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5 Smart Ways to Protect Your Home’s Privacy

September 4, 2015 | By

You’re probably aware of what’s going on inside your home, and that your invited visitors will respect any offhand (read: colorful) comments you may make and keep them private. But what about those prying eyes outside?

Bankrate.com recently published an article on how any home can be made safer from prying eyes, whether your home is a small Manhattan studio or a McMansion in Vienna, Virginia. Not to sound too paranoid, but a lot can be seen from outside my own home at night — it’s kind of like being in a fishbowl.

But being exposed doesn’t necessarily mean you can start building a fence, constructing a wall, or planting tall trees. Local ordinances may specify how high walls in your area can be, what materials you can use, and where entry doors must be located.

And if you’re part of a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association (HOA), your options for fencing or tree height could be regulated. “[HOAs] provide a lot of guidance as to what is acceptable fencing,” Brian Brunhofer, president of Meritus Homes, a custom homebuilder in Deerfield, IL, told Bankrate.com.

Here are five tips to help you protect your home from prying eyes.

1. Use Plants as Soft Visual Block

Plants are a popular ways to protect privacy because they’re perceived as being “more natural and gentle than walls or fences,” Eric Gilbey, a landscape industry specialist at Nemetschek Vectorworks, a computer-aided landscape design company, tells Bankrate.com. He recommends planting evergreens, which will have foliage year-round, but if you’re in a two-story home or on a hillside you will need trees with larger canopies. Afraid you’ll impinge on your view? Plants can be placed strategically with “sensitivity” to where the views may be, whether it’s near a swimming pool or a place where someone wants to go sunning, Gilbey says. For example, dense vines growing on a fence or trellis might be a good option. “That allows greenery to be there but in a limited space,” he explains.

2. Put Up Fences

Gilbey notes that fences are an option but there’s an upside and a downside to consider. First, they will take up less space than plants, but they are “harder, more utilitarian, and more structured-looking than greenery.” If a privacy fence is along a property line, the neighbors’ needs and preferences bear consideration. “Fence style has to be a discussion between neighbors,” Gilbey says. “Making sure that the face (of the fence) that faces them is also attractive is important. There are styles that provide an aesthetic face to 2 sides,” he tells Bankrate.com.

3. Build Walls

Walls can offer greater permanence than fences but will cost more to install, say the experts. They can also can affect a property’s drainage — and if you live in an HOA neighborhood you might have to submit a drainage plan in advance of groundbreaking. Walls can also have a negative effect on your neighbors.

“You are definitely making sure that your neighbors feel less welcome, and it’s less neighborly,” Gilbey says.

4. Install a Courtyard

A courtyard or even a double courtyard can make the front of the house more private, Erik Koss, owner of KOSS design+build, an architecture and construction firm in Phoenix, told Bankrate.com. “It makes people stop,” Koss says. “They can’t see everything. They have to go through gates. They have to peer around walls.” If a courtyard isn’t an option, it might be possible to redesign walkways and doors to move a home’s main entrance away from the street to the side, he says.

5. Cover Windows

Window coverings can be an economical way to create privacy. The downside? “Anything that diminishes seeing in also limits seeing out,” says Bankrate.com. Heavy drapes or shades can make a room feel very private—but you’ll lose a lot of natural light. Lightweight curtains offer more light, notes Bankrate.com, but they provide a bit less privacy. Another option is exterior shades, installed outside a home’s windows. Made from durable weather-resistant fabrics, exterior shades can block a lot of heat and light at the push of a button. “They’re much more effective at keeping your house cool,” Koss says, “while also making everything more private.”

Source: “7 ways to maintain your home’s privacy and keep out snooping eyes by Marcie Geffner, published on Bankrate.com.

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