A good fence can mark boundaries, confine pets, exclude unwanted visitors,
and add architectural flair; some fences need to do all of the above. A
good fence-building outfit can help you choose the right design and materials
for your purposes, and follow through with excellent work that will last.
Weve found some fencing outfits in the area that were highly rated by
their customersand some others that were rated quite poorly. We also found
huge company-to-company price differences.
Begin by reviewing and deciding on fence type, materials, finish, height,
spacing and width of slats, and post size. Also decide whether you want
extras such as latticework or an electronic gate. Most fence builders provide
catalogs you can examine. Questions to consider:
What is the purpose of the fence? To keep pets in? To safeguard children?
For privacy or security? Is it for a windbreak, for sound insulation, to
block light? Different types of fencing have different qualities: A chain-link
fence is extremely functional and cheap, but not pleasing to the eye. A
privacy fence may provide some sound buffering but block sunlight.
How much money are you willing to spend? You can pay roughly $12 to $18
per running foot for chain-link fencing, more than $20 per foot for most
types of privacy fencing, and more than $30 per foot for decorative metal
How long do you want your fence to last? How much effort are you willing
to put into its upkeep? Brick and stone walls are virtually indestructible,
while picket fences need periodic repairs. A decorative metal fence may
have to be repainted often to prevent rust. Living hedges require attention,
just as gardens do. Youll pay more for cedar or redwood than for pressure-treated
or untreated lumber, but it may last longer and require less care.
Does your design need to blend in with its surroundings, including other
Are there trees or shrubs in the path of the future fence that you dont
want cut down? Fence contractors can suggest options to accommodate such
How high does the fence need to be?
Where will the gates be placed? Keep in mind the location of your garage,
utility meters, and storage areas for trash cans.
Do you want a deck, tool shed, gazebo, or other features built to match
the fencing design? Will you be adding on to your home, digging a swimming
pool, or doing other future work that will require removing a section of
fencing either for the structure itself or to allow heavy equipment access?
If you are sharing the costs of the fencing job with a neighbor, what is
a fair way to share, and will you need help with drawing up the contract?
Make sure the company you choose is aware of any community building code
restrictions on your property. Every community has its own rules. For example,
some require posts to be sunk below a certain level, or that fencing be
located within a set distance of your property lines and set back a certain
distance from streets or sidewalks. Also, some communities allow only certain
types of fencing, and limit the height of fences and walls. Almost all
communities mandate some type of minimum fencing around swimming pools.
Our Ratings Tables report ratings on area fence building companies.
The ratings on companies service quality come from our surveys of area
consumers (primarily CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports subscribers). We asked
survey recipients to rate companies they had used inferior, adequate,
or superior for several questions, including: doing work properly on
the first try, starting and completing work promptly, advice on service
options and costs, and overall performance. Our Ratings Tables report
the percent of surveyed customers who rated each company superior (as
opposed to inferior or adequate) on each question. The table also reports
the percent of each companys surveyed customers who rated it adequate
or superior (as opposed to inferior) for overall performance. (Click
here for more information on our
customer survey and other data.)
As you can see, some companies received high accolades, but four were rated
inferior (less than adequate) for overall performance by 20 percent
or more of their surveyed customers. Based on the comments we received
from raters, most of the negative ratings related to poor workmanship,
lousy customer service and communication, and taking too long to complete
In addition to ratings from customers, our Ratings Tables show counts
of complaints we gathered from local Better Business Bureaus (BBB) for
a recent three-year period, and complaint rates relative to the volume
of work companies do. For more information on reported complaint counts
and rates, click here.
When contracting with a fence building company, get everything in writing:
exact specifications for what is to be built, a drawing specifying where
it will be built, a description of the materials to be used, and a fixed
price. To maintain your leverage to ensure work is completed as agreed
and satisfactorily, ask for a payment schedule that allows you to withhold
as much payment as possible until the work is completea 10 percent deposit
Also take proper steps to identify and avoid underground utility lines.
Before any digging begins, get the proper authorities to locate and mark
the location of underground lines. If a fencing company tells you this
step is unnecessary, call 811 to confirm.
Our Ratings Tables report CHECKBOOKs price comparison score for each
company that was evaluated in our last full, published article. The scores
are based on quotes CHECKBOOKs shoppers got from the companies for three
different types of fencing work. Adjusted so that the average for all surveyed
companies equals $100, the scores indicate how each companys prices, on
average, compared to the average prices for all companies quoting on the
same jobs. Thus a score of $110 means a companys prices averaged 10 percent
above the all-company average. The price comparison scores can steer you
to good candidates for reasonably priced work.
Table 1Low, Average, and High Prices Quoted by Companies for Illustrative Fencing Jobs
|Price per running foot for four-foot-high, standard, smooth-edge chain-link fencing ||$11.55 ||$14.76 ||$19.20|
|Price per running foot for four-foot-high picket fence made with northern white cedar ||$11.77 ||$15.13 ||$18.15|
|Price per running foot for six-foot-high privacy fence made with northern white cedar ||$17.03 ||$22.29 ||$28.26|
Although we have been able to obtain firm quotes by phone for specific,
very straightforward fencing jobs, you will probably want builders to come
to your home to provide estimates. Our shoppers collected quotes from builders
for yards that were flat, had no existing fences, and had no vegetation
or potential obstructions in the path of a fence. Our prices were also
per running foot, not including a gate or other specialized work. Chances
are your job will have more special features.
The key to getting a good price is to get several bids. The time you spend
getting two or three bids is likely to pay off generously. Your second
bid may be higher than the first, but it will just as often be lower.
You can also save a lot, of course, by splitting the costs of a fencing
job with neighbors.