About 15 years ago my wife and I bought a couple of acres out here in the
country. It was a beautiful rural area with lots of trees. We built a small
house on our property, and have tried to maintain as much natural
vegetation as possible.
Over the years, the properties around us have logged off the majority of
their trees and our privacy decreased with each development. Now they are
building a 4280 sq/ft million dollar eyesore on the hillside just across
the road from us. With over 5 acres to build on, they naturally had to
choose a house site that is less than 100 feet from our own. To make
matters worse we are on a hillside, so their two story mansion up on the
hill feels like a giant watchtower looking down over our house and yard.
My wife and I built our home with our own two hands and have planned and
invested a lot for our future here. We fully expect to live out our
remaining days here. Moving is not an option. But, we also don't like the
feeling of our neighbors staring down on everything we do.
My first thought was to build a fence, but because of the slope of the
property a standard 6' tall fence would still be lower than the road, and
far below the neighboring house. I haven't checked to see how high a fence
would be needed to shield us from the new house, but a taller fence would
need some kind of attractive design that doesn't look worse than the house
we're trying to hide. I'd guess we would have to go 8-10 feet, at least, to
be of any real value.
I'd prefer a natural border, but plants take a lot time to grow. Last
summer I planted a row of Thuja Green Giant trees along the hillside,
hoping to gain a little privacy from the road (and now the new house).
They're "supposed" to grow 2-3 feet a year, but we live in a fairly shady
area, so I'm not expecting anywhere near that kind of growth. Best case, it
could still be 5-10 years before the trees are tall enough to provide any
So I'm interested in any ideas others might have to regain our privacy.
Links to tall fence designs would be appreciated.
Don't waste too much time researching this until you WALK INTO (with your
feet) the town hall and find out the rules for fence height, and how much of
a bribe they need to let you break the rules. I say WALK IN because it's
good to see the face of the person you're dealing with, write down his/her
name, show him/her what you've written, and ask "Is this the correct
spelling of your first and last names?" It's probably the same person who
allowed the monstrosity of a house to be built near yours. Make sure you
know who you're dealing with, and that THEY know that YOU know.
Then, ask for the rules.
Our county has most of their requirements online.
Permits are only needed if the fence is over 6 feet high (which ours
would have to be), but it appears taller fences are allowed with some
"Fences over six (6) feet high. However, they must not
cause a sight distance problem or interfere with utilities."
Of course, I wouldn't really want to look at a 10 foot high fence or
stone wall on our hill either.
I'm mostly just toying with the idea of building a fence or structure of
some sort that would block their view, but not be a solid wall to look at
"The county height limit for houses is 35 feet. Accessory structures
in certain zones will be limited to 18 foot in height."
One thought was a fence with some sort of roof or trellis built above it.
Another was a long narrow storage building or something. But, that might
look equally as odd, and wouldn't exactly be easy access up on the
Whatever we do, it has to look good from our side, or it's a bigger
problem than what I'm trying to solve.
After the rapid logging and development on surrounding properties, we
fought the same type of development across the road. Me and several of my
neighbors argued with the county against the mass logging, begged for
"buffer zones" around the perimeter, and several other requests. Of
course, every request was denied and the developer was given free reign
to do whatever they wanted.
Anyway, what's done is done. At this point, I probably have few options
other than to suck it up and live with it. But, there's no harm in
looking at my options.
You probably could not pay the officials as much as the logging company.
Remember this: Any time politicians or town officials do something wrong or
stupid involving construction, permits or public projects, it's because they
had a direct, but hidden financial interest in doing so. There are no
exceptions, not ever.
According to the county report, everything was within the "rights" of the
property owner. Basically, it is their land, they can do whatever they want
with it. The concerns and opinions voiced by the surrounding neighbors
Of course, I find it ironic now that the new development over there has
strict restrictions on what is or is not permitted to avoid detracting from
the neighborhood. Yeah right. Don't want to spoil their million dollar
estates, but who cares how the residents outside their "community" feel.
I have a similar problem with some upscale neighbors who act like they
own thier property and mine. They have a good view of my tumble down
shack from their vinyl mansion and have made thier dislike for me
apparent. My lot is actually better than and above theirs since they
arrived after me. They used a whole lot of fill when they built to
get their house up to a higher level.
My plan is to build a simple pole barn. I'm calling it an equipment
shed and it will have no windows. I'm going to build this thing
myself since pole barns are easy to build and cheap if you build your
My idea is to build this thing in such a way as to block my view of
them as much as possible and I will be doing them a favor by blocking
their few of me. I want really tall walls as tall as reasonable I'm
thinking 16 feet.
If I position this barn close enough to my house it will block my view
of them and increase my privacy. In between the house and the barn I
can have a sort of a courtyard or parking area. I need a barn anyway
to store my equipment and firewood. If one barn is not enough I will
build more barns until I am happy. I have a Bobcat skidsteer and can
drill holes for those poles with no problem. I really like the
trusses that are used on pole barns it goes up fast and gives you all
that uninterrupted space.
Also, Spruce trees are used around here as fast growing screens at
least in the country. Coloroado Blue Spruce is supposed to grow very
fast. There are also other native spruce that grow fast. They say
the spruce won't last as long or get as big as Pines but are faster
growers. In the city they use a type of Cedar called Arbor Vitae if
memory serves. They get tall fast but don't look right in the country
to my mind.
It's a good idea to plant trees on your place anyway. The work alone
will help soothe your nerves. You can do stuff like install drip
irrigation to get your trees to grow faster. It will be a good
project to get your mind off of the you know who.
I'm thinking something as wild and unnatural as possible. Maybe a bright
pink or something? Or since they insist on bringing the city out to the
country, maybe hire some street kids to paint offensive graffiti all over
the back of your barn? Rural Ghetto... :)
We are very proud of the home we built and take great care in it's
upkeep. But, compared to their new 4280 sq/ft mansion, they'll look down
on our 1450 sq/ft house like it's the servants quarters... :)
Unfortunately, our property is wide and narrow. We tried to center our
house and garage on our 2 acres as best as possible, but due to the way
the road curves that puts the road edge about 60-70 feet from our
driveway and garage. Subtract the 30 foot county setback from the road,
and the steep hillside, and we have very little space to build much of
anything along the hill.
A fence would work, but it would have to be rather tall to be effective.
Any structure would have to be very narrow, maybe 4-6 feet max depth.
Trees are probably our best option, but sadly it will take many years
before they'll provide any real privacy.
Thanks, I'll read up on them.
Yep, those are popular here too, but look way too "city" for my taste.
They also have a rather narrow shape, which would require lots of trees.
I've also heard the deer like to eat them, and they don't hold up to snow
As I said, I planted a row of Thuja Green Giants last summer. They're
supposed to be very fast growing, deer and pest resistant, tolerant of
many soil conditions, and hold up to snow well. They grow about 15 feet
wide and 50 feet high if memory serves. Unfortunately, my 12" seedlings
will probably take a long time to grow under the shade of our tall
douglas fir trees.
I'm still looking for other trees that I may be able to plant for a
second row. Preferably something that does good in shady conditions, but
still grows quickly. I'm currently reading up on a couple of holly trees
that seem to fit the bill.
I ask that you reconsider. If you call your barn a wood shed it can
be as narrow as 6 feet and as tall as you please. Also pole sheds
are well suited to sloping sites and in some cases are the only
feasible option. You plant the poles, leave them long and cut to fit
using longer poles on the downhill side.
I would look into trees futher, with drip irrigation including
fertilizer for maximum fast growth:)
Just planting some trees may not be enough.
Plus you say the area is shady, so trees will grow slow, how dense is
I knew a guy who got upset and had a row of FAKE trees planted, as
temporary site blocks till his real trees took over.
you might check with a arborist or county extension office for the
fastest growing tree for your area
Irrigation usually isn't an issue here in the rainy Pacific Northwest, but
I'll have to look into the fertilizer idea. Anything I can do to boost
their growth. I just don't want to kill them.
I mostly cleared the area where I planted the trees, but we have several
really tall fir trees around our house that prevent the trees from getting
full sun all day. It's not deep dark shade, but it's not full sun either.
We also live about 1500' up on a mountain, and all of our plants seem to
grow a little slower up here.
:) Interesting idea. I wonder where a person would get FAKE trees? I
imagine that would be a rather expensive solution.
Please do look in to it. Drip irrigation is very efficient and
reliable compared to the past. It is not just a way to water but also
to fertilize with water soluble fertilizer. It is a bit of effort to
install but after that it's all gravy. Just be sure that you have a
minimun of 6 hours full sun on the site.
http://www.dripirrigation.com/ is one site that is good. Newly
planted trees are good candidates for drip irrigation it seems and
there are tree rings designed for the purpose. A very low output
emitter might be all that's necessary for your climate. Drip systems
ususally use an inline filter to prevent emitter clogs.
It sounds to me like a fence is not going to meet your needs.
You might try berms as a start.
In the South East, I'd consider pines as a relatively short term
solution - to be harvested for firewood in a few years.
Check with your extension service for possible plant types.
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