Not every home comes with a fence. For some people, that’s OK. But for those who want to keep pets or children in the yard, keep intruders out or simply improve their curb appeal, fences are an important way to make that happen.
The first step in adding a fence to your property is deciding what its purpose is and how big your budget is. This will determine what material to use. If your main goal is to contain pets but you don’t have much to spend, a sturdy chain-link fence is a good option. If you want something with a little more height and privacy, you might choose tall wood slats or vinyl panels. Those wanting an elegant touch in their landscaping could go with classic wrought iron, or black aluminum that mimics the wrought-iron look.
Mike Workman of Workman Fencing and Construction in King City, Mo., says another popular option for people on a budget is vinyl-coated chain link. It can come in green, brown or black. He says it looks nicer than bare metal, and the vinyl coating covers the fence posts, as well.
Some people who want a fence choose to do the work themselves. Sometimes this is the result of time constraints. Mr. Workman says getting on the list with a professional company, going through the proper paperwork and ordering supplies can take anywhere from 30 to 120 days, depending on the time of year and the job to be done. If you want specialty or custom fencing, that also can take some time.
“There’s so many styles out there you don’t always have those types of fences in stock. Typically it can take about two weeks to get that in,” he says.
However, the main reason homeowners tackle fence projects themselves is for budget issues.
“With labor today, by the time you get your insurance and everything else, it can be fairly expensive. (Doing it yourself) can save a decent amount, sometimes 30 to 50 percent,” Workman says.
The trade-off, of course, is the quality of the finished job. It takes considerable knowledge and skill to put up a fence that will last, which includes taking precise measurements, using the right tools to attach boards securely, digging holes for posts and filling them in with concrete.
Mr. Workman says his company doesn’t define the home’s property line because their contracts state it’s the customer’s responsibility. Therefore, whether you do the work yourself or hire a professional, you’ll most likely need to contact the city you live in to determine where your property line falls. The city will have information about any codes or permits that might be required before starting the work. Alternately, you could have your property professionally surveyed.
Mr. Workman says it’s also crucial to call Dig Rite before you do any digging (800-344-7483 in Missouri). This ensures that you know where possible gas lines or cables might lie underground so that you can avoid them and finish the job safely.
Prime season for building fences usually is early spring to late fall. It can get more difficult once snow hits and the ground starts freezing, making the job nearly impossible for DIYers. However, if you’re in need of a fence in winter, Mr. Workman says his company works all year long, or until the ground frost layer is about 6 inches deep.
“We’ve pushed a foot of snow over to build a fence if there’s no frost,” he says.