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12 Things to Know Before Building a Fence

12 Things to Know Before Building a Fence

A fence can add a lot to your home: curb appeal, privacy, security, and protection from the elements. But before you start building, there are a few things you should know.

1. Understand Its Purpose

Before installing a fence, it’s important to pinpoint exactly what your reason is for having one so that you know how to move forward with your planning. If your fence’s purpose is strictly utilitarian, like keeping your pet in the yard, you can probably make do with a basic chain-link fence. However, if you’re looking to add privacy or block noise, something tall and solid is required. Most likely though, your reasons are complex: You’re looking to protect pets, and you want to bring a decorative element to your home’s exterior. Whatever its intended purpose, a fence is capable of having multiple functions. You just have to decide what it is you’re looking for and choose the fence that works best for your specific needs.

2. Face It the Right Way

When installing a privacy fence, be sure to know which way a wooden fence should face. The finished side of the fence should face the neighbor, leaving the side with rails and posts showing on the inside. As the standard way to build a backyard fence, your property will look better this way and your neighbor will be much, much happier.

3. Think About Fence Materials

While a white picket fence might be the classic choice, make sure you consider the commitment you’re making before you head out and buy the wood posts and whitewash. Wood fences require occasional upkeep, like staining and sealing, and can rot and warp over time. If that presents a problem for you, consider a low-maintenance material instead, such as vinyl. Vinyl provides the look of wood without the extra work. Other options for fencing materials include steel, aluminum, wrought iron, and bamboo.

4. Mixing Fence Types is Cost Effective

If cost presents an issue, consider mixing different types of fences. For example, use wood picket fencing in the front of your home for curb appeal, and connect it to chain link fencing in the back. This combo fence option saves installation costs, reduces the amount of maintenance required, and adds visual interest to the landscape.

5. Research Building Codes & Regulations

Check with municipal building code officials, and homeowners or neighborhood associations regarding any rules having to do with fencing looks, height and materials. The city or neighborhood may specifically require that the better-looking side of a fence (no posts or rails showing) be placed outward toward the public face of the property. You should also ask how far back a fence on your property must be set. The standard requirement is that fences must be set back 2 to 8 inches from sidewalks and property lines, but this can vary, so confirm it before installing your fence. Also, find out if your fence project will need a building permit.

6. Consider a Living Fence

Have you considered using landscaping to protect your home from weather, provide privacy, or to mark property lines? All that you need to do is layer plantings to form pockets where others are unable to see your home or a specific part of your yard. Once again, check local building codes and neighborhood fencing rules in case they cover living walls. In addition, it may be necessary to maintain planted materials to ensure they don’t overgrow any restrictions in the future.

7. Crunch the Numbers

It’s important to know exactly how much your new fence is going to cost you so you can budget properly. HomeAdvisor states that homeowners shell out between $1,673 and $3,983 to have a wooden fence installed— $17 to $45 per linear foot. Lumber averages between $7 to $15 per foot, and labor ranges from $10 to $30 per foot. While the length, height and wood type of a fence are the major factors when it comes to determining the price of a new fence, hardware, gates and sealant are other costs that should be budgeted into the project as well.

8. Know the Property Line

You need to know where to place your fence, which means you must research the property line. Consider having your property surveyed to ensure you build your fence on your own property and not on your neighbor’s land. A property survey is a document issued by a surveyor that certifies the boundaries and rights of way of a property. A lost property survey may be retrieved from your county’s records office.

9. Hire Professionals

Simply put, fence installation is more difficult than it looks. To find a local professional, consider checking with the American Fence Association’s database. If you choose to hire a pro, ask to see examples of their previous fence work. Go with a licensed company or individual since they are usually bonded and insured. Also, get estimates from multiple contractors so you get a clear idea of how the companies compare.

10. Be a Considerate Neighbor

Reach out to your neighbors and be upfront about your fencing plans. Try not to unnecessarily obstruct their views. As mentioned above, installing a wood fence with the finished side facing the neighbor’s property is considered good etiquette. Also keep in mind that a party fence can be built and shared by two or more neighbors. However, any agreements should be made in writing and only after property boundaries have been determined by professionals.

11. Your Climate Matters

If your home is located in a cold, northern climate that experiences frost, you’re going to need concrete anchors for fence posts. Each post should be secured 36 inches deep so that they won’t crack in a cold snap. As for warmer climates that are more humid, vinyl is the best material choice since wood is prone to water damage. In really cold climates, metal, wood, and bamboo fences make the most durable choices.

12. Plan Entrances

Plan at least two entrances into a fenced area for safety and convenience. Make sure that one of the entrances is big enough so that bulky outdoor equipment like garbage cans and lawn mowers can get through. Entrance locations can be subtly highlighted for guests by using stepping stones, pergolas or other decorative elements.

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