Fencing 101: How to Pick the Best Fence for Your Property


You’ve got a property, and maybe even a front yard, back yard, or both. Nice! Now comes a tricky decision: what about fencing? Surprisingly, one of the hardest choices to make about the exterior of your property is how you want to enclose it. Once you’ve decided on the intended function of your fencing, be it for privacy, safety, or for the aesthetic value, there are even more decisions to make! What material should the fence be? What style?

The average fence installation price range is between $2,000 and $5,000, so a fence is a significant financial commitment that you don’t want to make lightly. Nest Realty’s guide to picking the perfect fencing for your property includes a handy list of questions regarding function, material, price point, and more, so you’ll consider all of your options before purchasing your ideal fence.

1) Why do I want a fence?

The first reason may be the most obvious—if you wish to contain anything inside your property such as kids or pets, a fence will help keep everything in. Or, perhaps you want to increase privacy—nothing keeps prying neighbors out like a fence. Another reason might be that you are worried about security, so you might want something tall. (Check with your municipality’s zoning department or local officials to find out the height restrictions—some require a permit for a fence above 6 feet tall.) Or, you might want to simply boost your property value and increase the visual appeal of your yard. Maybe your answer to the first question is a combination of the four reasons, but the reason you want a fence will determine your next steps.

2) What material should I use?

If you’re wishing to contain anything inside your property, then you can use any material, but wire is the most durable. Make sure that you pay attention to containment considerations, though. If you’re trying to keep a pet in, for example, consider that they might dig or jump.

Further, if you’d like to increase privacy, wooden fences work best. Wooden fences provide the slimmest picket width and spacing, so their slats or boards are tight together and provide maximum privacy. Lattice panels do not. Wooden fences are your best bet for privacy, as some vinyl fences have panels that are too far apart for complete privacy.

If you’re worried about security, any material should work as long as the fence is at least 6 feet tall. In addition, smooth outer facades discourage trespassers who attempt climbing. Note that fences with flat rails on one side and pickets on the other side should have the rails facing the interior, as rails provide foot-holders for trespassers.

Lastly, for those looking for decorative fences, picket fences and aluminum fences can give the yards classy, expansive looks. Embellishing your fence with lattices or ornamental designs can add a lot to your home’s curb appeal!

3) How much time do I want to spend on maintenance?

If you don’t want to spend very much time on maintenance, then consider an aluminum or vinyl fence, as they require minimal upkeep. However, one downside to aluminum or vinyl fences is that they are difficult to repair if they become damaged or broken. If an isolated section needs to be replaced, it may be hard to find the same manufacturer or material that matches the rest of the fence.

Wooden fences require the most upkeep, as the paint should be touched-up or the wood should be stained every few years. Depending on the type of wood you pick, the fence contractor might suggest a stain in order to prevent damage from ultraviolet rays, rot, or bugs. However, wooden fences are also easily repairable, as damaged wooden slats can be swapped for new ones.

4) How much money do I want to spend?

Wood fences, the most popular material, look classic and are also moderately-priced. However, routine painting and staining costs could add up over time. Wooden fences are typically priced at about $20-$50 per foot (only $7- $10 per foot for a plain rail fence) with warranties typically lasting up to 15 years.

Vinyl fences can be constructed from only vinyl, or they could be a mix of plastic and wood. They don’t need painting, so maintenance costs are definitely lower when compared to wood. An estimate of typical cost for installation is about $20-$40 per square foot. Warranties are typically longer than wood, lasting at least 20 years.

Iron and aluminum fences are traditional and can vary extremely in style and design. You can go with a simple wrought-iron look, a tall, pointed enclosure for security, or an ornamental design. Metal fences require almost no upkeep at all. We recommend touch-ups if your fence has eroded metal or rust, however. The typical cost for installation is similar to the other options—the average cost per foot is about $25-$30. Warranties last for at least 20 years.

Wire fences, such as chain link, are the most affordable option, costing only about $10-$15 per square foot. Wire fences also require little maintenance. The warranty life is in between wood and the other materials at about 15 years.

5) Do I have any neighborhood fence regulations?

The last important consideration is more about those around you. Do you have a Homeowner’s Association? Are you living in a new development or a historic district? You might have limitations on location or size, so check with your municipality’s zoning department or local officials! While you are in contact with your area’s zoning department to inquire about regulations, request a “plat map” of your property. A plat map shows divisions of a piece of land. This way, you can ensure that you have the correct property boundaries before beginning fence installation. Also, make sure to check if there are any underground utilities on your property lines. You wouldn’t want to rupture a neighborhood water or gas line!

After following these 5 steps, hire a fencing contractor that has the proper license and positive references. Now that you’ve considered function, material, cost, and more, you’re ready to make the fencing decision for your yard!

Kate Grumbles is a Marketing Intern with Nest Realty and is entering her fourth year at the University of Virginia as an English and Psychology double major. She enjoys writing and traveling.

Photo credit: Flickr:Steven Guzzardi, Tom Page, David Hilowitz, Field Outdoor Spaces, Dynamic Fence, Paul Sableman
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34 Responses to “Fencing 101: How to Pick the Best Fence for Your Property”

  • Dean Phillips

    Written on

    I never knew there were so many different fencing options. Our old wooden fence has seen some better days and needs to be replaced. I had never thought to check if there are any fencing regulations. I will have to look into this further. While a wooded fence would be nice again I kinda like not having a solid fence, but not chain link. A slatted fence would be a great mix. http://www.classicaluminium.com.au/slat-fences-and-gates

  • Vivian Black

    Written on

    It’s nice to learn that fences aren’t only great for keeping outsiders out but also to keep the children and pets in. That’s perfect since I would be able to let my cat out in the backyard without him escaping. Hopefully, I could get a fence that could do just that for me. I’ll try talking with some contractors to make sure if they can install some on our lot. I just recently heard that it’s healthy for cats to be outside every now and then. I’m just afraid he’ll go astray if left outside without any protection. Thanks!

  • Ashley Maxwell

    Written on

    I didn’t know that wooden fences were the best for having privacy. I didn’t know that picket styles were so classy. My husband and I are looking for contractors to install a new wooden fence for our home to keep our kids safe and protected on our property.

  • Ridley Fitzgerald

    Written on

    It’s great to know how to choose the right fence. We’re hoping to have one put around our house soon because we could use some privacy. I really don’t want a lot of maintenance, so maybe a vinyl fence will be best!

  • Aleshire Mueller

    Written on

    I liked your advice about checking or requesting a plat map before having a fence installed in the property as that will allow us to have an idea about the boundaries of the property and make sure we are not hitting anything else. I will be sure to do that because there really isn’t a defined boundary between me and my neighbor. By checking the map, we can be sure to avoid unnecessary confusion and conflict in the future. Thank you.

  • Vanessa Blair

    Written on

    My dad wants to add security to our home and have fences. It was explained here that we install a fence in order to increase the appeal and value of a home. Moreover, it’s advisable to hire professionals fence contractors for quality fences.

  • Allen Stillinger

    Written on

    It sure was nice to know that even if viny fences are hard to repair, they are good materials to use in fences because they require very minimal upkeeps and maintenance. What matters to my parents is that the fence material is easy to work with because they are always so busy. I think they will agree with this because I do not think that there is anything that can damage the vinyl fence anyway. We live in a pretty good location with pretty good neighbors.

  • Joy Butler

    Written on

    Kate, I love how you mentioned that a fence can keep prying neighbors out.There is nothing worse than unwanted people in your yard. If I ever had annoying neighbors, I would definitely install a fence.

  • Kit Hannigan

    Written on

    Thanks for mentioning how a fence in my yard can contain pets and children inside my property. My Huskies and my children are equally energetic as they can run around the household for hours and hours. I don’t want the lot of them to wander off too far from my sight so it certainly looks like I’d have to start reaching out to fence builders that can set me up with a nice and secure fencing system.

  • Taylor Anderson

    Written on

    My fence is currently falling down, so I’ve been thinking of getting it replaced. I love how you mentioned that I should keep in mind how much maintenance I’m willing to do to take care of the fence. These tips will help me get a great new fence, so thank you for sharing them. What tips do you have for finding a great fencing contractor to help me out?

    • Jasmine Bible

      Written on

      Hey Taylor, thanks for commenting! Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we’d be happy to point you in the right direction if we know of someone in your area.

  • Amy Winters

    Written on

    I’m glad you pointed out that contacting your area’s zoning department will allow you to inquire about any regulations as well as acquire a plat mat to show the exact divisions of a piece of land. My husband and I recently moved to a new home, and we have two dogs so we’d like to have a fence put in. I didn’t realize the importance of contacting our area’s zoning department, so thanks for pointing out the benefits of doing so!

  • Dave Anderson

    Written on

    It would be awesome to have a fence put around a property to be able to keep in my kids, their toys, and my pets. Something that I might want to do is have a rental fence for my kids while they grow up so they will be safe. That way when they get older and smarter I can just return the fence without any landscaping damage.

  • Kevin Clark

    Written on

    Quality tips. A fresh fence costs in between $2,600 and $8,000 generally, depending on how big variety you get, which means you want to generate a very good choice the very first moment. Other factors, such as your lawn incline, additionally alter the amount being spent on fencing installation.

  • Daphne Gilpin

    Written on

    Thanks for pointing out that we should check with our local zoning department if we want to have a taller fence, since it might require a permit first. My husband and I want to have a tall fence installed soon so we can let our big dog out into the yard without worry. I hadn’t considered that we might need to get a permit, so I’m glad you let me know!

  • Territory Wire Fencing

    Written on

    Comprehensive list you’ve got here! Thanks for writing down the factors to look into when deciding to put up a fence. Purpose, budget, material, and maintenance are indeed the primary things to consider, but I agree, to check first with your neighborhood fence regulations and with the municipality’s zoning department.

  • Brooklyn Johnson

    Written on

    Thank you for stating that when choosing a fence, you should think about how much time you want to spend on maintenance. I want to get a fence installed in my yard, but don’t know which one to choose. I will definitely keep all of your great tips and information in mind when deciding what kind of fence to have installed.

  • Greg

    Written on

    Many people don’t recognize the beauty a fence can add to their property, and thus adding value to their home. It’s definitely the kind of investment you want to think through and not just slap up the cheapest option!

  • Michaela Hemsley

    Written on

    Thanks for pointing out that wire fencing is very durable and so is a good choice when you need to contain anything inside your property. My father-in-law is trying to decide what type of fencing he should get for his farmland because he wants to make sure both that none of the animals can get out and that people can’t get in easily. I think that wire would be a good choice because it would be tough enough to last a while and would do a good job containing everything in and out so he wouldn’t have to worry about it which would be nice.

  • Chainwire Fencing Specialist

    Written on

    “Thanks for sharing this informative blog. wire fencing is very durable and so is a good choice when you need to contain anything inside your property. My father is trying to decide what type of fencing he should get for his farmland because he wants to make sure both that none of the animals can get out and that people can’t get in easily. I am installing fencing. this blog helps me out the right fencing to my farmland.

  • Ellie Davis

    Written on

    It’s interesting to know that iron and aluminum fences are traditional and can vary in style and design. My husband bought a commercial space for his office, and we are looking for advice to choose a fencing material. I will let him know about your recommendations to help him choose the best material for his office’s fence.

  • Columbus Fence Co

    Written on

    This is great information! Fences are such a great way to offer peace of mind to a property owner while increasing property value. The information you’ve provided could help anyone find something that will work for their situation.

  • Sabrina Addams

    Written on

    It’s great to read that chain and wire fences are the most durable kind and that you should make them around 6 feet tall or higher for privacy and security. My sister-in-law is working on a construction project for the first time and is thinking she might need temporary fence panels. It seems like hiring a temporary fence service could really help her.

  • Fences Lake Charles

    Written on

    Great information, fences are the first line of security for your home or business, and you don’t have to sacrifice beauty for functionality anymore.

  • Kyler

    Written on

    Good advice here. Selecting a quality fence contractor is an important decision. Researching a fence company ahead of time is important when making a major purchase like fencing for your home. Articles like this are helpful … thanks for sharing!

  • www.redlandsfencepros.com

    Written on

    Great article!!!
    Thank you for sharing the information about how much money it could all cost.
    DIY fences can look nice, but hiring a professional to do the job is way safer and better

  • website

    Written on

    You should really think about the material of the fence, you mentioned in your article bunch of reasons why the material of it is important.
    Nice post and thank you !

  • Zoe Campos

    Written on

    Thank you for telling me that we might spend around $2,000 up to $5,000 on the average if we were to install a fence around our property. My parents were wondering if they need to spend a lot on the fence that they want, but this figure you provided might just meet their expectations. It might also be better if we can get some quotations from some contractors on how much chain link fencing costs.

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