How to Install a Fence

Rob Reed | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

If you want a new fence on your property your choices are to either hire a fencing contractor or to do the work yourself. Here are the pros and cons of both choices and some tips to get you started if you decide to do it yourself.

When you hire a fencing contractor

The most convenient way to install a fence is to hire a fencing contractor to do the work for you. An experienced contractor can help you in more ways than just installing a fence:

  1. help decidewhat type of fence suits your needs and budget
  2. pull any required permits
  3. purchase the materials
  4. clean up when the work is done

A contractor has the skills and specialized equipment needed for the job, which can be especially important if the fence installation is complicated or extensive. The only real disadvantage is that hiring a contractor costs more than if you do the job yourself, assuming you already have the necessary experience, skill and tools to get the job done right the first time.

Critical tips for installing a fence yourself

The exact difficulty of installing a fence varies depending on the type of fence to be erected, the length of the fence, and the prevailing soil conditions. You may need to rent or purchase specialized equipment, such as a powered post hole digger or a chain link fence stretcher to complete the work. No matter what type of fence you plan to install, there are several critical issues that apply to any fencing project.

  1. Property lines and easements. The axiom, "Good fences make good neighbors," only applies if you and your neighbor agree on where you can build a fence before you start the project. You need to understand exactly where your property line is and check for easements that may impact your project. In some cases you may need to hire a property surveyor to determine the exact property line before you install a new fence.
  2. Zoning and permits. Before you start your project you'll need to check your zoning regulations and building codes to see if there are any zoning restrictions or code requirements for fence installation. You may find limits on what type of fence you can erect, how high it can be, or limitations on how close you can install a fence to the property line, roadway, or right of way.
  3. Underground utilities. You must always check for the presence of underground utilities before you start any work that involves digging. The easiest way is to call your local "Call before you dig" number. If you don't know your local number, you can call the Common Ground Alliance at 811 for information in the United States. Once you've called, local utility workers will come out and mark any utilities that may be near your project site.

Whatever your reason for installing a fence and whatever type of fence you install, follow these tips to make sure the job goes smoothly.