What is a Shadow Box Fence?

A shadow box fence is a popular type of residential semi-privacy fence. Staggered rows of pickets attach to both sides of the fence rails. Each picket covers the gap between the pickets on the other side of the fence. So a shadow box fence blocks most views unless you are very close to the fence. The gaps between the pickets allow some air flow for ventilation. Read more below to find out if a shadow box fence could be the privacy fence solution for your home.

Pros and Cons of a Shadow Box Fence


  • Looks the same on both sides.

A shadow box fence has the same finished look on both sides. Neither you or your neighbors will see the posts and rails that support the fence.

Shadow box fences are also called “good neighbor fences” since both homeowner and neighbors only see a finished fence.

  • More visual interest.

The alternating pickets create a three-dimension effect that is more visually interesting than a plain stockade fence.

  • Still allow some ventilation

The gaps between the pickets allow more airflow than a solid privacy fence. You will enjoy more of the breeze in your backyard. Also, the fence will be more resistant to damaging high winds.


  • Small increase in cost

Shadow box fences will require more pickets than a stockade style privacy fence. The alternating 5.5 inch pickets typically overlap by one inch on each side. A shadow box fence will cost more in materials than the same length of stockade privacy fence.

Wood Choices

Typical choices for installation of a wood shadow box fences include pressure treated pine, fir, Eastern White Cedar, Western Red Cedar and redwood.

Composite and Vinyl Shadow Box Fences

If you desire more durability you can build a shadow box fence using composite or vinyl (PVC) fencing. Both of these materials will be much more durable than a wood fence.

Composite and vinyl fences now come in a variety of colors and textures to meet your needs.

Shadow Box Fence vs Board on Board

Shadow box fences will be mistakenly referred to as board on board fences. A board on board fence has overlapping pickets that are attached to the same side of the fence. Unlike a shadow box fence there will be no gaps. 

A board on board fence is more visually interesting than a plain privacy fence, but does not allow air flow like a shadowbox fence.

Shadow Box Fence vs Privacy Fence

A traditional privacy fence features pickets placed so closely together that it’s impossible to see through the fence. This complete privacy also prevents ventilation.

However, shadowbox fences, often described as semi-privacy fences, have small gaps between the alternating vertical boards. This provides the fence with an attractive aesthetic and also allows for airflow into your yard.

Common Questions about Shadow Box Fences

How to make a shadow box fence more private?

You can increase the privacy of a shadow box fence by increasing the overlap of the pickets. Increasing the overlap from 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches will decrease gap size and limit ability to see through the fence.

The shadowbox fence can be made more private by adding taller posts. The pickets are attached to the rails of the fence and rise up from the post. This increases privacy for the back yard, and it also looks better with an increased height.

Please note your local zoning code may limit the height of your fence. In the Columbus metropolitan area you will often be limited to a six foot tall fence.

Is a shadow box fence more expensive?

A shadowbox fence is only somewhat more expensive than a solid stockade style privacy fence. The overlap will require more vertical pickets to build the same length of fence.

Are shadow box fences better?

Shadow box fences offer a more interesting look and provide more ventilation than a traditional privacy fence. In exchange, you will give up a very small amount of privacy.

How much does a shadow box fence cost per foot?

The per foot cost of a shadow box fence will depend greatly on your choice of materials. Expect per foot costs starting at $10 per foot going up to $30 per foot.


A shadow box fence is an attractive type of privacy fence, but will be more expensive than a traditional stockade privacy fence. If you like the interesting visual effect of the alternating pickets then a shadow box fence may be for you.

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