We have been anxious to replace our backyard fence since the day we bought our house six years ago. You can see kinda where we started in this post. Those images are overly generous. In real life, the scene was utter fence clutter. We started thinking about this project last fall when the house was painted and it’s taken a full year to nail down a plan and persevere through the logistical challenges. I can’t believe we even have a fence, let alone a desert modern vibing fence that I love! The projects that are the worst to push through are often the most satisfying, and this backyard fence is taking top awards in both categories!
Our property line situation is very specific so our construction approach likely won’t be applicable to anyone. Therefore, I won’t get into a full DIY for this project. I will talk, however, about the pros/cons of corrugated polycarbonate, an oddball choice for a fence, and the likely issues you’ll encounter if you choose to use it as a fence material.
First pictures, then lots of explaining, then sources/links at the end :)
A brief history of our fence situation: We live on a hill so a 120′ long cinderblock retaining wall runs the length of our property in back. Originally, metal posts were set into that wall to hold up a slat wood fence in the backyard. Twenty years ago, when previous owners declined to go halfsies with our neighbors on replacing that original fence, our neighbors installed their own fence 18″ back from the property line (the lattice one). Next, the previous owners of our home liked the neighbor’s new fence better than the original fence on the wall so they cut down the posts across half the yard, while leaving half remaining on the side yard (best seen in photos of our sideyard here). All this left the backyard with confusing layer of fences:By the time we took ownership of the house, the remaining stretch of original fence was bending from the weight of accumulated earth on top of the retaining wall – not at all it’s intended purpose. We had no idea what to do with this mess. Going halfsies on a new fence with our neighbors didn’t pan out – and the setback is odd from our side anyways. Our best course of action seemed to be to replace the original fence on the retaining wall across the entire length of our backyard/sideyard but we were hesitant to add weight on top of the 70 year old, slightly tilting (eek!) wall, and any design would also need to address the retaining overflow problem:Ultimately, we decided to go with a system of post bases bolted into the cinderblock with a stepped retaining system built into the back side, and a fence frame on the front.In our pursuit of a lightweight material for the fence, we took a chance with an experimental option: corrugated polycarbonate. It gave us the modern look of corrugated metal, but was extremely lightweight, perfect for our situation. (Bonus: it comes in a crazy bright orange color that we almost went with…see more in saved IG stories!) Our unique fence requirements were: 1. privacy, not necessarily strength 2. a modern aesthetic 3. lightweight materials and 4. a design that could incorporate additional retaining strength above the wall (ugh). With 100′ of fence line, we preferred a cheaper material and one that was low maintenance, but were willing to compromise on both to meet the needs. We considered redwood slats, privacy bamboo, corrugated metal, and so much more (canvas panels! vining plants! even vinyl fencing!) but kept circling back to corrugated polycarbonate. It checked all our boxes, plus should theoretically be extremely low maintenance.
Corrugated polycarbonate is intended to be roofing or siding materials for garden sheds, etc. so this out-of-the-box vertical fence application brought challenges. Although the polycarbonate can supposedly withstand being hit with rocks and baseballs and doesn’t reflect heat in the same way corrugated metal does (yay), it lacks the strength of corrugated metal and, we soon found out, expands in temperatures above 80 degrees – producing visible waves on our fence (no!!!!). It was only noticeable when standing directly next to it looking down the expanse, and always returned to “normal” when the temperatures dropped to their regular mild mid 70’s. But when it was bad, it was bad:Enough so that we started over with a new approach to mitigated the issue: working on only the hottest days, we allowed each panel to warm up considerably in the sun (to reach max expansion) before installing in place. As before, we predrilled holes as recommended and used the suggested screws, but I think that tiny bit of extra wiggle room from the heat canceled out some of the innate human error in hanging process. We now have way less waves, though we still get some on our hottest days (above 90 degrees and, again, only visible from right next to the fence). Considering this, I wouldn’t recommend corrugated polycarbonate as a fence option unless you have our very specific set of issues too: needing a lightweight privacy fence. Otherwise, corrugated metal is a safer bet! But for our purposes, this was an ideal material and I’m so beyond happy with how it turned out! I love the clean, minimal backdrop across our entire property!
FYI the gray polycarbonate looks nearly identical to corrugated metal, the only difference being the slightly darker color and less mirrored surface. During the day, we get a huge blast of reflected sunshine, which I love, and the fence color appears as a light metallic silver color. When the sun isn’t hitting it, the color is a more subdued dark gray.
Probably the most fun part of this project was repainting the cinderblocks! I wasn’t ready to part with the fun blocks of color, but I decided to update the scheme to better incorporated our tangerine colored fireplace and the new gray fence. I am so into it. It’s calm but crazy all at once, and fits in with the desert modern feel I’m going for! See instructions of how I did this last time here – it’s just regular exterior paint in sample sizes. I’ll list colors below. Such a cheap and easy way to make cinderblock walls look mid century fun instead of industrial park sad!Next up for the yard is cleaning up this view. We decided to remove the fence that separated our backyard from our sideyard. I loved that fence and it helped to hide our unsightly trampoline, but it added to the choppy fence feeling and closed off a big chunk of usable square footage. We want to add some privacy plants (probably birds of paradise) along our other neighbor’s fence, maybe put in a hot tub, buy a new trampoline pad, and get to my chair repair pile :)
Sources and project links:
corrugated panels – Palram Suntop in castle gray
wall paint – see this post. colors used: Dunn Edwards Citrus Notes, Lemon Zest, Jalapeno, and Whisper + Behr Black Mocha
exterior paint – see here. color: Dunn Edwards Whisper
fireplace – vintage but see this post if you’re hunting for your own
gate – see this post for the DIY
landscaping/plants – see this post