How to hide an ugly fence - 5 ways to disguise an eyesore fence on a budget

Ugly fence? We’ve got you covered

outdoor living wall as part of fence, full of colour and plants, lawn
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Almost every property in the UK has at least one fence in its garden. And while there’s no denying the practicality of fences, they can also be an eyesore. So, knowing how to hide an ugly fence can help.

When you’ve spent time and money bringing your landscaping ideas to life, the last thing you want is for a wooden eyesore to ruin your whole aesthetic... but investing in a new garden fence idea isn’t cheap. Thankfully, you do have options if you can’t afford to replace your old fence or you just want to tidy up 'your side' of your neighbours’ fence (with their permission, of course).

From simply painting it to buying affordable screening, we’ve pulled together expert-approved ideas to transform an ugly fence into something you can be proud of. And they’re easy to DIY, too.

How to hide an ugly fence

‘Hiding an unsightly fence can greatly improve the aesthetics of your outdoor space, providing privacy and enhancing the overall appearance,’ explains Richard King at Dino Decking. But if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. 

1. Paint it

Grey painted garden fence with garden bench and table

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

Perhaps the simplest and cheapest option is to paint the fence. After all, many people think a fence is ugly because it’s worn, old, and tired. And as Nick Wood, garden designer at GardeningExpress, says, ‘Never underestimate what a fresh coat of paint can do.’

In fact, there are many fence colours that can make a garden look bigger and colours that can either bring it to the forefront of your attention or blend it into the background. There are certain fence colours to avoid, though. 

Whatever colour you choose, painting your fence can instantly make it look new and fresh, and the beauty of painting is that you can always paint it again if you’re not happy with the result. You could even go bold and paint your own mural if you wanted to. 

Just remember that you should never paint 'your side' of your neighbours’ fence without their permission first. 

2. Add trees or hedges

A garden furniture set on a patio

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Utilising the height and the coverage of the best trees and hedges can instantly hide an ugly fence. However, this natural garden screening does require a little more patience as you wait for them to grow - unless you’re willing to shell out on fully-grown trees. 

Owen Simpson, Managing Director of Henchman, explains, ‘Not only do they add more greenery to your garden, but they also help with noise reduction, provide protection from wind, and offer shelter and food sources for all kinds of wildlife like bees, butterflies, hedgehogs and birds.’

However, you should always do some due diligence before planting anything to hide your fence. Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, says, ‘Firstly, I recommend measuring your fence in both height and width. There's no point in choosing plants and trees that aren't going to fully cover your fence, and similarly, you don't want to splash out on expensive, big trees when you only need a tree that's half the height.’

‘Similarly, you need to work out what growing conditions your fence location has. For example: how much sunlight this area gets, what the natural soil is like, how much shade the area gets and how much wind it gets.’

Of course, the waiting game when adding trees or hedges can take its toll, so you might want to opt for fast-growing privacy trees that are much speedier than others out there. 

3. Buy privacy screens

Garden with wooden fence and curved bench on edge of brick path

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you’re looking to hide an ugly fence, there are so many garden screening ideas out there. These come in so many different shapes and forms, with many experts opting for more natural materials. 

Kristian Goodenough, CEO of Bespoke Sign House, is particularly fond of natural bamboo and wicker privacy screens. He says, ‘For a reasonably priced and low-maintenance solution, natural bamboo or wicker screens can be installed over the fence, hiding it from view while smartening up the overall aesthetic.’

‘These can be purchased in rolls at fair prices from most home & garden stores and are a quick solution which is instantly effective at hiding an ugly fence.’ In fact, this FunkyBuys Bamboo Screening from Amazon is just £19.99 and can be attached using a staple gun.

But if you’re looking for something more robust, composite screening is a great alternative. You could buy smaller decorative panels to cover small sections of your ugly fence, or you have the option to buy large rolls (similar to bamboo or wicker) or panels that cover the whole thing - almost like a brand-new fence.

‘Using composite trellis garden screens presents a practical and aesthetically pleasing solution for transforming an ugly fence into a presentable feature of your outdoor landscape,’ says Richard.

‘With their durability, versatility, and ability to integrate with nature, these screens offer a stylish way to enhance privacy, add greenery, and elevate the overall ambience of your outdoor living space.’ 

They are a little pricier, but they’re still an affordable option for those looking to cover up their fence. 

4. Plant a vertical garden

Slatted wooden garden fence with vertical living wall and purple flowers

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Have you ever considered using your ugly fence as the base for your vertical garden? While it’s easy to plant in garden borders and fill containers full of plants around your fence, these are only dealing with the bottom section, leaving the eye-level sections of the fence still on show.  

Caron Grant, Brand Manager at Bridgman, explains, ‘From hanging planters along a fence to using trellises for vines and other climbing plants, vertical gardens provide more growing space as well as upright accents to make your garden look bigger. Plus, their distinctive look offers the opportunity to add interest by covering boring fences with blossoming colours and greenery.’

Like the hedges and trees, however, it may take a while for your vertical garden to grow. So, if you’re looking to plant climbers, opting for the fastest-growing climbing plants for privacy will suit you best. 

Not only that, but you also need to consider your neighbours. Steve says, ‘Self-clinging climbing plants include the likes of ivy, climbing hydrangea, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy, and are all great options for growing up a fence.’

‘One thing you'll have to be careful of if your plant is self-clinging is that it doesn't get out of control. Not only could this look messy, but if your fence is shared with a neighbour, it's very likely they won't be too pleased to have a plant over-growing in their garden.’

5. Decorate with mirrors

courtyard garden

(Image credit: Future Plc)

If you want to hide an ugly fence but don’t want to cover the whole thing with plants or screens, mirrors are a great option. Not only are they practical, but they’re also a way to add a decorative touch to your outside space. 

Danielle Le Vaillant, Head of Photography & Film at Cox & Cox, says, ‘Adding mirrors to your garden fence is a simple way to break up a large expanse of wood. Beautiful reflections from natural light create a warm and welcoming environment, enhancing the area for socialising and hosting.’

And how you place these mirrors can also affect the overall feel of your outside space. In some cases, it can make a larger space feel more intimate. But in other cases, it may make a smaller garden feel much larger. 

‘Livening up a bland fence with mirrors adds interest to your garden space,’ adds Danielle. ‘Positioning them to reflect greenery and exciting features in your garden space allows your garden's natural beauty to be amplified, creating an outdoor space that cocoons and relaxes.’

‘On the other hand, our outdoor shutter mirror creates the feeling of a window in your garden, adding a cosy feel to a more rustic cottage garden.’


How can I make my fence more attractive?

This all depends on whether you want to completely hide an ugly fence or just smarten it up. 

If you want to hide it completely, you should focus your attention on growing natural screens or installing composite alternatives. This way, you can hide your fence without having to replace it in the process. And if you’re looking for a cheap option, simply painting it should do the trick. 

If you just want to make your fence look more appealing and more attractive, you could add little decorative touches here or there. You could light your fence up with fairy lights, add some hanging baskets, or focus on cheering up the bottom of the fence. 

For example, you could grow some bright and bold plants in garden borders to brighten the space up.

How do you make a bad side of a fence look good?

It’s important to note if the ‘bad side’ of a fence faces into your garden, the fence will aalmost always belong to your neighbour. This means that you legally can’t do anything to that fence without first seeking permission from your neighbour. 

If you do receive permission, there are many things that you can do to make the bad side of the fence look good. You can paint it, attach lights, hang hanging baskets, and even grow trees in front of it. 

However, you should avoid anything that can’t be removed easily, just in case your neighbour decides to replace the fence.  

Now you know how to hide an ugly fence, it’s time to choose your favourite option.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.