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.