7. Or, try a trellis topper

copenhagen coffee table with sofa and fence in background with trellis topper

The grey-toned, trellis-topped fence complements this outdoor furniture from DARO well

(Image credit: DARO)

Have you already got a fence or garden wall ideas in place but are looking for a bit more height? Rather than ripping out the whole thing to replace with a brand new design (expensive), or extending the look upwards by matching the materials (tricky and time-consuming), try a trellis topper instead. It's much easier and quicker to install, and won't cost a fortune either.

With the help of a cool grey hue, this design has been given a lift to provide a perfectly subtle-yet-secure screen to the side of the plot. And, it ties in beautifully with the modern outdoor furniture, too. 

8. Pep up your cheap fence ideas with a mirror

joe brows set up with painted fence, mirror and festoon lights

A mirror instantly peps up a fence in this scene by Joe Browns

(Image credit: Joe Browns)

As long as your cheap fence ideas are tough enough to take the weight, garden mirrors can be an easy way to take them to the next level. 

This arched design peps up the simple backdrop effortlessly. What's more, it helps to maximize the feeling of space – ideal for smaller plots. Our garden mirror ideas feature has lots more lovely looks.

Finish the scene with twinkling festoons, potted plants, and a cozy garden rug underfoot for a low-cost yet high-impact outdoor living space.

9. Try corrugated styles for an industrial tone

dining area with corrugated fence in the background

Reclaimed materials can provide a modern look

(Image credit: Kagu Interiors)

Fancy something a little more unique for your plot? Then perhaps this set-up above will inspire. Corrugated metal might be a surprising choice, but when styled correctly, it can offer an industrial vibe that's totally on trend.

Try pairing with vintage-style lanterns, festoons, and galvanized planters to fit the theme. We adore this seating set-up too – a stunning addition to our outdoor dining ideas. And, if you're still worried about the effect being a little too severe, be sure to use plenty of greenery in front. It's a surefire way to soften the look.

10. Go for a simple post and rail design

simple fence around barn

You don't always need a great big fence to define your boundaries

(Image credit: Davide Lovati/Future)

If you need something that's practical yet still stylish, take a cue from the scene above. We like how the organic style of the horizontal beams adds an artisan touch, whilst subtle strips of wire down below will help to deter unwanted visitors. Plus, if you've got a pretty view around your plot, then something like this will help you make the most of it.

True, it might not be the way forward if you're looking for privacy. But, for a fuss-free way to define a zone or border your lawn ideas, it's a winner.

11. Choose a classic picket style

roses over white picket fence

White picket fences are full of charm and are easy on the wallet, too

(Image credit: Joanna McCarthy/The Image Bank/Getty Images)

Picket style fences are a classic choice, but that doesn't mean they're outdated. They're a reliable pick for a neat and orderly look, and are one of the cheapest types of fence out there.

Full of charm, they're perfect for cottage garden ideas. And why not go the extra mile and plant a rose nearby? Its beauty and scent will instantly elevate the scene as it tumbles over the structure.

Finish the look with matching garden gate ideas for a prettily pulled-together scene.

How can you make an old fence look better for cheap?

garden fence ideas: woven fence behind modular sofa from DARA

Woven panels provide a pleasing backdrop to this set-up from DARO

(Image credit: DARO)

By now, we're sure that you have some ideas on how to elevate a lacklustre fence, but here's a quick checklist that may come in handy:

  1. Freshen it up with a good clean. These structures are generally made up of rough sawn timber, says Matthew Brown, Technical Consultant of Sadolin and Sandtex. So, if surfaces do show signs of previous coatings coming away or more likely, greying (due to long term exposure to the sun), use a stiff nylon brush, though nothing metallic, to remove anything loose, brittle or fibrous. Then you can use warm water and soap, or a specialized algae-cleaner, to give it a good scrub, 'cleaning along the grain to prevent damage,' as says the team at Jacksons Fencing. You could also tackle the grime with the best pressure washer, just make sure to use a gentle setting to not damage the finish.
  2. 'Check nails and screws – are they still holding firmly?' continues Jacksons Fencing. 'A fence that is broken or leaning not only looks bad but could also be unsafe, so ensure this is rectified with the help of a reputable installer if needs be. Instead of going for a completely new fence, replace individual panels or posts that have fallen into disrepair.'
  3. Add a new coat of paint. 'Using exterior paint or woodstains is a quick and affordable way to give your fence a stylish revamp,' continues Matthew. And, you don't have to paint it all one color: 'Creating a color blocking effect with two or three contrasting colors can create a stylish and unexpected effect with great impact,' he adds.
  4. For slatted or trellis designs, get creative with hooks. These can be used to hang planters, pretty signs, or even lanterns.
  5. String up festoons. If you're feeling a little underwhelmed with your cheap fence ideas, stringing up festoon lights is a quick and easy way to transform the mood. Offering a festival-chic vibe, they're one of our favorite outdoor lighting ideas, and are budget-friendly, too.
  6. Add a mirror or two – an easy way to double up the view (and it creates an illusion of space).
  7. Train climbing plants up your cheap fence ideas to soften the look – our best climbing plants guide has plenty of picks.

Is it cheaper to build a fence yourself?

Ginspiration garden designed by Belinda Belt for RHS Tatton Park Flower Show 2018

The Ginspiration garden designed by Belinda Belt for RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2018

(Image credit: RHS)

Whether it's cheaper to build a fence yourself or not depends on how handy you are with a spot of DIY.

If you're well experienced, then yes – doing it yourself will save on labor costs. if you can build it from reclaimed materials, you'll be doing your wallet an even bigger favor. 

Tackling just one or two panels isn't too tricky (and our dedicated guide on how to install fence panels will come in handy). However, putting up an entire fence can be a bigger job than expected. And, if you're feeling unsure about your building skills, then doing it yourself might only save you costs in the short term. This is because there may be more chance of it becoming damaged, meaning you'll only have to fork out again for replacement panels (or to get a professional in to re-install it after all).

What is the cheapest fence to build?

According to HomeGuide.com, the cheapest fence to build is one that's made of wire (such as barbed, hog, or woven), at around $1–7 dollars (£5 or less) per foot. Obviously, this isn't the most aesthetically-appealing of choices, however.

If you're looking for something with a little more pizzaz without breaking the bank, post and rail designs are next in line, costing around $6–16 (around £5–12) per foot according to their estimations. Wood picket and panel are slightly more, but not by much. Opt for pine rather than tropical hardwoods, cedar, or redwood – it's generally more inexpensive. However, it will need an annual protective treatment to keep it in tip-top condition. It's also worth double checking the height that you need, adds Jacksons Fencing. 'Typically, garden fence panels are 1.8m high, but slightly lower heights such as 1.65m high panels are cheaper without being drastically shorter.'

'Make sure you consider privacy when going for shorter heights,' they continue. Gravel boards – which sit below the fence panels and above the ground – can be used to add extra height and will help to protect the fence from rot, too.

Metal designs (including wrought iron) tend to be at the pricier end, as are composite styles. True, they may require less maintenance. But, they start at around $23 (£16) per foot, so aren't always the best if you're after cheap garden ideas.

Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day!