Homeowners frequently install their own fences. But a fence also can be one of the biggest do-it-yourself yard projects that you will ever undertake. No doubt there are dozens of local companies in your area who can install a fence for you. Finding the right fence company with a solid business history that can do the job on budget and on time, with the quality and beauty you expect, might be harder than you imagine. Take a few preliminary steps to ensure that you hire the best local fence company for your specific project.
Before installing a fence, check to see if you require a permit to build it, or if there are any HOA regulations you need to follow.
Look Beyond Fencing Companies
The company does not need to deal only with fences to be able to install your fence. In fact, it does not even need to be a company; this can be an individual. General landscapers, construction companies, general contractors, licensed handymen: any might be able to install your fence.
Do your research before hiring anyone. For your protection, stick with licensed companies and individuals as they are accountable and typically are bonded and insured to work in your state. They should carry insurance, including liability, and workman's compensation and should not have any pending legal action against the company.
It's always wise to find out the following about a business even before you commit to getting an estimate:
- Has it changed its name recently and why?
- Is the business located at a physical address?
- Are they members of the American Fence Association (AFA)?
- What is their standing with the Better Business Bureau?
Search Your Neighborhood
Professional fence companies often nail a badge onto completed fences that advertise their work. Walk or drive around your local neighborhood, and if you see a badged fence that you like, take note of the builder. If there is no badge and the fence is relatively new, you might be able to ask the owner if they remember who built the fence.
Obtain Multiple Estimates
The classic advice for hiring professionals for any home remodeling is to obtain three or more estimates. Multiple estimates almost always produce a broader spread of cost bids, making it much easier to choose the right combination of cost and quality for your project.
For busy homeowners, this can seem like a daunting task. True, soliciting estimates for specialized indoor work such as basement finishing, kitchen remodels, and tile work for showers and bathrooms can be quite time-consuming.
By contrast, getting estimates for fence installation is considerably easier. Since fence installation is a highly competitive business, sales representatives tend to be flexible and eager to show up quickly. Because this is exterior work, representatives may even agree to visit the property and to work up an estimate when you are not home. Ask how long the estimate or quote is good for as you take your time to evaluate companies to hire.
Evaluate Complications That Affect Costs
The lowest cost fence will be built on land that is free of complications, among other factors. Before the sales representative comes to work up an estimate, evaluate your property for complications that may drive up the price.
Obstructions such as trees and rocks may hinder the fencing or affect costs. Evaluate grading. If you are lucky enough to have a level lot, this is not a problem. But if the lot has a significant slope, this will affect how the fence is constructed and its cost. Evaluate access to the job site. If the crew will need to manually carry materials up a hill, for example, this will elevate costs, as well.
Prepare for the Representative's Visit
When a fencing company representative visits your property, recognize that yours is just one of many addresses the rep will visit that day. Both of you want this task performed quickly yet accurately.
Keep the dogs inside, unlock all gates, and clear foliage from around problem areas. Look at where the fence will meet other pre-existing fences or your house, and clear out those areas to a reasonable degree. When the representative is measuring, stay out of the way but remain close if they need anything from you.
Pay Attention to the Warranty
What kind of warranty does the fence company offer? Is there an installation warranty and a manufacturer's product warranty? If the company offers a guarantee, does this warranty cover just labor or does it include materials, too? Because fences are long-term products, their warranties should be long-term, as well.
You should expect a warranty of at least three years, with warranties of seven to nine years not being uncommon, either. If you hire a handyman service, you may not have any type of warranty.
Be sure to get the details of what type of maintenance your particular fencing will need once the job is done so you do not void the warranty and to ensure your fence lasts.
Ask the Representative the Right Questions
- Permits: Will the fence company obtain permits? In some localities, permission from a local government agency is required to do the work. After the work is finished, an inspector must visit to approve the work and close out the permit.
- Utilities: Will the company call the utility locator for you to pinpoint the location of any underground utility lines? Do you need to do this instead?
- Zoning: Discuss legal hindrances such as easements and zoning. Reputable local fencing companies should have a ready knowledge of local zoning and setback regulations affecting fence construction.
- Slopes: If yours is a graded lot, how will the company handle the slope? Will the fence be stepped (that is, leaving triangular spaces under the fence—a problem if you have pets) or will it be contoured to run close to the ground?
- Height: Will the fence's height vary over the course of its run? Even though you may agree on a 6-foot fence—usually the maximum height allowed in many cities—this height may vary based on the grade.
- Installation details: What are the details of the installation? Will the posts be set in concrete and how deep? Discuss the style and width of each fence panel that will be installed. Are the gates and associated hardware part of the quoted cost? If not, how much will these items cost? How will the company handle waste removal and cleanup?
- Timeline: What is the company's timeline for starting and getting the job done? Fence companies tend to have backlogs in the spring and summer and it may take several weeks or longer for them to get to you.
- Crew: How large is the crew, who are they, and what's their schedule? Once the company starts work, will it work steadily with a good-sized crew? Or do they envision a more piecemeal approach, where the crew works over a series of days or weeks? Ask if they hire subcontractors for any part of the job because that will affect the timeline and quality of your fence installation. Also, find out if the foreman or owner of the company will be on the job to oversee and manage the project.
- Contract and payment: What are the contract and payment details? Will you receive a written contract? When is payment due or are there installation payments? Do they require a deposit and how much?
Don't hesitate to ask the representative if there are a couple of references of satisfied customers you can contact so you can find out more about their work. The representative's response could be very telling.