Shadow Box Vs. Board-On-Board Fences: What's The Difference?

Jessica Allen
by Jessica Allen

If you search the internet for the best types of privacy fences, you’ll see two options pop up frequently. These are the shadow box fence and the board on board fence. So what is the difference between them, and which is better?

Shadow box fences are the same as board-on-board fences; these are two names for the same thing. This visually appealing style of privacy fence is durable, customizable, and boosts your curb appeal. It features an overlapping picket pattern with every other board attached to the opposite side of the fence.

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What Is The Difference Between A Shadow Box Fence And A Board On Board Fence?

There is no difference between a shadow box fence and a board on board fence! These are simply two names for the same thing, and they can be used interchangeably.

What Is A Shadow Box or Board-On-Board Fence?

A shadow box fence, also called a board-on-board fence, is a type of privacy fence. It has a close resemblance to the classic picket fence.

Shadow box or board on board benches are constructed with standard posts. Three rails span between each post. A picket is attached to one side of the rails, and another picket is attached to the other side.

These pickets are slightly overlapped in order to obscure the view of your lawn. This alternating picket pattern continues and creates a “shadow box” pattern. The light shining between the pickets creates shadows on the wood for a lovely visual effect.

Pros Of Shadow Box & Board-On-Board Fence

There are plenty of plus sides to installing a shadow box or board on board fence around your lawn. Of course, this type of fence acts as a privacy fence, shielding your yard from view. This makes it easy to enjoy get-togethers with friends and family, and to obstruct your lawn from nosy neighbors.

No Front Or Back

Your neighbors are likely to enjoy your shadow box or board on board fence as well. This is because it looks the same on both sides, thanks to its alternating pattern. There is no front or back to shadow box or board on board fences.

Keep Children And Pets Safe

Another benefit of this type of fence is that it can easily keep pets and children inside the lawn. You won’t have to worry about your puppy escaping or your child running into the neighbor’s yard.


Because of the alternating pickets, shadow box or board on board fences are extremely durable. You won’t have to deal with sagging or falling pickets since their weight is evenly distributed between the rails.


With a shadow box or board-on-board fence, you have plenty of options for customization. You can choose the wood type, color, stain, and select the top panel that you like best. This results in a high-quality privacy fence that’s made to fit your personal preferences.

Boosts Curb Appeal

The visual interest created by a shadow box or board-on-board fence can truly boost the curb appeal of your home! Many prospective homeowners are in search of a lawn with a high-quality privacy fence. Not only are shadow box or board-on-board fences high-quality, but they also look great.

Lets In Light And Air

Unlike other types of privacy fences, shadow box or board-on-board fences allow light and air to come through. Whether you are growing various plants and flowers or just enjoy the sunlight, this is definitely a perk.

Cons Of Shadow Box Or Board-On-Board Fence

As with everything in life, there are always a few drawbacks to consider. Shadow box or board on board fences have plenty of great attributes, but here are a few downfalls.


Like most fences, shadow box or board-on-board fences need regular maintenance and painting to keep up their appearance. If you want your fence to last, you’ll need to take care of it!

Relatively Short Lifespan

The average fence, with proper care, can last around 15 to 20 years. However, shadow box or board-on-board fences typically last five to ten years.

Susceptible To Various Issues

Unfortunately, shadow box or board-on-board fences are susceptible to several different issues. Of course, with proper maintenance, you should be able to avoid or treat these issues as needed.

One thing to look out for is termite infestations. In addition, if the wood on your fence begins to decompose, it may develop fungus and dry rot. This will effectively weaken your fence.

In addition, shadow box or board-on-board fences can warp, crack, and fade with time.

How To Build A Shadow Box or Board-On-Board Fence

Step 1: Gather Tools And Materials

To build a shadow box or board-on-board fence, you will need 4×4 posts, eight-foot backer rails, and pickets. (The specific amount you need will be determined by the size of your fence.)

For tools, you’ll need a hammer, a cordless drill, 3.5” wood screws, and 1.5” ring shank nails. You’ll also need a pencil, a tape measure, a level, and a two-inch piece of scrap wood.

Step 2: Prepare To Set The Fence Posts

In this step, you’ll start by marking where the posts will go. You’ll want them to be evenly spaced for the entire length of the fence. Contact your local utility company so that they can mark the locations of underground cables and pipes.

To dig the holes for the fence posts, you’ll need a power auger or a post hole digger. You can typically rent these from your local hardware store. You’ll also need a cordless drill, screws, a level, a hammer, a tape measure, a shovel and bucket. Scrap 2x4s and stakes are also necessary.

For materials, you’ll need quick-set concrete and gravel. Make sure you have access to water as well!

Step 3: Set The Fence Posts

Next, mark the post locations using stakes, and then you’re ready to start digging. The post holes should be about one-third as deep as the fence is tall. The posts should eventually sit below the frost line, so do some research regarding the frost line in your area.

Once you’ve finished digging the fence post holes, add a few inches of gravel to the bottom. This will help with drainage.

Set your post in the hole, and hold it in place as you fasten it to the scrap wood. Then, drive stakes into the ground and attach the other side of the scrap wood to the stakes. This will hold the post in place as the concrete cures.

Pour the quick-set concrete mix directly into the hole, and pour the necessary amount of water on top. You can check the chart on the side of the concrete bag to figure out the correct amount of water. Next, use a shovel to mix the concrete and remove air pockets.

Now it’s time to add some soil on top of the concrete. Repeat the process with each fence post, and allow the concrete time to cure before moving on.

Step 4: Install The Backer Rails

Measure and mark your posts where you want the backer rails to go. Attach the backer rails to the posts using 3.5” wood screws at an angle of about 30 degrees.

Step 5: Attach The Pickets

Determine the distance between your pickets and remember that they should overlap slightly. Line up your first picket and drive two nails through it and the backer rail. Use the two-inch piece of scrap to elevate your pickets off of the ground.

Continue this process for all of the pickets, ensuring that everything is lined up and level as you go. Now you have a completed shadow box or board on board fence! At this point, all you have to do is continue to maintain it over the years.

Related Questions

How much does a board-on-board fence cost?

If you want to get a board-on-board fence installed professionally, the cost will range from about $2400 to $3300. This also includes the cost of materials.

Are shadow box fences more expensive?

Shadow box fences are slightly more expensive than the typical privacy fence. This is because they require more skill to build and use a few more boards than other types of fences.

Are fences shared property?

If the fence is located on the boundary line of two properties, then both property owners share ownership of the fence.

Do You Need Fence Installation or Repair Services?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Shadow Box Fence vs. Board-On-Board Fence: The Final Verdict

Shadow box fences and board-on-board fences are the same thing. They are visually interesting privacy fences that look the same on both sides.

Most people hire a professional to install a shadow box or board on board fence. But if you have the knowledge and skills, this is a project you could complete yourself!

Jessica Allen
Jessica Allen

With a lifelong passion for writing plus strong enthusiasm for home improvement and DIY projects, joining the team at Upgraded Home was an easy choice. Jessica Allen likes to share helpful information with current and aspiring homeowners. Aside from writing, Jessica loves doing yoga, playing the piano, and dabbling in graphic design.

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