The Everyday Homeowner’s Guide to Fencing

By Joseph Truini

Fences are becoming more and more common in neighborhoods all across the country, and there are many very good reasons why: Some homeowners want to corral pets, enclose a swimming pool, increase security, or define property line. Others wish to enhance the curb appeal of their home or complement landscaping features, such as flowerbeds, walkways, vegetable gardens, and hedgerows.

Regardless of the reason, if you’d like a fence for your property, there are five key steps to take prior to actually buying the fence. This deliberate approach may seem like a waste of time, but in the end it’s unquestionably the best route to finding the perfect fence for your home and family—and budget. Here are five steps:

1 Identify the Need

Although it may seem obvious, start by identifying the exact reason why you need a fence. Doing so will help you choose the right fence to satisfy your needs. For example, to gain backyard privacy, consider a solid-board fence that’s at least 6 feet high. However, if you want to highlight a flowerbed along the front of your house, then a 3-foot-high picket fence would be appropriate. If you need to fence in a swimming pool, check with local building codes to ensure you’re satisfying all safety requirements with regards to fence material, height, spindle spacing, gates and locks.

And remember that fencing can serve more than one purpose. A tall fence running along the side yard can transition smoothly to a shorter accent fence in front, providing both privacy and curb appeal. Finally be sure to discuss your fence plans with your immediate neighbors. It’s the considerate thing to do since any fence you erect will affect them and their yard, as well.

2 Verify the Property Lines

Most homeowners think they know where their property lines are, but that’s not good enough. You must absolutely know the boundary of your property. Installing a fence that turns out to be on your neighbors’ land is sure to cause problems. And you’d most certainly be forced to take down the fence and move it back onto your property, a very timely and costly fix.

The quickest and most cost-effective way to identify boundary lines is to go to the town hall and request a plot plan (a.k.a.: plat map). If one’s not available, then you’ll have to hire a surveyor to measure and mark the perimeter of your yard. Then, just to be safe, install the fence several inches inside the boundary, so there’s no question that it’s on your property.

3 Check Local Ordinances

Before deciding which type of fence to install, you must first confirm that you can even put up a fence. Many neighborhoods are governed by homeowners associations (HOA), which set strict limits on all sorts of things, such as house-paint colors, planting of trees, where you can park, even the height of the grass on your lawn. And included in these covenants are rules regarding fences.

If you live in a planned community, check with the HOA to see if you’re allowed to install a fence. If you can, then request a copy of any restrictions or style guidelines, which outline specific fence criteria, such as height, design, building material, placement, and the like. If there is no HOA in your neighborhood, then contact the local building department for a list of any restrictions or code requirements relating to residential fences.

4 Choose the Material

Shopping for a new fence can be fun, but also arduous because there are so many different styles and types of fencing available. Wood is still the most popular fencing material and it comes in dozens of styles and sizes, including split rail, stockade, vertical board, horizontal board, lattice panel, and, of course, the traditional picket fence. The natural beauty and texture of wood blends well with outdoor surroundings.

However, wood requires a fair amount of routine maintenance, including refinishing every two years or so. If you choose a wood fence, consider finishing it with an exterior-grade stain, instead of paint; stain doesn’t require nearly as much maintenance.

Looking for a low-maintenance alternative to wood? Consider a fence made out of resilient vinyl, resin, or composite. These weather-resistant materials don’t need painting or staining, and they won’t ever rot or crack. However, they do cost two to three times more than wood. Most vinyl, resin and composite fences are bright white, but newer designs resemble stained wood.

Metal fences are available made of chain link, aluminum, steel and wrought iron. They’re strong and weatherproof, but some are susceptible to rusting. Metal fences are usually chosen for security and decorative purposes, as opposed to privacy.

5 Ask for Professional Help

At first thought, installing a fence may seem like a relatively simple project: dig a few holes, put in the posts, attached the panels, and voila! It’s a fence. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, especially on large, hilly yards with hard, rocky soil.

Professional installation is the best way to ensure your fence is installed properly, and in accordance with all local restrictions and building codes. When hiring a fence contractor, choose one with extensive experience installing residential fences, not just commercial fencing. If you purchase a fence from a home-improvement store, ask about its fence-installation service.

Regardless of whom you hire to install the fence, be sure he or she walks your property, recommends more than one type or style of fence, and provides a written estimate of the final cost, which should include all materials and labor.

Learn more about tools that can help you build and maintain your fence by clicking HERE.

Category : How To, Project Ideas
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