When my family and I first moved into our current home, the fence in the back yard was a mess. Well, part of it was fine and part of it was a dilapidated mix of wire and wood. We had a decision to make. Would we completely redo the fence or would we just fix the current fence? The first choice would take a lot of time and money and would involve the input of three different neighbors (the neighbors to the north, south and east of us). The latter decision would cost less and only involve one neighbor’s input, but could potentially yield a fence that looked mismatched. Once that decision was made, I was determined to find the most environmentally friendly fencing option possible. Our decision timetable was accelerated by a visit, through the fence to the south, from a few neighborhood dogs and a couple neighborhood kids. We found the children playing on our swing set and in our sandbox when we came home from the grocery store one day. Of course, my husband and I were concerned that children were playing on our property could hurt themselves without anyone knowing they were there. Because of budget and because the other fencing was fine, we decided to just replace the dilapidated fence running along the south side of our back yard. This option would be kinder to our wallet and to the planet.
backyard renovation before
Prior to the backyard renovation an exposed fence ran along the south side of the yard.
Here were some of the options we were looking at:


I have always wanted a hedge. I envision a hedge of organic raspberries that would not only provide a barrier to entry, but would also provide berries for us, our neighbors and our creature friends. This would be a dream fencing option for me but it obviously requires time from planting to full coverage and we needed an immediate barrier. If you are planning a hedge, make sure you talk to a local plant expert to find the best choices for your region and be sure to avoid invasive plants.


As I started to research bamboo fencing, I realized this probably sounded more sustainable then it actually was. Because of bamboo’s popularity there are many instances of overharvesting. Most bamboo comes from China, so, even if it is sustainably harvested, the energy involved to transport it to the U.S. calls into question how sustainable it truly is. If you are planning to use bamboo as a material in a renovation, make sure it comes from a local source and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Composite blends

Companies like Trex turn millions of pounds of recycled and reclaimed waste wood and plastic each year into fencing and decking products. According to the Trex website, the company gets most of its materials from recovered plastic grocery bags, plastic film and waste wood fiber. Trex Company purchases approximately 300 million pounds of used polyethylene and an equal amount of hardwood sawdust each year — materials that typically end up in landfills. The company recycles more than 1.3 billion grocery retail bags annually.
backyard renovation after
The backyard renovation incorporates reclaimed wood.

Making a final decision

backyard renovation kids
The author’s daughters enjoy their new backyard play area.
Imagine our surprise when we got a call from a neighbor who had noticed someone taking the fence down. As we investigated, we discovered they were throwing the panels away and would be happy to let us have them. Because we were only doing a portion of our fence there was plenty of wood to complete the job. And, since the wood is already beautifully weathered, it matches the rest of our fence perfectly and looks like it had been part of our yard forever. So, in the end, we were able to save a lot of wood from going to the landfill and save money. We now have a beautiful fenced-in yard that is great for our daughters to play in and is great for entertaining. On a side note, while the fence was going up, I noticed another neighbor was having a tree cut down. I asked if I could have some of the stumps and was able to make a fun addition to our play area with them.