When the days are sunny and the evenings are warm, you naturally want to spend more time outdoors — often in your own backyard.

woman and dog outside

But unlike being in the confines of your home, it can sometimes feel like you’re on display, giving passersby and neighbors a front-row seat to your life. Whether you’re alone in your yard or enjoying some time with family and friends, a little privacy becomes paramount.

We uncovered some options that will help ensure your privacy while also enhancing the safety and security of your property. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of each.


Fences are the quickest way to improve your outdoor privacy and security, which tend to go hand in hand. Greater privacy decreases the likelihood that your home will be a target for intruders. But fences are also effective for making sure young children and pets can’t wander from your property. As an added bonus, you may also experience a greater sense of security even when spending times indoors.

When it comes to fences, there are many different types and materials to choose from. Your selection should be based on your priorities.

Wood fences

A wood fence is an attractive and relatively affordable buffer to the outside world. Depending on the design, a wood fence can provide a great deal of privacy, especially if it’s constructed with solid boards. And if the fence is built high enough and has no gaps between panels, it can also block out some sound. An 8-foot fence may be ideal for privacy, but many municipalities won’t allow anything higher than 6 feet.1

Composite fences

This blend of wood and plastic polymers is made from recycled materials, so it’s environmentally friendly, easy to maintain and long-lasting. Because this product is so durable, it often comes with a warranty. Although a bit more costly, it can provide excellent privacy and security. Keep in mind that while it may be easier to clean than a wood fence, it cannot be painted, an important consideration given that it is susceptible to fading.2

Vinyl fences

Vinyl, which is actually polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is similar to composite in that it’s stronger than wood. And because it’s designed to hold up to the elements, it will last longer. Similar to composite, vinyl panels are scratch resistant and they won’t warp, rust, rot, split or twist. They can be easily cleaned with soap and water. Thanks to their durability, vinyl fences also come with impressive warranties. The upfront cost is admittedly much higher than wood, but the payoff comes in the form of less maintenance and a longer lifespan.2

Stone walls

Stone is frequently used to build privacy walls. They are often chosen for their attractiveness, but many homeowners gravitate to the durability and stability they offer. Stone walls won’t rot, and they hold up in any type of weather. A fire might discolor your stone wall, but it will not destroy it. However, they can be expensive to build, and it’s not easy to move or alter them.3

Shrubs and hedges

If you prefer natural surroundings as a form of privacy, shrubs — either stand-alone or hedges — are an ideal option. A well-trimmed hedge can offer the same level of privacy as a fence. But loose borders in which shrubs are allowed to grow on their own are also popular, and they require less upkeep.

Although you may have to wait for your shrubs to grow high enough to provide the desired privacy, unlike fences, zoning restrictions rarely apply. Fast-growing evergreens are popular choices, such as arborvitae and Italian cypress, or a simple privet hedge.

If you decide to add mulch, keep in mind that it may spontaneously combust or catch fire if someone discards smoking material, posing an added risk to your property. Your best defense is to place wood chips, pine needles and rubber mulch at least 18 inches from any structure.4

Additional considerations

  • Incorporate some visibility between the street and your house so an intruder cannot break in unnoticed after scaling your fence or wall
  • Avoid a flat-top barrier that is easy to scale; opt instead for a design that makes it more difficult to climb over, or add plants along the top of your barrier as an added deterrent
  • Keep horizontal fence slats to a minimum as they can provide an easy climbing foothold for intruders1

Privacy barriers are both a physical barrier and a psychological deterrent. Any savvy intruder can find a way to bypass your barrier. The idea is to delay entry for as long as possible, or even better, count on the fact that most intruders will choose the path of least resistance and avoid your property altogether.

[1] “How to Pick the Best Type of Security Fence,” Lee Wallender, thespruce.com/picking-the-best-type-of-security-fence-5208888 (Dec. 8, 2021). Nationwide® Private Client Risk Solutions Series: Enhance your outdoor privacy and security with fences and other barriers
[2] “Best Types of Fences for Your Home,” Caroline Gilbert, angi.com/articles/types-of-fences-pros-cons.htm (Oct. 20, 2021).
[3] “What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Stone Fences?” Brent’s Custom Fence, bcfenceaustin.com/advantages-disadvantages-stone-fences/ (Jan. 23, 2022).
[4] “Why Landscaping Mulch Can Spontaneously Combust — and How to Prevent It,” Anyssa Roberts, thespruce.com/why-landscaping-mulch-can-spontaneously-combust-and-how-to-prevent-it-5184551 (June 5, 2021).