Shadow Box Fence Vs. Board On Board: Pros, Cons And Differences

A fenced property features privacy, safety, and clearly defined boundaries that enhance its appeal and value. However, fencing options in design, material, and structure seem endless. Read on because we researched everything you need to know about shadow box versus board-on-board fences to help determine which suits your preference.

Shadow box fences alternate pickets on opposite sides of the rail, while board-on-board fencing overlaps pickets on a single surface. The distinguishing feature differentiating these structures is the gaps created on the shadow box designs, while board-on-board presents a totally enclosed perimeter.

Before we delve deeper into the subject, a quick overview would help you identify the parts of a fence and eventually decide on a specific design. Read on and find out all pertinent information with regards to shadow box and board-on-board fences.

Difference of shadow box fence and board and board fence, cons, pros, Shadow Box Fence Vs. Board On Board: Pros, Cons And Differences

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Fences: A Structural Overview

Posts provide the anchors or foundation of all fences that support all the secondary structures and keep them in place. They are usually embedded in concrete below the ground to strengthen the entire fence.

Rails traverse the distance between posts to serve as attachments for boards or pickets. Depending on the height and span of the structure, upper, middle, and lower rails may be incorporated to enhance the fence’s integrity.

Boards or pickets constitute the majority and most visible component of the structure. They are fastened to the rails in various designs and patterns that give the fence its finish and character.

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Outlook of the wooden fence

What Is A Board On Board Fence?

Board and board fence with varnished

A board-on-board is a type of privacy enclosure that features pickets or boards fastened together on one side of the rail in an overlapping pattern. The design gives the material a more solid appearance, and in turn, offers homeowners with privacy, security, and visual appeal.

Board on Board Fencing: Benefits and Disadvantages

Here are its benefits and disadvantages to help you decide if the board-on-board design fence suits your preference.


  • Board-on-board fencing offers homeowners total privacy because it features two layers of wood formed in an overlapping manner. In this regard, there are no gaps visible on either side of the fence.
  • The structure is ideal for enclosing backyards with pools and providing security and protection to kids and pets since the fence has a solid exterior that incidentally protects your property from peering eyes.
  • Unlike a traditional enclosure, the panels are positioned to accommodate shrinkage and expansion. This way, it is not necessary to replace the pickets since the overlap is wide enough to conceal any gaps.
  • It is possible to erect board-on-board fences up to eight feet high because the edge of one panel supports the next, and it is more stable compared to other structures or designs.
  • With board-on-board fences, visual aesthetic is guaranteed. Both sides of the enclosure are equally attractive, so it would be unnecessary to pick which surface you prefer to face your backyard.                                                                                                              


  • A board-on-board fence is expensive to install because more lumber is required or needed. Since it is tricky to set up, the construction cost will also add up to your expenses.
  • The wood’s quality and dimensions are factors to be considered prior to installation. Pressure-treated lumber is more expensive as opposed to regular or ordinary wood. Tools and materials should also be factored into the budget.
  • Apart from the general installation process, proper maintenance may prove to be costly in the long run.
  • It is recommended to invest in redwood or chemically treated lumber, vinyl, and composite since these materials can withstand the elements, are durable, and can last for decades.

What Is A Shadow Box Fence?

sunflair over the wooden fence

A shadow box fence is a unique type of structure in that it features depth and dimension not found in other enclosures. The boards are fastened alternately in an overlapping pattern on opposite sides of the fence.

The design creates a gapped but private enough division that allows light and wind to penetrate. It appears identical on either side, which enhances its visual appeal.

Shadow Box Fencing: Benefits and Disadvantages

Luxurious contemporary three-story wood siding home exterior in Bellevue

The advantages of shadow box fences include the following:


  • Unlike most fences that are plain and flat, the two-sided gapped panels create depth that makes them aesthetically unique. Depending on the time of day, the spaces between the boards allow light to pass and create an interesting mix of shadow and illumination across the lawn.
  • With traditional single-board wooden fences, you would have to choose which side the front or paneled portion faces, toward the property or away from it. Either way, the back of the fence would be exposed. Shadow box enclosures have a clean, finished look on both sides.
  • Structurally, shadow box fences are more stable since the weight of the panels is distributed equally on both sides of the structure. This balance creates uniform tension on the supporting posts preventing them from lagging or tilting. The gaps between pickets allow air to pass, and the fence will not be easily toppled by strong winds.
  • The width of the panels, as well as the spaces between them, may be patterned according to your preference. Narrowing the gaps would create better privacy, while setting them far apart would allow a better view and a certain degree of transparency.


Certain disadvantages include:

  • The construction of shadow box fences requires more materials and the installation process is relatively complex. This may translate into an increase in expenditure and completion time.
  • It may prove difficult to maintain the inner structures within a shadow box fence since the surfaces are hard to access. Repainting, applying a new finish, or simply cleaning the area may require extenders or specialized tools.
  • The internal space between the opposite surfaces could become a natural breeding ground for insects and other invasive organisms that could damage the fencing material. Since it is hidden from plain view, the extent of infestation could be advanced before it is detected.

Is Shadow Box Fence More Expensive?

Wooden fence shadow box around a big house

A shadow box fence is slightly more expensive as opposed to traditional and board-on-board enclosures since it requires more materials.

The installation process is relatively complex, so it is advisable to either seek professional advice or leave the construction to qualified home improvement contractors. Hiring professionals will factor in your budget or allowance.

Is Shadow box The Same As Board On Board?

Shadowbox fence with sunlight illuminating from behind

Shadow box and board-on-board enclosures basically have the same function since both structures are classified as a type of privacy fence. The main difference between the two lies in their installation and structural design.

The former has pickets installed on the opposite side of the rails, while the latter is formed by overlapping panels on one side of the fence. This is where issues regarding privacy arise.

A shadow box has gaps visible within a proximal range, while a board-on-board has overlapping pickets that fill up the space within the panels. If privacy is your main concern, board-on-board fence is the ideal option for you.

Which Fence Structure Would Hold Up Against Extreme Weather

Metal fence perfect for storm this fence is heavy duty

Board-on-board fences have overlapping pickets that render the enclosure structurally sound, sturdy, and durable. Shadow box fences, on the other hand, allow air and wind to pass through, making them more resistant to environmental pressures.

Both patterns strengthen the integrity of the enclosure and render either fence to be durable and long lasting.

It is advisable to use pressure treated lumber, vinyl, and composite because these fencing materials are designed to withstand various weather conditions that will otherwise do considerable damage to regular wood.

In Closing

Difference of shadow box fence and board and board fence, cons, pros

Board-on-board and shadow box fencing styles each have their own distinct features that provide privacy, aesthetic appeal, and function. That being said, we hope the article proved to be helpful and instrumental toward guiding you in making an informed decision.

You might also find these topics informative:

How To Fill The Gap At The Bottom Of A Fence [Inc. Vinyl, Wood, And More]?

How Close To The Sidewalk Can I Build A Fence?

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