On the Fence: What to Consider Before Installing Fencing

A fence can be a beautiful and purposeful addition to your property. Here's what you need to know before sinking the first post.

By Jan Soults Walker

Whether you want to corral a canine family member, buffer a noisy neighbor, boost privacy for your barbecues, or keep passersby from trekking through your yard, a fence can serve as an attractive solution.

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Micah Dennis

Know the codes

Check with local building officials to learn what rules apply when installing a fence on your property. Know height restrictions, minimum setback from your property line or sidewalk, and other guidelines. Obtain necessary permits before you begin or you could be required to tear down the fence. If a homeowner association governs your neighborhood, observe those restrictions as well. Don't guess where property lines are located—hire a surveyor to mark them.

Talk to the neighbors

Maintain peace in the 'hood by chatting with each owner of property abutting your lot. Let neighbors know your plans, and if you mutually agree to share a fence and install it directly on the lot line, create and sign a legal agreement stipulating costs, maintenance responsibilities, and liability for the fence.

Choose the material

You'll need to decide on the fence material you want. Some options include chain link, color-coated chain link, ornamental aluminum, wood, wood composite, and vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Each offers a different look as well as various care requirements.

Chain link, color-coated chain link, aluminum, and vinyl or PVC fences are durable and low-maintenance choices. 

Chain link remains popular for its affordability, and the color-coating option lets you choose a fence to blend or contrast with your landscape.

According to the American Fence Association, ornamental aluminum fences are replacing traditional wrought iron—offering elegance for less due to the prefabricated tubular bar construction versus hand forging.

Vinyl and PVC fences eliminate the need to paint or stain, resist rot and insects, and come in a variety of looks from privacy panels to picket styles.

Wood fences offer natural beauty and come in attractive styles but do require periodic painting or staining. Wood composites, a combination of wood fibers and resin, offer a look that mimics natural wood but can offer lower maintenance. Composites can be heavy and expensive to install.

Go for style

Whether your home is traditional or contemporary, there's a fence style for you. Choose from a variety of colors or go for a look that's subtle and natural. You can also dress up your fence with ornamental features, such as scrolls or finials.

For more home design ideas and advice, check out:

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