For a few reasons. A quality well-built fence will be part of your landscape for years to come. It’s an opportunity to provide not just function to your yard, but form as well. After all, you will be looking at it every time you open the door. So before you begin seeking estimates, its important that you consider a few factors and plan accordingly.
Begin by identifying just what you want the fence to accomplish. Whether its keeping animals in or out, adding privacy to a yard, or simply defining property lines, it’s important that you are clear as to what you want the fence to accomplish. Once you identify the desired function of the fence, you can begin to think about the form -- factors such as the height of the fence, an “open” design with gaps vs. a “solid” design, location and overall appearance.
This planning phase is also a good opportunity to evaluate other effects that you may not have thought of. This is your chance to think about if and where you may want gates included, whether you’ll need a wider access point for landscaping equipment or trailers, whether there are other parts of the yard that you may want to isolate or screen off, and what negative impacts your new fence may have on the overall feel for the neighborhood.
Check your local ordinances. Nearly every township and borough has a different set of regulations concerning fence construction. Just because your co-worker was able to build a certain fence at his or her house doesn’t necessarily mean it will be allowed in your town. In my home county of Delaware County, PA, there are nearly 50 local municipalities, each with a different set of ordinances. Some ordinances are rather lenient, others not so much. Specific things that you may want to ask about include the need for permits (and the associated permit fees), the need for an official property survey, height regulations, location restrictions in proximity to the street or property boundaries, and “open” vs. “solid” allowances are just a few of the more common ordinances. And if you have a swimming pool on the property those codes (and insurance requirements) can get even more involved. Before you even begin getting estimates, make sure your desired fence is in compliance with the local codes. Otherwise you may just be wasting your time and money.
Additionally, I always recommend letting your neighbors know of your intended plans. Some local municipalities actually require that you submit letters of approval from your neighbors in conjunction with permit applications. Even if they don’t, it’s always the neighborly thing to do. Many times you may find that once you address your ideas with your neighbors that they may even want to chip in with the cost.
Give some thought to the materials. Again local ordinances may regulate what materials may or may not be allowed. Wood, vinyl, iron, aluminum, chain link, wire mesh – there’s a myriad of available options. All of which will have an impact on cost, aesthetics, maintenance, and longevity.
And give some thought to whether you want a permanent fence built to last, or whether you may want to take the fence down in a few years once the kids are grown and the new puppy has mellowed out a bit. There are a number of inexpensive fencing options out there that may look nice and perform your desired function, but they may not be designed to last for more than a few years.
Shop around, but don’t feel limited to what you see on showroom floors or big box stores. Our favorite fencing projects are always the ones where we can be a bit creative and custom construct a unique fence that doesn’t look like every other one in the neighborhood. Custom construction also allows for unique site conditions such as slopes, trees and root mass.
And like any home improvement project, it’s always a good idea to make sure your contractor is licensed and insured, and check their references. And be specific to make sure your contractor is tuned in to the local ordinances. Many of the larger fence installers who service a broad area may not be aware of the specific codes in your small town.
If you have any questions regarding your desired fencing project or would like to discuss a custom design, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to hear from you!