While I would like to tell you that the hard part is behind you, the truth is that hard part and most important part of your fence project is going to be the 7 considerations listed below.
7 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Fence Project
1. Do Your Homework Regarding Building Codes and By-laws
Inquire with your municipal building department and neighborhood associations about codes and by-laws that dictate the style, material, height, location and look of your fence. You may find rules that specify, the distance your fence needs to be from property lines and sidewalks; whether permits are required; the look of fences along public property; and the height and construction of fences around swimming pool. Knowledge is power.
2. Communicate with Neighbor’s Prior to Planning your Fence
Be a good neighbor and a peace keeper by communicating your fence plans with your neighbor’s early in the process. Try to consider the fence from their side…will it block their views unnecessarily or send the wrong message to them?
If you are hoping that they will offer to share the cost of the fence, announcing when the fence project will commence and informing them about the type, style and materials you have selected for the fence, is probably not the best way to approach the situation. Instead, inquire whether they have been considering a fence; ask if they are opposed to it; if they are willing to share costs make sure they are included in the planning and decision making process. If they do not offer to share the cost, remember that it was your idea to build the fence, not theirs.
A party fence can be built and shared by two or more neighbors, but such agreements should be made in writing and only after the property boundaries have been professionally located and accurate costs determined.
3. Clearly Identify the Location of all Property Lines
There has been many battles and wars fought over border lines! If you don’t want to start a senseless battle with your neighbor, or possibly be forced to move your fence, it is critical that you clearly know and mark the locations of all property lines.
Rule #1… don’t guess. Existing fences, swales, garages, sheds, or tree lines should not be used as indicators of where the property lines are located.
When you bought your home, you should have received a lot plan showing where lot lines are in relationship to your home. If you don’t have one and can’t get one, contact a professional land surveyor to help mark the lot lines. It may cost $500 - $1000 but that is a lot cheaper than moving your fence after it is built. It is also a good idea to include your neighbors in on this process to confirm that they agree with the lot lines as you have marked them.
If the planning and costs of the fence are being shared by two or more neighbors, the fence should be located directly along the property line. However, if the fence is solely your project, then the fence should be fully on your side of the property line, including the holes for the posts.
4. Call Before You Dig
People always intend to call… but then forget to…and then suddenly family and friends are there ready to build a fence… and your pretty sure there is nothing buried there? It is not worth the risk of someone hitting a gas or power line. The utility companies usually provide this service for free, to avoid people getting hurt or costly repairs…use it!
5. Consider Hiring a Professional
We have all seen fences in our neighborhood that are leaning and just about to fall over. Well, chances are it was built by the homeowner.
A nice fence can be a very good investment, but only if it lasts. A properly built fence should last decades. Building your fence DYI may save you some money upfront, however, if it needs to be replaced after 10 or 15 years than you have not saved anything. Be honest about your skills, experience and time…are the savings worth it?
6. Ensure Fence Posts are Properly Installed
Ensuring your fence posts are straight, plumb, and evenly spaced is obviously critical to the finished appearance of your fence. However, the main reasons fences do not last is that the posts were not installed properly.
Fence post holes should be installed at least 36” deep to properly support the weight of the fence along with the lateral forces exerted by wind and people on that fence. In Northern climates, the fence posts should be installed 6” below the frost line and anchored in concrete to prevent frost from heaving them. Shoveling some concrete in the bottom of the hole before inserting your post, and then around the post once placed, will help protect your fence posts from decay.
If you are building a wood fence, pressure treated wood resists decay and thus the best option for fence posts. If you are using cedar, or any other wood, you may want to consider using a Post Protector below grade to prevent rot.
7. Consider the Maintenance of Your Fence
While some fences require less maintenance than others, almost all of them will require some maintenance at some time or another.
Don’t assume you will have access from your neighbor’s property. They may not allow you access, or if they are not satisfied with the appearance of your fence, they make build their own fence just inside their property line.
Constructing your fence in removeable sections will make occasional maintenance possible and provide access for larger equipment during future backyard renovation projects.