Best Tips for Hiring a Fence Company

Ornate white vinyl fence running across a yard with house and trees in the background.
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Ever had the pleasure of wasting an entire summer installing a fence around your yard? Then you'll find it's nice to have a fence company install your fence instead. What takes you and your beleaguered friends days to do--post digging, mixing concrete, post setting and more--can be done in hours by an experienced fence installation crew.

But it is not all smooth sailing. Here are tips on hiring a contractor to do the work.

1. Get Multiple Estimates

The classic advice for anything related to home remodeling is to get three estimates. But who has time for this? 

Soliciting estimates for specialized indoor work is time-consuming: kitchen remodels, basement finishing, tile work for showers and bathtubs. But this is a different kind of estimate and much easier to get. 

For one, fence installation is very competitive, so you can arrange for fence estimators to show up at times convenient for you. Even if you cannot make it, the estimator may agree to come to an unattended property (though unlikely due to liability issues).

If you hate getting estimates and tend to just go with the first one, this is one instance where you should go against your tendency. Three or more estimates will undoubtedly produce a wide spread of costs. This allows you to choose the right combination of cost and quality for your project.

2. Make Estimator's Job Easier

You are just one of many addresses that the fence company estimator will visit that day. Do not take it personally, but you are just a piece of land to him or her.

Keep the dogs inside, unlock all gates, clear foliage around problem areas, and stay out of the way when the estimator is doing his/her job. The estimator will

  • Check for obstructions like trees, rocks, etc. that may hinder the fencing or affect costs.
  • Look at how the fence will meet other pre-existing fences or your house.
  • Evaluate grading. If you are lucky enough to have a level lot, this is not a problem. Other lots will slope, and this will affect how the fence is constructed.
  • Determine the type of fence you would like.
  • Evaluate access to the job site. If the crew will need to manually carry materials up a hill, for example, this will drive up costs.

3. Ask the Right Questions

Even though the estimator may be in a hurry, be sure to ask a few key questions/topics first:

  1. Will the fence company pull permits? Pulling permits is the process of applying for and receiving the final approval. 
  2. Will the company call a utility locator?
  3. Discuss hindrances like easements. They may bring this up. If not, you should advance the issue.
  4. If there is grading (a sloped lot) to deal with, how will the company deal with the spaces at the bottom? Will the fence be "stepped" (thus leaving triangular spaces under the fence--a problem if you have pets) or will it contour to the ground?
  5. What will the fence's eventual height be? Even though you may agree on a 6' fence with the company (usually the maximum allowed by many cities), this height may vary based on the grade.
  6. Are gates and associated hardware part of the quoted cost? If not, how much will they cost?
  7. What kind of warranty does the fence company offer? If so, does this warranty cover just materials or labor, too?
  8. What is the company's timeline? Fence companies tend to have big backlogs in spring and summer, and it may take weeks or more for them to get to you.