Fence Toppers: What To Know Before You Buy

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If you're looking to refresh rather than replace your fence, or you just need more privacy, fence toppers might be the solution for you.

Maybe your neighbors don’t keep their backyard as tidy as you do. Maybe the afternoon sun makes your patio feel like the inside of a greenhouse. Or maybe you just want to spruce up your yard a little, without making a huge investment in new fencing. Introducing, the fence topper!

If you’ve never heard of fence toppers, or you’re curious about how they work, how much they cost and whether you can DIY them, here are the answers.

What Are Fence Toppers?

Fence toppers attach to the top of an existing fence to make it taller. That’s why they’re sometimes referred to as fence extensions. They may be strictly decorative, or increase privacy by adding a solid panel that raises the fence height. Fence toppers may match the existing fence, or create visual interest by incorporating a different design and material.

Why Choose a Fence Topper?

Here are some of the main reasons homeowners add fence toppers:

  • Increased privacy. A fence topper can extend an existing privacy fence, typically by one to two feet. That may not seem like much until you consider you might see your neighbors (or vice versa) over a six-foot fence. Over a seven- or eight-foot fence, not so much!
  • Pet safety. Some acrobatic dogs can leap over a four- or five-foot fence. Cats, too, are capable jumpers and climbers. Extending the fence by a foot or more might be enough to keep your pets in their yard — or neighborhood pets out of yours
  • More shade. Let’s say you have a favorite sitting area in the backyard — except at around 4 p.m., when the afternoon sun really bares down. Adding a fence topper to even a small section of your fence can block the sun and extend your enjoyment of a patio or backyard entertainment area
  • Aesthetics and visual interest. Fence toppers come in various designs and materials. You can create contrast by adding a fence topper in a different pattern or style than the existing fence. Even a simple trellis can add visual interest to a backyard or patio, creating a focal point for plants, a sitting area or other decorative elements.
  • When you don’t need a new fence. Your existing fence may be in good shape, but you’re ready for something different. Fence toppers can change the look of your fence and enhance the beauty of your backyard without spending a fortune.

Types of Fence Toppers

If you can make a fence out of it, you can make a fence topper out of it. So fence toppers or extensions may be made of wood, vinyl, wrought iron or powder-coated aluminum. They may be simple materials you can buy at a home improvement store and install DIY, or elaborate custom-made additions professionally installed. Here are some fence topper options:

Wood lattice. The simplest fence topper solution, wood lattice is inexpensive and can add at least two feet to an existing fence. It’s also available in lots of styles. The tighter the weave of the lattice, the more privacy it affords. For greater longevity, frame the lattice prior to installation.

Vinyl lattice. Decorative and durable, vinyl lattice comes in multiple colors and styles and adds a level of privacy. It can be added to a vinyl fence, or attached to a wooden, brick or concrete block fence to create some contrast. Most types can be fastened to an existing fence with screws and anchors.

Picket fencing. Don’t overlook a low picket fence as an option. It’s inexpensive, charming, easy to work with, and available in wood or vinyl. Because most picket fencing is around three feet tall, it’s best used as a topper for a lower fence.

Wood-poly panels. These heavy-duty wood-poly panels look great, come in several colors and provide more than a foot of additional privacy.

Wrought iron. On top of a wood, stone, or concrete block fence, wrought iron fence toppers can add an elegant, decorative touch. Plus they come in a lot of creative designs. They’re usually not intended for increasing privacy.

Component fence toppers. Some fencing systems offer privacy extenders, like this aluminum option from Veranda Euro Fence. They also make a vinyl option.

Pet fencing. If you need to keep your energetic pup in their yard, chain-link or poly-mesh fence toppers can attach to almost any fence type.

Decorative balusters. Top your fence with these easy-to-install balusters and add wood to match or contrast with your existing fence.

Fence Topper Cost

Pricing for fence toppers varies depending on materials and, if necessary, installation. Here are a few examples:

Wood lattice panels are the cheapest option, at about $15 per eight-foot section, or about $560 for a medium-sized fenced yard of 300 feet. The panels need to be sealed or painted for durability and should be framed prior to installation. But for a small section of fencing or a DIY fence topper, wood lattice is a good option.

Vinyl lattice fence toppers sell for $260 for 24 feet of topper. To add toppers to 300 feet of existing fencing, you’d need 13 sections — that will cost nearly $3,400. If you were to replace the fence instead, 300 feet of basic six-foot-tall vinyl fencing comes out to about $3,750. (Both prices are for materials only.) So adding a fence topper may be a more economical solution than a new fence.

The more durable the material, the higher the cost. These decorative wood-poly panels cost $167 for 12 linear feet. That comes out to more than $4,000 for fence toppers for a 300-foot fence. But if you only need privacy in one section of your backyard, these are an attractive, long-lasting option.

Fence Topper Tips and Considerations

Before you rush out to buy fence toppers to finally block your neighbor’s unsightly backyard, here are a few points to consider:

Zoning restrictions. Your community may limit the height of fences or the materials they can be made from. This is especially true in neighborhoods with a homeowners association. So be sure to check before you top!

Installation costs. If you don’t want to install fence toppers yourself, you’ll need to pay a fencing contractor or handyman to do the job. Costs for this will vary based on the materials and complexity of the job, as well as what part of the country you live in.

DIY commitment. If you decide to install fence toppers yourself, you’ll need to buy the right type and amount of hardware, and have the right tools on hand. For a large project, you may need a few weekends — and the help of a friend or two.

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, culinary and lifestyle writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Frommers.com, TripSavvy and many other publications. Her guidebook, An Architecture Lover's Guide to Rome, was released in 2019. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, dogs, their unruly garden and their slightly less unruly 8-year-old.