Homes are among the most expensive purchases you'll make in your lifetime, and it's important to make it your own, both inside and out. A fence can serve a number of purposes, including keeping a rambunctious pet or child from straying too far, creating privacy for your yard, improving the value of the house or simply making your home more secure.
More than 99,000 businesses offer fencing services and products in the United States, and the industry generates about $51 billion in revenue a year. With all of these options, homeowners can team up with a fencing contractor that meets their budget and requirements.
Types of Fences
No fence is one-size-fits-all. Each home is different, with its own character and charm, and homeowners should expect their fence to reflect this aesthetic. Fortunately, there are a number of fence materials that you can choose from to add to the look and function of your home.
When people dream about a house with a picket fence, wood is often the material that comes to mind. Wood is the most popular fencing type in the U.S. because it provides privacy thanks to its build and height options, looks attractive, and will likely last for the lifetime of the home. The downside of this option is that the height and size can impact the price, and it can take time to install.
Aluminum may not provide the type of security that wood and other options might as it would need fill-in panels. It requires little maintenance and can be decorated any way you want. However, this type of fencing is not ideal for areas with severe weather.
If you like the look of a wood fence, but not the price, PVC could be a good option. PVC is much cheaper and can be used to replace wooden stakes and pickets. While it's not as sturdy as wood, it can significantly cut down on material costs and comes in a variety of heights and colors. A PVC fence can last for years and has a high resistance to the elements.
Vinyl is one of the cheapest and most durable fencing types on this list. A vinyl fence has four times the flexibility and five times the strength of comparable wood fences. Although it has a high upfront cost, it requires no maintenance and is overall less expensive than other options.
Homeowners that are looking to be green may find bamboo fencing to be an appealing option. Bamboo is grown naturally, rising up to a foot a year, and can be planted to create a fence. Rolled bamboo and bamboo cane options will be the sturdiest choices and are optimal for colder climates.
If you think that fences are an eyesore, an invisible electric fence might be the optimal choice. These are especially beneficial for homeowners with pets. A trench is dug along the fence's boundary, and a wire is buried within. A wireless transmitter can then interact with a pet's collar to warn the animal when it is near the edge. Pets will stay within your yard, and you won't have the bulky structure of a fence.
How to Know if a Fence Works for Your Yard
Now that you know what materials are available, you might have an idea of what type of fence you'd like. However, there are a few considerations you'll need to address to verify that a fence will work for your yard:
Check Your HOA Regulations
Before you can begin planning for a new fence, you'll want to double check the rules for your neighborhood. Some homeowners' associations have stipulations concerning fences including standards for what materials can be used, as well as height requirements. Using this information, homeowners can thoroughly assess their options and stay in line with HOA regulations. You'll want to refrain from building excessively tall structures unless permitted by the HOA and municipality ordinances. Without this allowance, your fence will end up costing more.
Draw the Lines
Now that you know what guidelines are in place for fences in your area, it's time to determine if a fence will work for your yard in particular. You'll need to confirm your property lines to ensure that you stay within your established boundaries. A fence consultant will need to come out and locate utilities and other obstructions that could interfere with construction. The slope and contour of the terrain can affect the measurement of your fence as well. Understanding these elements will help determine if your yard is a good candidate for a fence and make planning run more smoothly.
Lay out Your Reasons
Establishing a fence takes some time and investment, so it will be important to consider why you're installing a fence in the first place. If you have kids or pets, safety might be your main reason. You might put in a fence for privacy if your landscaping isn't enough to provide your desired level of seclusion. For those selling their home, a fence can add visual appeal and increase property value. These considerations may guide you on what type of fence will be best for your home.
To properly maintain your fence, you must first learn about what problems you may face:
Utility lines must be marked before fence installation to prevent any damages. A simple visit from a professional can save you a lot of headaches down the road.
If you build a fence that doesn't adhere to ordinances, it can cost you a lot to address. Be sure to check with your HOA and municipality for regulations concerning what is required to build a fence in your area.
If you don't maintain your fence properly, you can expect it to come down with a few problems. You may notice that your fence is leaning or sagging, and this can be a fairly expensive problem to fix. If you don't close the gate properly, your hinges might sag and prevent your gate from closing securely. Homeowners can prevent these situations by performing regular maintenance on their fences.
Fence installation often occurs in stages. First, the fence company will mark the utility lines in your yard. Then, a crew will dig posts and set them in concrete. About a week later, the company will come and install the stringers, gates, fencing material and everything else. The average installation cost is slightly more than $4,500, but it will largely depend on the materials used. It's inadvisable to try to make this a DIY project, as a high degree of skill is required, and many costly problems can result from a bad fence installation.
Aluminum, vinyl and PVC fences all require little to no maintenance. Homeowners may use soap and water to clean off these materials, but they generally don't require much more than that. These options can be good for those that want a sturdy but low-touch fence.
Wood fences, on the other hand, require a little bit more work. With exposure to the sun and the elements, wood fences are prone to cracking, warping and cupping. To prevent this, homeowners are encouraged to clean, seal and stain their fence at least every three years. Clean the fence with a specially formulated cleaner. After 15 to 20 minutes, use a pressure washer to remove any mold, mildew and debris from the fence. From there, you can seal and stain the fence to protect it and help the wood look good as new. An oil stain is recommended, as it penetrates the material and can maintain its condition for years.
Choosing a Service
With tens of thousands of fencing service companies to choose from, how do you know which one will be the best for your needs? Here are some considerations to help you make a decision:
Are There Portfolio Examples?
You'll need to do some homework on your potential contractors. First, see if they have a website and a portfolio of samples. These can indicate the provider's level of experience and highlight their capabilities.
What's Their Reputation Like?
You'll want to have a contractor that has a good reputation. Look at customer reviews as well as how long the provider has been in business. If a contractor requires an immediate decision, asks you to pay cash or doesn't provide an estimate, it should serve as a major red flag. A friend or family member may also be a good source for recommending a contractor.
Is the Work Guaranteed?
Some organizations may offer a variety of promises, such as time to completion and discounts, simply to get you in the door. It's important to question the validity of these guarantees and research whether the contractor has delivered on these commitments. If it's clear that the contractor constantly misses deadlines or doesn't meet obligations, you'll want to renew your search.
Is There a Warranty?
No matter how good a contractor is, there may be an issue with the fence a year or two down the road. You should ask about what type of warranty is offered. A warranty could help offset repair costs if you have a sagging fence, while enabling you to fix any warped or cracked panels that may occur after exposure to the elements.
Homeowners should work with a fencing contractor who is certified by or a member of one or more trade organizations. Some of the biggest associations in this industry include:
American Fence Association
Since 1962, the American Fence Association has grown to be the largest and most comprehensive resource in the industry. The group aims to benefit fence-industry professionals and customers by promoting professionalism, education and certification of its members while keeping up with the latest developments, materials, standards and tools.
The AFA has created a rigorous certification program and requires recertification every three years. Professionals must prove a history of service in the industry prior to taking the certification exam and complete the multiple-choice test.
North American Fence Contractors Association
The NAFCA is a group of fence professionals who look to bring contractors and vendors together for better affordability and accessibility to educational opportunities within the industry. It's run by a number of volunteers and encourages all contractors who want to develop their skills to join.