Angie's LIST Guide to
Fences

Fences have both practical and aesthetic value, but a badly conceived fence can be an eyesore and a source of conflict with neighbors. Here are some tips for deciding on fence options for your property.
 

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privacy cedar fence
A privacy fence, such as this cedar one, can provide a bit of solitude and security for homeowners. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Mark N. of Issaquah, Wash.)
 
 

Choose the best fence for you

The first question to ask is why you want a fence in the first place. Is it for privacy? To keep your kids and dogs contained — or to keep neighborhood kids and other dogs out? A well-constructed fence can boost property values, but a poor decision will detract from your home's value and make it harder to sell.

MORE: 4 Tips for Choosing the Best Fence For Your Yard

Yard fences for the backyard require different considerations than fence options for your front yard. Putting up a big privacy fence in front is generally frowned upon — and may even be a violation of city code or neighborhood covenant. In some subdivisions, fencing is strictly controlled by the neighborhood HOA. What kinds of fences do others in the neighborhood have already? If your idea is drastically different, you may want to reconsider that fence option.

The traditional picket fence works well in front yards and can increase the visual appeal of a house, especially if the front yard is small and undistinctive. Picket fences also provide a structural foundation for rose bushes and other flowering plants. Aluminum fencing is also an attractive option with less required maintenance. For a privacy fence, wood often works best. It doesn't really matter what type of fence you buy to keep pets and kids in your yard, just be sure to consider your animal's propensity to jump or dig. You can always consider an electric fence or other types of animal fencing if pet containment is your only goal.

This video explains why it's important to do your homework before hiring a fence installer:

Be neighborly

It's important to communicate with your neighbors when you're thinking of building a new fence. You may be within your rights to put up a fence whether your neighbor agrees or not, as long as it's on your property, but if you talk about it with your neighbors beforehand, you can probably come to an understanding. You may even find that the neighbor is willing to help pay for the fence in order to get something he or she doesn't mind looking at.

Another question of "fence etiquette" is which side of the fence should face the neighbor. With some fences — chain link, for example — this does not matter. But if the fence has posts and crossbars, like most wood fences, then there is an "inside" and an "outside" of the fence. The neighbor should see the outside of your fence, which is the more attractive side. This will also prevent intruders from climbing right over.

If you're the one putting up the fence, it is your responsibility to maintain it. If it needs painting or some slats repaired, take care of it right away and don't make your neighbors look at an eyesore.

Also, be sure to contact your local neighborhood association, or HOA, to see if there are any restrictions on the type or height of fencing allowed or specific procedures you must follow to get approval.

Fencing cost and materials

A new fence costs between $2,600 and $8,000 on average, depending on the size and type you buy. Angie's List member recently reported spending an average price of $4,578 for fence installation. There are many different fence options to choose from in different price ranges. Also figure in long-term costs and return on investment, like required maintenance and security, when picking a fence material.

Vinyl/composite: Often a top choice among homeowner associations in newer neighborhoods, this type of fencing tends to have clean, uniform lines. It also is a cost-effective option because it is easy to maintain — no painting, staining or sealing required. In most cases, vinyl fencing or composites have a longer warranty than other types of fencing.

Brick/masonry: Though an expensive option, brick fencing is appropriate for historic neighborhoods and more stately properties. It also provides a high degree of privacy and security.

MORE: How much does Fence Installation Cost?

Metals: Materials in this category can include aluminum, steel and traditional wrought iron – an expensive but beautiful choice. These options are ideal if you want to establish boundaries on your property but would rather maintain your views. They also can be highly decorative and enhance the overall aesthetic of your property.

Wood: One of the most common types of fencing, wood can give properties a traditional look. However, the lifetime of wood fences varies. Many types have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and require regular maintenance, ranging from cleaning and sealing to painting and staining. It’s important to understand the different types of wood and which are preferable for your purposes, tastes and climate. Bamboo is among the most recent newcomers to the range of fencing options. It is highly touted because it's considered environmentally friendly.

Other fencing factors that play into the overall cost include your yard's slope or grade, type of post installation and any obstacles in the way. Labor is also a big cost factor if you choose to hire a contractor to install the fence.

How to build a fence

Here's a step-by-step guide to erecting a privacy fence:

Most privacy fences are built 6 feet tall. While slats can be purchased individually, it's more common to buy fencing panels in prefabricated 8-foot sections. Individual slats are normally used for fence repair and installation adjustments.

  • Begin by laying out the locations for corner and end posts. Mark these spots with a piece of rebar or some other type of flag to allow you to adjust the locations as necessary. Fences are easiest to build on relatively level surfaces; however, adjustments can easily be made for slight grades. Set these corner and end posts carefully, because their placement will affect the look of the fence. For a 6-foot fence, use a post that is between 8 and 10 feet tall. A square 4” x 4” post can be used; however, a 6” x 6” post is recommended for added strength.

Local fence companies can save you from hard labor and measuring mistakes. (Photo courtesy All Style Quality Fence)
  • Dig a hole at least 24-inches deep, with a diameter that is approximately three times larger than the post width. If your fence location is unprotected and subject to high wind shear and vibration, it might be necessary to dig the hole deeper than 24 inches. Tamp the bottom of the hole to increase its density. In very soft soil, you may need to pour a small concrete footer first and allow it to cure before going further. Add the depth of the footer to the depth of your hole.
  • Next, place the post and secure it. While fill dirt can be used, it is not very stable against wind shear. Two other methods used to secure the post are filling the hole with a concrete mix or packing it with gravel. Using gravel to fill the hole does not require any curing; furthermore, it is much easier to pull out the post should that become necessary. Gravel will allow water to drain, preventing wood rot and will also make the fence somewhat flexible, allowing it to give slightly in the wind.
  • String a line between the corner posts at approximately 12 inches from the top. Do the same at the bottom. These lines will be used to set your mid-posts. Dig your holes in the same manner as the corner posts, setting the first post 8 feet on center, measuring from the outer edge of the corner post. This will ensure that the 8-foot panel section will fit properly. Successive mid-posts will all be set on 8-foot centers. Keep in mind that posts on 4-foot centers add stability and strength.
  • Once all fence posts have been set and allowed to cure, it's time to install the panels. Starting at the corner post, begin installing the panels by either nailing or screwing them to the posts. Spacers can be placed under the panels to assist in holding them, keeping them the proper distance from the ground.

DIY or hire?

Building a fence can be a good do-it-yourself project, but it's hard work and requires special tools. Unfortunately, if you do a poor job, everyone will be able to see it.

If DIY projects are your thing, you can use a manual post hole digger (beware: it's a strenous and time-consuming task) or a gasoline-powered auger, which is a more efficient tool if your soil is hard-packed clay or riddled with tree roots. You can rent an auger from a tool supply company. It's still hard work, but will go faster than digging by hand.

Although you will save money building a fence yourself, you may not save as much as you'd expect. Local fence installers can buy materials at less cost and their digging equipment is more efficient. You'll pay retail prices for fencing materials bought at the local hardware store, and you'll have the rental cost of the auger.

To decide whether the actual cost savings is significant enough for the time you'll spend doing it yourself, contact a couple of fencing companies and have them come out to give you a free, on-site estimate. You'll also be able to learn what options they offer that you may not yet have considered, as well as talk about any challenges your particular fencing project may include.

If you're a member of Angie's List, you can search for fencing installation companies in your local area and read the reviews submitted by other members in your area. You can also sort the list to find which fencing companies are offering discounts or deals to Angie's List members at the time you are planning your project. 

Properly vet local fence companies before you hire. Request several references and check them — maybe even drive by and check out their past work. Also check the service provider's state or local license, insurance and bonding. When interviewing prospective contractors, ask about pulling permits, warranties, and proposed timeline for the job.

Regardless of whether you hire a fence company or do it yourself, always call 811 before you dig to make sure you avoid any buried utilities. It's also a good idea to check with your local planning and zoning office or hire a licensed land surveyor to make sure your fencing is entirely on your property and that there aren't any local fence construction requirements.

 

Comments

Vinyl

I totally disagree with what side of the fence goes to the neighbor. In my part of the country, if you pay for the fence, you get the "good side of the fence". You can be nice and box in the posts to help with the look for the neighbor, but if they never went to the trouble to either maintain the fence they had or never installed a fence to start with, then why should they get to look at the best side of the fence. In some cases my clients are spending over $20k on fences. I can tell you there is no way I'm spending that kind of money to look at the back of a fence that I paid that kind of money for. It will also be a negative for resale if the back of the fence faces the owners property so do your self a favor, unless you are sharing the cost with the neighbor, put the good side toward your own property.

the smooth side has always been on the outsideand should be on the outside for security reasons. It can NOT be climbed over as easy. Must be something new that people have decided that the smooth side should be on the inside. I am 70 years old and this is a first for me.

the good side is supost to be faceing out ...thats the security of it all the rails can not be steped on or borads can not be kicked off,,,BUT WHOM EVER BUYS THE FENCE CAN PUT THE WOOD ON ANY SIDE THEY WANT >>>LOL

It really isn't up to the fence buyer it's up to the code enforcer bc putting the ugly side out might be against code in your area and they will make you take it down or turn it around

Wow. I'm glad you don't sell fencing in our area. The "good" side should ALWAYS face out. If I went to buy a home and the inside was facing outward, I would either not buy that house or request an allowance for that error. I'd also inquire as to whether the current owner has something wrong with them.

Obviously you can more about how the fence looks than someone climbing over it and killing your family. But that's your prerogative.

Yes, when selecting a fence for your property the home owner must consider several factors, firstly and most important is why do you need a fence. This will narrow down your options and secondly, what will your budget purchase. In our area most people are wanting to fence in a secure area for their children and pets, the most economical and secure are chain link fence. Chain link fence is now a more attractive option with the availability of vinyl color coated materials and they can have slats added for privacy. Most home owners elect to fence in the back yard section of their properties, thus reducing the cost of fencing required. This would require for end posts to be installed next to the house, this normally even with proper post installation creates a gap opening between the end post and the house. This is no longer a problem, there is a new patent pending fence end spacer product available online, the spacer fills the gap between the fence end post and the house. These gaps are also created by foundation footings, buried water and electrical lines.

My neighbour has installed a new fence but has the old fence in place which is very old and shabby. I have given her a 30 day notice that I intend to have the old one removed but she has forbidden me to do this saying they are both her fences. What can I do?

Most Counties have laws in place requiring the continued maintenance of fences and monuments that divide properties. Do a Google search in your area for the applicable law, or contact the County for ordinances involving the maintenance of fences and monuments. As a common rule, most people put the fence 6" on their property line so they have full control of the fence. If this is truly her fence, on her property line, you have no right to remove or repair anything that is "technically" their property. You can however put a fence in front of that fence, 6" on your property line. I know this becomes a problem with rodents living between the two fences, but you literally have no other choice. After a while, the neighbor will remove their fence and you will be control of the fence. But if it is on the property line, take pictures, have contractors come out and give you estimates to repair or replace the fence, then replace it. Typically if the opposite neighbor has a fence that totally encompasses her yard you have a legal right to recover half the cost of the new fence (your choice of style) in Court. Good luck.

What happens when you live in a corner lot and just learned from the Community Association recently that I may be half responsible for the cost of the fence. However, it appears that they want to make all the decisions and have sent a letter indicating that the fence was inspected by them and needs to be replaced. I do not feel the fence needs to be totally replaced as I think it can be repaired by replacing some of the woods and nails. They have come up with an estimate and ask that I put a deposit down and pay the other half at completion. I think it is unfair to impose this on me without considering my thoughts or my own independent inspection or estimates. They claim that they are concerned with Hurricane season and how the fence will hold up. Ok that is fine why not repair it. They can't just replace it because of the age and because they are concerned about what the insurance company might pay if or when a hurricane hits and destroys the fence. So what if its 15 years old if it is still in good/fair condition. How many associations in the area do you see replacing fences every 5, 10 or 15 years. It'snot weathered like that.

Also the fence is insured under the association convenant, yet I am responsible for half of the cost to replace when and if they decide. Now if a hurricane knocks down the fence will they require me to pay again since I am responsible for half according to them. I cannot insure the fence in Florida under my homeowners. They too had trouble obtaining insurance. Please shed some light here.

Done with this Association.

Thanks
.

can you give information for deck cleaning and sealing services as well as power washing a home?

If I were responsible for half the cost of a fence that separated mine and a neighbors property then I would have equal say and input on how to go about the required repairs or replacement. Why don't you call a local fence contractor for a free estimate and their expert advise of what is required, whether it can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced with a new fence. In locations where we have hurricane and tornado weather it is important to have a well maintained property to lessen the potential of damage that may be caused by flying objects. I hope everything works out.

I have a 100 feet long one straight side fence to put a chain link fence. I have the material some of the holes for the poles are dug. It is only lobor work that is missing. I would like some bids from professionals
Thank you

I need my fence repaired

Hi Jennifer, Thanks for your interest in Angie's List! You can find a local fencer in your area by clicking here: http://www.angieslist.com/companylist/us/

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