Begin by determining what you want. There’s much to decide 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.

Some questions to help guide your decisions:

  • What’s 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 or vinyl fence is functional and cheap, but unattractive. A privacy fence may provide some sound buffering but blocks sunlight.
  • How much money are you willing to spend? You can pay roughly $10 to $15 per running foot for chain-link or vinyl fencing, more than $35 per foot for most types of privacy fencing, and more than $40 per foot for decorative metal fencing.
  • 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. You’ll 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 structures?
  • Are there trees or shrubs in the path of the future fence that you don’t want to cut down? Fence contractors can suggest options to accommodate such obstacles.
  • 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 containers.
  • 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 work that will require removing a section of fence, 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 restrictions that affect your property, including building codes, zoning ordinances, and neighborhood covenants. 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.

Though you typically don’t need your neighbors’ approval to construct a fence, it’s usually a good idea to talk with them before you put one up. You may even find they’re willing to help pay for it in exchange for a say on design and materials.