So you want to try a new fence around your property, but you aren’t sure where to begin. There are myriad styles and materials to consider — along with the height, placement, and, of course, your budget.
The first thing to decide is what your real purpose is and to prioritize your needs: defining borders, protecting your pets, or adding privacy are all likely reasons for installing a new fence. In most cases, multiple purposes will be served with one border, and it’s not unheard of to use a combination of types depending upon what part of your property is being fenced.
Keeping in mind that your neighbors and your community will also be affected by your selection, it will be important to consider their interests, such as leaving their views unobstructed, as well. Before beginning work, always study property drawings or order a new survey to be absolutely sure where your property lines begin. A new survey will cost between $500 and $1000, but it is worth the cost to ensure that your fence does not encroach even an inch upon your neighbor’s property. Once constructed, moving the fence back is a costly hassle no one should have to endure.
Always have a conversation with your neighbors first and be mindful of local laws with respect to sidewalk proximity, fence height, and other issues. In New York City, no permits are required for fencing (or hedges) up to six feet high, but if you have just cause to put up higher fences (due to street noise or other disturbing activity), you or your fencing contractor can apply for a permit at www.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/. Whatever height you select, it is common courtesy to make sure that the finished side of the fence goes outward.
Next, climate and location must be heavily weighed. Due to our cold climate, concrete anchors need to accompany fence posts, at least 36 inches deep to avoid cracking in freezing temperatures. In wet areas, wood fencing might be a poor choice, because it is subject to rot and warping.
Generally considered the most economic choice, chain link fencing is made of galvanized steel wire that comes in rolls in a variety of gauges. It runs from 3-12 feet high. The smaller the gauge, the heavier the wire. Chain link fencing may not be the most attractive choice, but it is certainly utilitarian.
Another common sort of fence is wood panel, which is usually made of cedar, pine, redwood, or spruce. The panels can be stained, painted, or left natural. They come in pre-assembled sections that are 6-8 feet long, 4-6 feet tall, and either dog-eared or pointed. Due to wood’s propensity to warp, it will inevitably require some attention. If you opt to leave it natural, you may want to consider adding a sealant for protection.
You might instead choose vinyl fencing, which is virtually maintenance-free as it is not subject to rot or fading. Like wood paneling, vinyl comes 4-6 feet tall. It is also rackable, which means that if there are slopes on your property, the panels can be adjusted up or down.
An unusual look for this part of the country would be split rail or post and rail fencing, which typically creates a rustic or “country” atmosphere and is almost purely aesthetic as it won’t keep animals or people on or off your property. Still, it’s an attractive option that will define areas as well as any other, resting 3-5 feet off the ground and available in a variety of materials.
There are materials and types of fence for every personality and budget, and there are even styles that can be installed by the average fence-naïve homeowner. Whether you opt for chicken wire or bamboo, modern sculptural fencing or traditional-looking decorative metal, there are many local fence installation contractors and businesses that can help you get exactly what you want. To let someone else handle the heavy lifting from start to finish, visit americanfenceassociation.com for a list of local contractors, fencing options, and an online form for price quotes.
By Eugénie Bisulco