How to choose the right fence?

First, determine why you want or need a fence. 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.

Is it for privacy? To keep your kids and dogs contained, or to keep neighborhood kids and other dogs out?

Yard fences for the backyard require different considerations than fence options for your front yard.

Installing 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.

Talk to nearby neighbors

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 every day.

Another question of "fence etiquette" is which side of the fence should face the neighbor? With some fences — chain link, for example — this doesn't matter. But if the fence includes 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 need to be 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.

Related: Neighbor’s Complaint Prompts Cherry Hill Homeowers to Replace Wood Fence

Finding the right fence

How much does fencing cost?

A new fence costs between $2,600 and $8,000 on average, depending on the size and type you buy.

Angie's List members recently reported spending an average price of $4,578 for standard privacy fence installation.

However, there are many fence options and contractors to choose from in different price ranges. Also, it's necessary to figure in long-term costs and return on investment, such as the required maintenance and security, when picking a fence material.

Here are some of the most common options in fencing:

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.

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 homes 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.

cedar fence

Cedar is a popular choice for fences and can be used in many types of designs. (Photo courtesy of Cedar Creek Fences)

How to build a privacy fence

If you are thinking about installing your own fence, or maybe you're just curious about how it's done?  This step-by-step guide to erecting a privacy fence could help.

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.

Step 1: 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-by-4-inch post can be used; however, a 6-by-6-inch post is recommended for added strength.

Step 2: 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.

Step 3: 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. 

Step 4: 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.

Step 5: 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.

vinyl fence

Vinyl fencing has become a popular choice in recent years. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Susan H. of Holbrook, New York)

Is it better to hire a fencing contractor or DIY?

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 notice.

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 contactors can buy materials at less cost and they employ more efficient digging equipment. You'll pay retail prices for fencing materials bought at the local hardware store, and you'll need to pay to rent 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 ask them to give you a free, on-site estimate. You'll also be able to learn what options they offer that you may not have considered, as well as talk about any challenges your particular fencing project may include.

In addition, you can search for fencing installation companies in your local area and read 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 contactors near you before you hire. Request several references and check them — maybe even drive by and check out their 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.

Leave a Comment - 20


Hilda Herrera

Subject: Fencing

We just had our fence work done by Texas Best Fence and since the scheduling date with Andrea to the completion of the job by the workers, the experience has been excellent! Professional and Reliable Company


Subject: which side of the fence for my yard

We have over 500 feet of fencing in our backyard. The choice for us was to have the pretty side or he ladder side. We have always chosen the ladder side. Don't want any kids standing on/climbing and hanging over the well as making it easier for potential wrong doers to hop over and do whatever they do!


Subject: Chain link fence

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

Robert Barter

Subject: Fence repairs

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.


Subject: Wood Fence-Miani

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.



Subject: Unfortunately for you, you

Unfortunately for you, you are in an HOA. It was likely stupid to join for someone like you (that values freedom).

You can get all of your friend in the community together to join your side and override the community.
Most HOAs have about 5% of the members active (joining meetings, voting on board members, etc.) If you have a concern, (and somewhat valid) you can find a few people,bribe them with a BBQ or something to hold a special meeting, remove the board, overturn rules, or kick out the "Inspector", or just deal with your specific case.

Second option: If you charismatic and popular, you could get the HOA disbanded. Save some money, hassle, BS.

Third Option: Do what they ask.

Forth Option: Meet the HOA board and try to plead your case. Good luck, the board members are usually stubborn old retired women with nothing to do but pester neighbors (Ok, maybe not that extreme, but they like to be nosy, controlling, and pushy, otherwise they would not be on the HOA board.)

You could try to refuse, but they can force you out of your own home, even to a point of foreclosure. The reason HOAs are not for most people is you may as well be living in an apartment, you don't own your house, they do, you just live there.
This leaves option 5.

Sell your house (be prepared, HOA homes take twice as long and often sell for less) and buy a house not controlled by busy body old ladies.

Maureen King

Subject: Fence of next door neighbour

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?


Subject: I am not sure I understand.

I am not sure I understand. Your neighbor put in a new fence but left the old one.
1) Why are you just now concerned about the old fence, if it were good enough before, it should be good enough now.
2) Why don't you put in your own fence so it is of no concern.
3) What purpose does this second (older) fence serve, no one I know would put a fence in front of an old one, so I assume they cover different aspects of their lots? Perhaps the new fence covers the from but not the "back" next to your land?
4) It is her fence, it is her property, if you don't like it you have options, why are you so cheap? Perhaps you can cut costs with her to replace a "common" fence or put in your own privacy fence.

Why should she pay for your fence or your view? If I were here I would paint it up nice and ugly on the side pointing to you just to spite you for being cheap and lazy.

Unless it is a hazard of some kind most cities will not force her to remove it, nor should they.

Gary Ash

Subject: Maintenance of fences

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.


Subject: selecting a fence

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.


Subject: Fence ettiquette

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.


Subject: Fence Etiquette

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.

robert rabitoy

Subject: fence

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

maree schulz

Subject: wrong side of fence

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.

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A chain-link fence is economical ... wood offers privacy ... and wrought iron looks impressive. How to choose?
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