Fences are a big investment. To ensure that you get yours right the first time—and that it will serve your needs for years to come—we asked a panel of professionals to draw on their experiences to help you with your fence purchase and beyond.
Consider the style and function
Shopping for a fence requires considering everything from style and function to maintenance. But often, we overlook a few things that can create problems after a while. You’ll need to ensure your fence doesn’t create any mess in the neighborhood or violate local laws and regulations.
If you want to get a long-lasting fence that beautifies your home and is easy on your pocketbook, consider these things.
Pick the fence material according to your goals
Before picking your fence, determine your goals. What’s the main purpose of building a fence? Is it for privacy purposes? Safety? Security? Or just decoration? Identify your goal, and then pick a fence that is specially made for that purpose.
If you want to block sightlines and you need solid fencing for privacy, pick a solid vinyl fence, tightly spaced vertical boards, a lattice or decorative fence pattern.
If you want to build a barrier around any space, such as an enclosed pool area, or deter wildlife from invading your property, pick a chain link or wire fence. These fences are made of galvanized metal mesh with a black or green vinyl coating. If you are low on a budget, go for a metal/plastic mesh hung on stakes or metal posts.
Consider the Climate of your area
It is important to keep the climate in mind. Fences often break and get damaged due to extreme weather conditions. So, if you are living in northern climates that experience frost, make sure to put concrete anchors for fence posts and secure it 36 inches deep to dodge cracking in cold. If you are living in areas where the weather is often warm or damp, a vinyl fence is your best bet. Don’t build a wooden fence as it’s susceptible to water damage. For extremely cold climates, consider bamboo, wood, and metal fences to withstand the [weather] surprises.
Guidelines and boundary lines
Consider local ordinances, state laws, and any Homeowners Association rules or guidelines before you even start your fence search. It would be disappointing to find the perfect fence, and maybe even order it, only to find out that the fence you fell in love with is not allowed in your community. It could be the material, the color, or even the height of the fence that is a problem. Ultimately, you could be forced to remove, replace, or alter the fence you’ve had installed.
If you are on good terms with the neighbors, talk to them about your plans for several reasons. You may need their permission to install a fence that is on a shared boundary line; you may find the friendly neighbor to be combative once they find out what you’re doing because they weren’t consulted, or maybe they just don’t like fences; and you may just find that one or more neighbors have also been considering a fence, which could result in a joint purchase and perhaps a multi-property discount from the supplier and/or from the installer.
You also want to be extremely careful about boundary lines. If the fence ends up in the wrong place, you may be forced to move it, and this can be quite costly. Consult your boundary survey if you received one with your purchase, and be sure to give this information to the installer so that more of the responsibility falls on them.
Another important consideration is the purpose of the fence. If you intend to have dogs and want to keep them contained, then a horse farm type of board fence may not be helpful. A chain-link fence may not be very appealing visually. Vinyl fencing is durable but needs regular cleaning and maintenance. Wood fences may also need regular maintenance, such as applying an annual sealer.
Homeowners should check reviews online to get the opinions of those who have previously purchased any type of fence that they might be considering purchasing. Ultimately, make sure you are getting what you really want, and make sure it serves the purpose(s) that you have in mind.
Choose a minimum maintenance fence
Read up on the code where you live. Subdivisions tend to have strict fence policies. Cities also often have codes that limit what kind of fence you can put up. If you’re outside city limits and not in a subdivision, you’ll likely be able to put up whatever kind of fence you want.
Before you decide what kind of fence you want, consider the amount of time you want to spend on maintenance. If you want to put your fence up and never think about it again, choose a minimum maintenance fence. If you don’t mind annually power washing and staining your fence, you’ll be able to choose from a wider variety of fencing materials.
Do you want your fence for privacy or protection, i.e., protecting your pets and children by keeping them in or protecting your property by keeping others out—or both? If you have a dog that loves to dig, you’ll have to consider how easily they’ll be able to dig underneath your fence.
If you’re trying to decide if you want a fence or not, you may be surprised to know that in some cases, a fence can make your home insurance lower. In fact, it might even be required if you have a pool or trampoline.
Check property lines and zoning
Putting up a fence yourself is far more difficult than you might ever imagine. It involves rigorous planning to ensure you’re fencing off the right sections (in consideration of property lines and zoning), lots of prep work to dig out holes for the stabilizing structures such as posts and plenty more work to actually assemble the fence. It’s a job that takes, at minimum, two people, but ideally, as many as you can get to help.
It’s expensive, and while you’ll save money compared to paying for someone else to install it, you’ll definitely spend much more in time and effort. If you aren’t used to the labor, it may be too much of a physical strain as well. Even just using a post-holer at a level deep enough for a good fence is difficult for many people.
You certainly can get your own fence up. Nearly every homeowner can do it with a lot of hard work and reliable friends. But it’s much less stressful to hire a professional so you know it’s done right the first time.
Know what you’re buying
Know what you’re buying, because not all fences are made the same way. Some fence companies use recycled plastics and reused materials to make their PVC fences. This causes the PVC to become brittle, and over time, it will yellow, crack, and fade. It also tends to attract more dirt and grime due to the build-up of static electricity in the recycling/regrinding process. I recommend the homeowner ask their fence company if the PVC is 100% pure virgin vinyl inside and out. This often goes overlooked.
This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.