Choosing the Right Type of Fence for your Home

Picking the type of fence for your yard is a big decision that results in a long term investment. This page of Costimates will help you evaluate your needs and budget, then choose the right type of fence to fit those needs.

Updated: Monday, June 11, 2018

A fence is an incredibly vital part of your home. It not only provides functionality and privacy, but elevates the look of your home as well. While the job of installing a fence may seem like a rather straightforward process if you’re a handy homeowner, the task of choosing a fence might be a little harder than you expect. There are more types of fences to choose from than there have ever been, which is why you need to consider a few factors before you head out to the store and pick up supplies, or call out a contractor to give you a price.

To make the process easier and help you attain results you’ll be happy with for the next 10-15 years, we’ve listed several questions that you need to ask yourself before you install your fence.

PurposeBylaws | NeighborsBudget | Maintenance

What is the Primary Purpose of Installing a Fence?

Twin sisters with dogs in fenced yard

The first question you need to answer is, why are you installing a fence? What is its main purpose or function? Some people choose to put up a fence to maintain their privacy, while others put up a fence to keep their pets and children from running out onto the street. Others may just need it around a pool to meet laws in their area.

Different types of fences are designed to meet different needs and getting it right the first time is important. For example, if you want a fence that your dog won’t jump over, you need something that is high enough to serve as a deterrent. It is always better to give preference to your primary fencing needs before appearance, because the look of a fence can always be altered. The functionality however, has got to remain constant for the life of the fence.

Reasons to Install a Fence Include:

  • Backyard Privacy – Block unwanted attention from neighbors.
  • Safety and Security – Keep people or animals out of your yard or fenced area.
  • Appearance / Curb AppealMake your home look nicer and increase value.
  • Child Safety – Create a safe play area within the fenced yard.
  • Pet or Animal Containment – Keep pets in the yard, and unwanted pets out.
  • Pool Safety – Usually required by law, but also keeps children from accidentally falling in. Check with local code on this, sometimes a fence is not required for above ground pools, but if the walls are less than 3 feet high, or you have an ingound pool, a fence may be required.
  • Mark Your Property Lines – Fences make the best neighbors!
  • Noise Abatement – Block sounds from roads, highways, or noisy neighbors.

I’m sure there are more reasons than these, but they seem to be the most relevant. If you installed a fence for a different reason, please go to the comment section below and tell us why.

What About Local Laws and HOA Bylaws?

Once you’ve decided to put up a fence, it’s very important to check on local laws or community bylaws that may be governed by a Home Owners Association. While you may have your heart set on an 8′ privacy fence, local laws may prohibit a privacy fence that tall in all but commercial areas. HOA’s present their own challenges, since they may require it match adjoining property, or only allow specific styles, sizes and types of fencing in your managed community.

Reasons to Check Laws and HOA Bylaws Include:

  • They Can Force Removal – Don’t spend money to find out it has to come back down.
  • Permits and Local Laws – You may have to get a permit to install a fence.
  • Avoid Property Line Disputes – You may need to have a survey completed, to mark your property lines.
  • Fence Height Laws – Some areas restrict heights of residential fencing.
  • Learn Where You can Put a Fence – Most areas have setback laws that limit how far your fence can go toward the front of your home.
  • Type of Fencing Allowed – Many HOA’s have strict bylaws in regard to the type of fencing allowed in the community.
  • Want to Paint Your Fence? – Some HOA’s allow only specific fence colors to be painted.
  • Impeding on a Utility Right of Way – I talked to a homeowner not long ago that put up a fence around their backyard. They were none too thrilled when they learned the power company needed to work on the poles behind their home and discovered a utility covenant on their property, that allowed them the right to cross the yard to repair the lines. Check first!

While you may not think the city, county, or local laws can be a major factor in your new fence, the Lectric Law Library will dispel that myth quickly with an overview of various laws and regulations pertaining to fences. Always check local ordinances and HOA bylaws before buying and installing a fence.

What About My Neighbors?

While your neighbors needn’t be your first concern when deciding what you can and can’t do on your own property, communication is the key to good relations and effective planning. After you’ve installed a new fence is definitely not the best time to hear that your neighbors are just about to put up a fence of their own. This is especially true if they are putting up a completely different kind of fence.

By working together, not only can you save money by doing both fences at the same time (whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor), but you can also avoid the frustration of installing a $20,000 ornamental wrought iron fence and then watching your neighbors put a chain link fence right next to it. Communication now, can save you headache and grief later.

Reasons to Consult with Neighbors:

  • Save Money By Combining Resources – If they want to install at the same time, you’ll save on labor and material costs.
  • Agree on Style Choices – See the chain link comment above.
  • No Surprises – How would you like to come home and find your neighbor put up a fence? Sure, it’s none of their business, but it’s also not a neighborly thing to do.

What is Your Budget for a New Fence?

While budget concerns are always an important consideration for money conscious homeowners, your needs may differ from your bank account, which is why we listed the other questions ahead of this one. For example, if all your budget allows for is a split rail fence, but your primary objective is privacy or your HOA doesn’t allow anything taller than 4 feet, you’ll have to either adjust your budget, move to a new area without strict bylaws, or as a last resort, consider other options.

Additionally, if you have 300 feet of fence to be installed, wood may be a less expensive option than a vinyl fence while still achieving the desired look and results. If you are setting up the fence yourself, you need to take into consideration the cost of all the tools and materials that you will need. If you are hiring an outside contractor to do the job, you need to take into consideration the cost of installation as well as allowing a 10% overage budget for unpredictable charges, like underground wires or pipes that needs to be worked around or routed differently.

Related Cost Estimates

Reasons Why Your Budget is Important:

  • It Keeps You from Overextending – A fence can usually wait a bit longer if your budget can’t allow for one right away.
  • Assures You Get What You Need – Your first priority is to get the right type of fence for your needs. If containing pets is the main reason, then maybe you can do without a 6′ stockade privacy fence and the higher cost associated with it. Instead, settling for a nice chain link fence, split rail, or even just an invisible fence for dogs.
  • Factor in Resale Value – Even if you do go over budget for a nicer fence, the resale value on your home should be a factor as well. After all, investing $10,000 for a nice vinyl fence today, can return much of the value in 5 years when you sell the home, versus getting little to nothing for a less desirable fence.

How Much Upkeep and Maintenance is Involved?

family painting fence

Nobody likes to add more tasks onto their exterior home maintenance checklist without a very good reason, and different types of fences require different kinds of maintenance. Some, like vinyl fencing, only require you to pressure wash it every few years, while a wooden picket fence may need to be washed, scraped, and/or painted every 4-5 years. Likewise, fences that are made of metal or aluminum don’t need much maintenance at all, and can last for many years without much care.

Considerations About Fence Maintenance:

  • Wood fences require more upkeep – You’ll find yourself painting a wood fence every 3-6 years, or it’s just not going to look good. Even pressure treated fences should be sealed upon installation, pressure washed and resealed every 2-3 years according to this Do-It-Yourself website.
  • Aluminum fences require almost none – However, you’ll spend a lot more of your budget on the initial purchase.
  • Underground, or buried fencing – Again, almost no maintenance to keep the fence in perfect condition. Unless of course you cut the wire.
  • Rotting and termites – Almost all metal (not aluminum) and wood fences will experience rot at the base of the support poles at some point. In addition, wood fencing is susceptible to termites.

Talk to Us – Share Your Opinion

We’ve got that comment box down there so readers like yourself can talk to us and tell us their own experiences (or nightmares) with fence projects. Share ideas, experiences, costs, and anything else you think might help the next visitor looking for advice on buying a fence.