There are many barriers and fences to choose from for defense and establishing property boundaries. Keeping in livestock is another goal for many in the prepping community. This post is going to cover a variety of barriers, fences, and fortifications for your property.
Keep in mind that I will be talking about a few fortifications that are only appropriate if you feel very threatened and are on major defense because SHTF. During good times you could bring a lot of trouble your way by using these methods recklessly.
Man Made Versus Natural Barrier Fences and Fortifications
Understanding the path of least resistance rule
Under most circumstances animals and people flow like water. I have noticed this when animals get loose. If a horse gets loose, it will head down the road picking on grass as it goes rather than exploring very far from the road. People use the paths and roads that are easiest for them.
During a long emergency or SHTF it may not be the best idea to stick to the easiest route so at least some will be smart enough to try out alternative ways of reaching a desired location.
James Wesley Rawles states in “How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It” that if you have a road to your house, someone will eventually find you.
That doesn’t mean you have to make it any easier. Fences and other barricades can discourage people from venturing too close.
No method is perfect but something is better than nothing. What you can do and how well it works depends on your location and just how determined someone is to get to you.
Hedgerows and plants
Planting things that are spiky or thorny or simply just very dense, is a good way to deter anything from crossing a boundary but of course a determined person could make it through a natural barrier if they are patience and have the right tools.
The disadvantage of real hedgerows is that they can cost a bit to install, need to be trimmed occasionally, and they take time to grow and get dense enough to be a good barrier. They are effective but they are not for the impatient.
The larger the plants and shrubs you start with the more it will cost but the sooner you will have a reasonable barrier.
Plants and shrubs to consider:
Boxwoods, Rose Of Sharon, Cypress, Devils Club, Barberry, or any spiky rose bush. Arborvitae are available at any home improvement store and they grow very fast.
I advise looking for local plants that are suitable too. If you live in the right climate, cacti may be possible!
Many people plant spiky plants directly below windows to help deter troublemakers. If you combine plants with window security film, this will give you additional layers of protection if someone gets past fences and walls. I will refer you to my article on window security films for additional protection suggestions. Window film is great because even those that rent can install it without worrying about damage. You may have to clean the window if you move but that is not too bad for the amount of security you get.
Concrete is heavy to work with but it can make a wall that will last indefinitely. If you use reinforcements of fiberglass rather than standard metal rebar, it will be more structurally sound over time because metal rebar rusts out over time, especially in wet and damp climates.
Concrete blocks can be used to make barriers and walls. These blocks weigh 25-35 lbs and you can buy a few at a time so you can work on your project as you can afford it. There are some things that you need to keep in mind when building a wall such as not using very thin concrete block for tall walls.
In my experience the thinner blocks should just be avoided. Solid 4 inch thick capstones can work too and that means you don’t have to come back later and fill in the center with concrete.
People that live near busy roads often have a few courses of block or brick to form a barrier to protect their yard and home if someone veers off the road.
There is something to be said for brick. It is tough, and it looks good. At the same time it takes a long time to construct a wall with it. You will want your barrier to be thick enough to provide good protection so that means a wall that is 3-4 bricks thick.
Like concrete block, the advantage is that you can buy a few at a time and work on it when you have the time.
Poured concrete columns
Our house and outbuilding is built on a series of concrete columns and footers. At any major home improvement store you can find concrete form tubes in 6 or 8 inch diameters and measure 4 feet.
Larger diameters and longer lengths are available at concrete suppliers. I think the longest length is 12 feet. You can cut them to whatever length you want but it is best to do it on a miter saw or very carefully with a handsaw because it can be challenging to get a straight cut.
When Matt and I were building our house, we poured columns using an electric mixer and we hefted buckets of concrete up a ladder. Our tallest column is over 6 feet tall and that is the main support on one corner of the house.
Poured concrete columns can be utilized to create a very hard to break thru barrier.
Do you have a spot on your fence that people back into too often and never tell you or offer to fix it? Well if you are tired of the damage, you can pour a column there. It sounds mean, but it is an effective way to make people be more careful and prevent expensive damage to your property.
One main barrier and first line of defense is a 4 foot tall woven wire field fence. On the other side of the fence there is often enough brush and bramble to form a natural second barrier. This is just a side effect of adjoining properties not being heavily grazed and people just ignoring their side of the fence. That is pretty common out in the country. The natural barrier on the other side is not always ideal because we live in the South and there are a lot of vines that can eventually drag a fence down if some maintenance is not done.
Field fence lasts for decades if you get a good brand. We buy Red Brand because it does not get rusty within a few years like the Sierra Field Fence that costs slightly less. You really only save $15-$20 dollars per roll getting the cheap fence and since the lifespan is less, you lose in the long run.
It took some time and money for sure to get all of our property fenced this way but we are glad we did it. There were some very hard places to get wire too and our terrain is extremely mountainous.
There are old remnants of barbed wire on some fence lines too. If you are like us and have neighbors that graze a lot of cattle, then there may be some really good barbed wire fencing in place. For smaller livestock this is not enough to keep them in.
You can put field fence over barbed wire and then have a serious fence that would either have to be cut with wire cutters which would take a long time with just a Leatherman or climbed over.
While I think wood fencing looks beautiful and it can provide a solid barrier for privacy, I don’t recommend it for major fencing projects because a lot of it is made of treated pine that is fairly weak and doesn’t hold up well over time.
Wood fences must be kept painted and treated to get a reasonable life span. Not treating them or painting them regularly means they will get weak a lot faster. The cost of wood fencing is another issue. Most people get word fencing in 8 ft long sections that are already put together. This is attached to wood posts that are set in the ground. At $40-$50 for an 8 ft panel that can add up fast and it will never last as long as something like woven wire field fence.
If you have a source of free scrap wood or another advantage, the situation may be different for you in terms of cost but it will take you quite a bit of time compared to rolling out wire.
At the same time a few of those decorative wood fence panels can be a good way to add some fast privacy to a small area or create a nice place to hide your garbage cans.
Razor or barbed wire
Adding razor or barbed wire to the top of a fence will make it formidable and frankly very dangerous. Barbed wire on top is bad enough but razor wire will cause even more major cuts and lacerations if someone is silly enough to try to get over it. This type of fortification also warns others that you are not messing around.
I suppose it could be interpreted that such fortifications mean you have something worth defending in a major way. The fact is unless someone is extremely desperate or has a serious grudge, they are going to find an easier way to get what they need or to pass through an area to get where they want to go.
Razor wire may be restricted in some areas so either put it back for SHTF use or check rules. It seems to be mostly used at prisons, impound yards, and storage facilities from what I can tell.
Additional Fortifications for Major SHTF Situations
There are other frankly awful things you can do to barricade yourself in your property or fortify a fence.
Concrete fences and barriers that are tall enough to be over an adults head can have broken glass added to the top and secured with a small amount of concrete or mortar mix. This is a permanent thing, but it is effective in preventing people from crawling over or scaling a wall.
Fish hooks on clear fishing line or whatever string blends in
I know that I have mentioned this method in several articles but egg hooks on some type of string can be put across anything and create a very dangerous barrier on its own but it can also be added to any other barrier for additional protection.
You may have seen spiky protrusions on the tops of walls and fences. There are many reasons to put something spiky in the top of a wall or fence. Besides the fact that it makes it harder for anyone to get over it without some major planning, spikes are often used to keep wildlife and house cats out of yards.
I am not sure how well this system really works for cats but if you are one of those folks that gets mad at cats for getting the squirrels or song birds then spikes may be an option to explore. The size of the spikes can vary.
Many spikes allow for three methods of application. You can attach them with screws to a wood fence. Of course that means that someone could unscrew them if they were prepared or even had a multi-tool on them. The other option is to secure them with concrete or a special adhesive.
You do not want to secure them with concrete to a wood fence but you could screw them in and then put a layer over it. If you are really worried you could cut and attach concrete board like what you use to put down tile and then attach the spikes with long screws and apply a thin layer of concrete. It will look nicer if you take your time and smooth everything out.
Are natural or manmade fences and barriers better?
I think that a combination is best. Natural fences and barriers are not as effective at keeping livestock in and they require patience and maintenance that go beyond what a man made barrier requires once in place unless you truly don’t care how big your hedge grows or the shape it takes.
Man made fortifications and barriers are capable of doing more damage to intruders that are very determined to breach your defenses.
Natural barriers are a good back up fence and add a layer of protection.
Natural barriers can also enhance privacy, especially for those that have neighbors close by. Many man made fences don’t block things out. Our field fence is great but if not for the natural vegetation around it, you could see right through it.
Check the rules in your town, municipality, or subdivision
There are rules some places that restrict what types of fence or barrier you put up. Height restrictions may come into play as well. Those that live in actual gated housing developments and places with a HOA (Homeowners Association) could face more severe restrictions and guidelines than they might expect. It is good to know your options before starting work and spending money on something that you are told to take down or face fines.
Don’t get discouraged by big fence projects. Do a little at a time as you can afford it and before you know it, you will have a good fence!
Our situation with fence was a bit extreme. We have 11 acres at one place and nearly 2 at another so it took some time with all our other obligations and building a house. We started out with a little field fence and mostly electric wire. Over time we took down some fences and then finally got to the point we are at now.
You do what you can when you are in your 20s, living in a tiny camper, and doing everything on a shoestring budget. If we can do it, then so can you!
Budget what you can and work on it when you can. I am not saying let your project get put on the back burner for months at a time, I am saying that slow yet steady progress is better than no progress at all.
Fun side note on moats
When thinking about barriers and fortifications I could not help but think about moats. Water surrounding castles is a classic image of medieval life.
The truth about moats is that they were very nasty things. Imagine how gross canals can be and all the sewage and garbage that does into them.
One reason you didn’t want to get thrown or fall in a moat was that to do so meant that there was a good chance you would wind up with infected places on your skin. Any little cut or abrasion would have been a route to infection.
If you were unfortunate enough to inhale or swallow any water, there were additional nasty parasites and diseases that you could get. So for those that are thinking about water barriers, remember that canals and moats were not just good barriers because water is hard to get over.
Modern moats exist and are likely a lot cleaner. They are not really practical or possible for the vast majority but they are kind of fun to think about and there may be some communities that could make use of natural water features or canals for defensive means.
Do you have any ideas for barriers, fences, and fortifications? Do you have more than one barrier? I understand that some of the methods I have discussed in this post would cause people to do a double take in a town or city in the USA.
If you live in a town or city, what have you done to increase your security without standing out too much or looking like a nut?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]