When you think of fencing, the pristine white wood picket of the American Dream probably comes to mind.
But it isn't the only option.
"There is a lot of variety out there," said Brian Woolf, vice president of his family-owned Republic Fence Company in Chatsworth, adding that for guidance he asks customers a simple question: "'Tell me about your project.' A lot of times, they'll have an idea for the aesthetics as well."
Variations on fence styles in different materials are increasingly defining Southern California front yards, adding architectural beauty and providing kids and pets a safe enclosed space to play while keeping people out.
In addition to serving a purpose, a fence can increase a home's value provided it's in compliance with your homeowners' association, city or county regulations. In most cases, front yard fences are limited to 48 inches -- fences between properties are more typically limited to 6 feet -- but you should always check with the governing agency before getting started.
"It's an enhancement," said Tony Thornton, executive director of the American Fence Association. "Just like a deck or a backyard pergola, it's going to increase the value of the home. And if you've got a home sitting side by side and they're identical in square footage but one has an enhancement, you're going to get more for it."
For ideas, people look to social media and other homes in their neighborhoods for ideas.
Some of what they're seeing includes ornamental ironwork.
But these aren't the iron fences of old.
Deterioration used to occur on the spots where the iron was welded and then painted by hand.
Today's pre-galvanized and powder-coated iron fencing doesn't rust because the panels are prefabricated and bolted into place. For custom touches, decorative elements such as scrollwork and circles can be added to the fences.
"If you wanted a couple of birds out of metal, we could waterjet them [a cutting process] and then weld them onto the iron for a custom look," Woolf said. "Our niche is that custom stuff."
Horizontal fencing, popular among professional landscape designers, is also on the rise. Its slats, designed with or without spacing between them, run parallel to the ground for a modern look.
Installing these fences cost more than a conventional fence because the posts are closer together. Vertical fencing is less time-consuming to install and more cost-effective.
"For a traditional look, there's always the picket fence," Woolf said. "We did one for my friends in Agoura because they have a couple kids, but it also beautified the yard. And we used vinyl there because vinyl has been a huge trend, especially with picket fences."
With its UV protective coating, vinyl is ideal for homeowners who don't want the hassle of upkeep that comes with wood.
It doesn't require regular maintenance because it doesn't fade, splinter or rot. And it's versatile enough to create different fence styles.
"You can spend a little more and have the same design and look as wood fencing," Thornton said. "If you can think it, you can build it out of vinyl."
Vinyl fencing convincingly mimics the look and color of natural wood grain and lasts.
"Vinyl is final," said Garik Babayan, a contractor with Torrance Fence Company in Torrance. "Once you put it on, it should look as good as the day it went in."
Despite technological breakthroughs in materials, wood fences are still in demand.
Babayan favors high-end hardwoods such as ipe, tigerwood or mahogany, because "you don't need to stain the wood, you just add oil."
But most installers use western red cedar and redwood for their fencing.
"A wood fence properly installed should last anywhere from 15 to 20 years," Thornton said. "But what I tell everybody is wood fencing has to deal with Mother Nature. Expansion and contraction are going on all the time. When it expands, it's pushing out the nails, and when it's contracting, it's giving us a loose board.
"So every so often we need to go around our fence and renail the boards or install new screws, or whatever," he said, recommending this be done at least every few years. "Just like a home, you have to maintain your fence."
This article is written by Sandra Barrera from Los Angeles Daily News