By Carolyn Weber. Good fences make good neighbors, especially on compact infill lots or in TNDs. Americans realize that a little separation is a good thing and are investing in fences in record numbers. According to U.S. News and World Report, Americans spent $2.3 billion on fencing products in 2001, up from $1.5 billion in 1997, and nearly 60 percent of those were for private homes, up from 53 percent five years ago.

With options ranging from charming wood pickets to decorative wrought iron, fences don't have to look like forbidding barriers; they can become a welcome addition to the landscape design. Although resin-based PVC fencing is the latest thing on the market, the hottest-selling line at Allied Fence Co. in Mableton, Ga., (, is Ornamental Aluminum. The low-maintenance product looks like wrought iron and complements many of the new historically inspired communities in the Southeast.

"We sell the Delgard brand (, and it's one of the simplest do-it-yourself fences on the market," says Allied's project manager Kenny Gillam. Priced at $25 to $30 per foot, it comes in pre-assembled 6-foot sections that just need to be secured to posts in concrete. "You just build it as you go," says Gillam. "You don't need as many tools and as much know-how as you would with the other fences." The Premier Aluminum Fencing line features three standard styles, four colors, and seven heights. The Delair, N.J.-based manufacturer also makes decorative balls and finials to create a custom look.