Need some ideas for fence & driveway

barbcollinsJuly 22, 2012

I posted this in the Remodeling forum, but I think I should have posted it here.

We are renovation a house and plan on selling it next year. Since we are nearing the finish line on the inside of the house I am starting to think about what I want to do with the front outside.

The front of the house is a disaster. There is an area that used to be a garden, then was overgrown and overrun after the house was foreclosed on. There is chain link across the front of the house just inside the front sidewalk. All of the houses on the street are like this.

The problem is the driveway is on the right side of the house. The front side walk is to the left. If you park in the driweway you have to walk back out to the sidewalk around and in the gate. Doesn't make much sense. Also, the fencing makes the driveway tight. It is difficult to get in and out of the vehicle. This leads to us parking on the street all the time. Here is a diagram and some pictures;

Another wrench in the works is that there is an opening to access a storage area under the porch. This would be great for trash and recycling if it was more accessible

I was thinking about either

1) Move the chain link back to the yard to the left the house behind the porch, creating a fenced in back yard. Don't like this idea because our dog is used to going in and out the front door. He would not be able to do this anymore. Also, it's nice to be able to sit on the front porch and let my granddchildren play in the yard, without worrying about them chasing a ball into the street. Advantage would be that the dog is confined to the back yard, and will be less of a pita when people walk down the sidewalk.

2) Get a gate for the driveway something like below, then eliminate the fencing between the driveway and the front yard. DH likes this idea because we could also remove the fence and gate at the back right of the driveway, gaining access to the yard with vehicles.

Ideally I would love to get rid of the chain link and replace it with something nicer, like wrought iron or a picket fence. But it would depend on the budget. If I can't replace the chain link, what do you think about painting it, either black or dark green.

Both of these options will lead to some re-grading, which is not a problem. I plan to till everything in the front up anyhow and start a new lawn/garden.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

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What I would do is:
1.Remove the chain link fence.
2.Build a retaining wall next to basement door, and cast concrete stairs leading to the door. As a buyer, I'd be put off by that rotten wood in front of basement door.
3. Build a new walkway from driveway to door.
4. install a wooden fence across the front, with a gate for the car and another for the walkway. Paint the same purple as porch railing.
5. Groom the front lawn a bit.
6. When potential buyers arrive, invest in pots of annual flowers.
Good luck...

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 3:22AM
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One of your questions poses the possibility of a walk that connects drive to porch steps but you provide no graphic information about existing conditions for the main part of the front yard. How is anyone supposed to help you figure out how to put the whole package together when it cannot be seen? We can make various suggestions, but it's likely they will be insufficient for not taking into account something that falls outside of the picture. For this thread, you should be showing a picture of the ENTIRE front yard. The plan you provided is helpful. If it's to scale, then installing a decent walk (4' width min.) between the drive and steps will take up 50%, or more, of the lawn area after you've deducted a planting area (of at least 4' depth front to back) in front of the porch and allowed sufficient area to the drive so that any vehicle can be accessed.

In general, it seems like it would be better to relocate c.l. fence so that dog has access to back yard. Create a wider drive so that there is room to get in an out of the car. If a fence is needed in the front yard for small children, a wood picket fence would look better. Without knowing the dimensions of the opening below the porch and of the trash and recycling containers, it looks VERY tight and low. It seems as if it might not really be practical to store containers within. Grade needs to be dealt with and maybe some sort of screen panel would be better to hide containers. (You'd need to provide all measurements in order to get advice.)

Need more information.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 10:37AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I don't think there is anything you could do to that under-porch area that would induce me to go in there every time I take out trash or recycling, in addition to every time I take the containers to the curb. So I'd rethink its use to long term storage of, perhaps, patio furniture in winter or something. The key to making it accessible is to make a wide flat area for access, likely with the installation of a retaining wall holding back the higher ground of the front yard/driveway. The grading of the whole area should be considered on a macro basis though; not just sticking a few Allen Blocks in and then thinking what to do next. And with grading, consider drainage. If the net effect is water in the basement, it is not an improvement.

I don't see chain link on the houses across the street, so if there is a reason for keeping fencing that is unique to your side, then maybe you could move the fence so the driveway is effectively wider and yet you still retain a fenced front yard - to tell the truth, I like a fenced yard for reasons pertaining to other peoples' dogs, among other things. Picket or rail fencing would obviously be more attractive. But as for traversing the front yard... personally I don't see that I would sacrifice my whole front yard for a sidewalk when there is a public sidewalk 5 steps away that I could use. Urban lots are small enough that suburban design principles need not be applied.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 1:05PM
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The houses you see are two streets over. They are a new subdivision. Ours is over 100 years old. We will be doing some grading one way or another. There is a hump in the front yard.

The house did not have gutters, and we make sure the gutters/downspouts we have installed will drain away from the basement.

I plan on going to Lowes/HD this weekend and will look at their options. Personally I like the black metal fences.

I would love to eliminate the fences entirely, but our dog is a wanderer, and also very defensive when strangers walk by. That is the main reason I am considering moving the fence back so he is away from the sidewalk. Of course, DH does not like that idea :(


Sorry if I did not give enough information. The only measurement I know of off hand is the driveway. It is about 10.5' wide at the narrow point.

Here is a pic I took the day the put the gutters/downspouts on. You see that guilty looking dog? As soon as he smelled something interesting he would be gone.

This probably shows the area in question better. It was taken before gutters/downspouts, siding fixed and Central Air installed.

The condition of the front yard is a disaster. It was a garden, then the PO abandoned the house. It is just weeds, which I try to keep mowed. I plan to take my rototiller up and churn it all up and even it out. I will be starting from scratch.

It's obvious that something needs to be done here, I just am not sure what. I am leaning towards moving the fence back and opening up the front yard.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 4:39PM
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Barb, love the look of your house. Where are you, BTW.Agree you should strongly consider moving the fence. If your back is fenced, that's where the grands can play and Mr. Aggressive will adjust.

Once the fencing is out the fun can begin with plantings. And perhaps you can soften the look of the fence with vines.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 7:46PM
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The possibilities are greater than the first two pictures of the thread would indicate. Without question, the chain link fence in front of the house destroys any potential for a decent, likable appearance. The house has charm, but the fence looks exclusively industrial. If the drive were widened to 12 feet, or so, it would allow getting in and out of both sides of the car the car easily. I agree with Karin that with the city walk being so close and the yard being so small, it seems unnecessary to add another walk connecting drive to steps. I'm showing how you could play with a little addition to the walk that would make the drive/steps connection seem even more direct. (It's one solution of several possibilities.) A low retaining wall (18" to 2' ht.) would take care of the grade difference at the right end of the porch. A low screen panel could hide the trash and recycling from the street.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 10:30PM
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rosiew - We are in Maryland. One of my biggest concerns about moving the fence is actually more retraining us to not let the dog out the front door.

Yardvaark - Yes, I have hated the chain link since we got the house. But since it is the standard for the rest of the street I have not worried about replacing it yet.

I planned on screening the trash area. Was waiting until we figure out what we are doing with the driveway etc first.

I realize it is not that far to walk out to the sidewalk and around. The fence just makes it seem like such a stupid arrangement.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 8:20AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

It looks to me as if half your grading problem at least is just that there is too much dirt in the front yard, or at least that it is mounded against the porch and from there, needs an aggressive slope to get to driveway grade. If you could take out a bunch of that dirt or spread it evenly over the yard, I think you'd hardly have a retaining problem.

There is chain link, and then there is ugly chain link. Your chain link along the left side yard looks not half bad, but the bit along the driveway is an eyesore because there is a crooked post at the house, and also the link is badly lined up with the top rail; the whole thing looks badly done or distorted. Since that is the stretch that narrows your driveway, there is an easy answer to all your problems: just remove the three posts in the driveway and reinstall them in line with the edge of the house. Straighten the crooked one or put one of the others in its place. Regrade the area while you have the fencing out. Build your little wall, if you need one, directly under the fence as a footing, in effect. Then reinstall the chain link neatly. Not sure if all that is DIY or not.

Now you have a NICE chain link fence that you can install a vine on, a garden around, or even leave exposed because it won't be so bad looking. Chain link has the advantage of nearly disappearing among plants. And you have a wider driveway that can accommodate your cars and your waste cans, and the entrance to your under-porch doesn't feel like a burrow, plus your yard still contains the dog!

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 9:59AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

The dog appears to be a beagle mix or a hound of some sort (...?) Those are indeed 'runners' and I'm surprised a 4' fence would stop him! The terror of our neighbourhood until he died about 2 years ago, was a beagle that regualarly climbed over a 6' wooden fence to run the neighbourhood, attacking dogs and their owners! Escaping out the front door was also in its repetoire - but at least that meant the owners were usually within shouting distance to come get it! (It bit my little dog one evening when it escaped through the front door when the owner came home from work.) So, I understand some of your reluctance to eliminate the front fence.

But the house would look much, much better if that chainlink fence was moved back to the front corner of the house on the left side and the the back corner of the house on the right (driveway) side. A black fence would be less glaringly industrial, especially if you grew vines on it, and I'd go for a 6' one to better confine a beagle/hound.

You could then make a more ornamental, lower fence around the front yard that could include a gate across the end of the walk to deal with front door escaping dog situations. That space under the porch looks rather dubious to me as a useful storage space. If you want a more direct route to the door from the driveway, I'd be inclined to make secondary set of steps to the porch there. Is there anything under the porch that is essential to have access to - e.g. a utility meter? I'd be concerned that that current open access would allow critters like skunks or raccoons to move in under the porch!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Yes, he is a "Harrier". They were bread from Beagles and Fox Hounds. He does not bite or attack anybody, but I would understand anybody could be afraid of a loose dog. The vet said this breed will take off after a scent (of a rabbit or squirrel).

Yes, it is all DIY.

Yardvaark - In your drawing do you mean to have the fence go along the sidewalk to the house?

I also going to play with some "Hammered Metal Paint" on the chain link to see if it improves the appearance.

One way or another I want to remove the fence between the driveway and the house.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 12:55PM
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Barb, how about a classic-style screen for the front door. It would serve a double purpose of letting breezes in during nice weather and keeping the doggie in. Link below shows some doors. I especially like the very first one for you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz screen doors

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 12:59PM
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rosiew - We already have a screen door that matches the trim on the door. We took it down because "you know who" was scratching on it :) It also has full view glass, so after we have renovate the living room, we will probably put that back up then.

Also here is a pic from the back. This is from the MLS. The house looks a lot better now; all the siding is fixed. But the pic shows how big the yard is for a city lot.

I am thinking of putting fire ring in the hole where the PO's pool was. Though I might change my mind, if I move the fence (don't want to chop the yard up too much).

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 4:10PM
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Barb, there are some sort of 'guards' you can place on the inside of the screen that might discourage that infernal scratching. Ha. I've seen a lot worse than a scratched door.

Looks like the spot where the pool was could make a good garden spot. Start building it up with layers of cardboard, chopped leaves, grass clippings. Y'all may have to stay more than the projected year, I'm thinking.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 5:58PM
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"Yardvaark - In your drawing do you mean to have the fence go along the sidewalk to the house?"

No. I guess the dashed line was your symbol for the walk and I interpreted it as existing fence and left it alone. Now that I see that fence doesn't travel alongside the walk, I'd reroute it farther away from the house. You might roughly match up the distance at the L. side of house to be the same as what it sits from the fence at the R. lot line. This would give you the opportunity to create a landscaped area that is WIDER than the house which will present much greater possibilities than if landscaped area is ONLY AS WIDE AS the house. The chain link isn't so bothersome at the sides and back, but directly in front of the house, it brings the appearance way down. I'm not opposed to your working an attractive fence into the landscape scheme in front of the house if that's your preference. (I don't think such a fence would be chain link.) Re-configuring the fence invites a gate and walk at the left of the house. It's location would depend on how landscape issues are worked out for the left side of the house.

Keeping the soil LEVEL across the front of the porch would contribute to a stabile appearance for the house.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 6:07PM
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Brad Edwards

Sense people have already hinted on the grading, I thought I would throw in some ideas. I would see if I could get a climbing vine for the neighboors fence to the right, obviously checking with the neighboor, something like confederate jasmine.

I also would look into some red roses to echo the red theme, and check into the new bright red stunning crape myrtle, it would give summer red to the house. I would plant four 2 on one side near the back hiding the siding on the side and 2 on the other kind of staggered with the first one at the front of the porch and the next one behind it. That would hide that hole and add depth making your house look bigger as well as complmenting color. I know you cant get ride of that chain link, but the more you can hide of it the better. Peronsally I think repainting chain link is tedious but worth the effort with oil based rustoleum. I just got through painting a slightly rusted vegtable garden fence in white and it looks insanely good for chain link. I am not recommending that for the front, but possibly for the sides and back, black wouldn't draw your eye to it as easy. You don't have room for shrubs to cover it so thats why I mentined a climbing vine. Keep whatever you plant in the front yard low. Personally I would bring in some bags of soil, about 30$ worth of composted manure, 1 10$ bag of peat, and 2-3 bags of loam, and would plant annual flowers all across the front the 1st year, and then slowly add in perinneal. Its such a small area that wedding would be easy. This would save you from having to mow the weeds. Also 3-5 bags of mulch would go a long way. I mean for under 100$ you could have that entire front bed looking amazing and it would do tons for curb appeal.

Maybe its just me but I think a dark purple with hint of red picket fence around the front would look great, You could get a vinyl picket fence and custom paint from lowes.

Its 3ft by 8ft. Guessing you would need 4 pieces & gate x26 a pice so thats 140$ish with gate, then about 30 in exterior paint. That would take are of the entire front for 270, new fence, annuals, soil, mulch, and 120 for 4 red really nice crape myrtles and a couple weekends of time.

So for about 400$ you could have the entire front street view, side view, front beds, and side beds done with great soil and tons of color/seasonal interest. I am currently doing an area twice that size for about the same price :)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 12:28PM
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While driving through the neighborhood on the way to the house today, I paid attention to other houses.

Yes over half of them also have chain link fences out front (and many are worse than ours).

So, it occurred to me I have the wrong attitude. I shouldn't be thinking I should keep the chain link because it's the same as the neighbors.

I should hope that if we upgrade ours, others will do the same :)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 9:44PM
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Well done improvements can become infectious. People see and then want.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 8:19AM
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