Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – and Happy Homeowners

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – and Happy Homeowners

“Give me land, lots of land under starry skies above. Don’t fence me in,” Bing Crosby famously sang many years ago. But with today’s homeowners valuing concealment, safety and curb appeal, the song apparently falls on deaf ears. Nowhere is this clearer than in the popularity of residential fences.

“Homeowners install fences for several reasons, commonly because they want privacy, have a dog or children and want a defined, safe yard space for them to play in, or have a pool and legally need a fence,” says John DiGuiseppe, president of The Fence Authority in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Max Erdakos, owner of Erdakos Fence Company in Oak Lawn, Illinois, says approximately half the fences he’s installed over the past 28 years “are actually due to neighbors not getting along. Also, a lot of homeowners want to keep their families and property safe from crime, so most of my clients choose six-foot privacy fences.”

If you’re moving into a new home without a fence, about to add a dog or baby to the family, or have an old fence that’s leaning, rotting, or falling apart, it’s time to consider having a new fence installed, say the experts.

“If you have to replace more than 20 percent of your current fence’s panels or pickets, it’s time for a new fence,” DiGuiseppe says.

Today’s popular fencing materials of choice include:

• Pressure-treated wood, typically pine and spruce, which can be stained or painted every few years and lasts 15-20 years

• Cedar wood, which can be stained every few years and lasts 10-15 years

• Vinyl, which requires no maintenance and can last 40 years or more

• Galvanized or vinyl-coated chain link, which also involves no maintenance, can last 40 years or more, though it offers less privacy

• Wrought iron, the strongest material, can last 40 years or more, though it requires a rust-resistant finish every few years and provides less privacy

• Composite, made from recycled fibers and plastics that mimic the look and feel of wood, requires no maintenance and lasts 40-plus years

“A treated wood fence is the most economical choice, followed by chain link. A vinyl or cedar fence often costs 30 percent higher and a composite fence 60 percent higher than a treated wood fence,” Erdakos says.

Those expenses can be more affordable if you have an agreeable neighbor.

“Try asking your neighbor to share in the cost, and be open-minded to splitting the cost if a neighbor asks you to help replace your shared fence,” says Bob Gordon, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Boulder, Colorado.

Eric Schrader, owner of Buzz Custom Fence in Fort Worth, Texas, says professionals best handle a new or replacement fence installation.

“Issues can arise like running into rock while digging holes, pouring concrete, keeping the new fence straight, getting proper permits, and digging through public utility lines,” Schrader says.

Additionally, it’s best to hire an expert because the labor is intensive: “Post holes have to be dug deep enough below the frost line, and installation can take a long time without the right equipment,” Erdakos says.

You can find reliable fence installation companies by asking trusted relatives, friends and neighbors for a referral or by checking with Angie’s List and your local Better Business Bureau. Be prepared to shop around, try to get at least a few quotes on your project, confirm that the contractor is licensed or bonded and has the necessary permits, and be sure ask plenty of questions.

“Ask if they use high quality materials,” DiGuiseppe says. “Are they friendly and helpful? Is the fence estimate scheduled in a timely manner? And is financing available when you need it?”

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