Basics of Professional Fence Installation

Up-close view of a wooden fence

Albert Parera Barón / EyeEm / Getty Images

While many do-it-yourselfers like to install their own fences, others prefer to have the fence built by professionals. What happens when you have a fence company install a fence for you?

Fence Estimator Visit

Fence companies typically divide their outside staff into two: the estimators and the builders.

The estimator measures the run of the intended fence with a long measuring tape or with a wheel-type measuring device. The estimator will confirm with you certain aspects such as the style of the fence, material, property line, and easements.

The job of the fence estimators is to estimate and then move on to the next job. Many estimators, though, have experience working in the field and already have a good, working knowledge of the trade.

Tip

If you need to work and cannot meet the estimator, some companies will allow estimators onto your property unsupervised. Due to liability issues, some companies will not do this. And it's also a question of whether you want to allow them onto your property, unsupervised.

Acquire Fence Permit

Some areas require you to obtain a fence permit before installing your fence, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional. If so, apply for the fence permit as early as possible so that the permitting process doesn't slow down the builders.

Before Fence Installation

While the estimator will usually arrive quickly, the builders will take longer. The typical wait time is two to six weeks, but this depends on your area, the season, the company, and other factors.

If timing is crucial to you, earlier in the sales process ask if they are experiencing a backlog of other jobs; whether they have all materials on hand; and if you should expect any seasonal slowdowns due to weather.

Mark Utility Lines

Early in the fence installation process, the fence company should call the local utility marking service to visit your property. This service, which usually is free, will mark your yard so that the fence company can avoid utility lines when they dig.

Post Hole Digging

Before the fence itself is installed, the fence company will call you to arrange a date to dig the fence post holes.

A small crew will dig post holes. For small projects in soft soil, the workers may use a hand-held post-hole digger. For most other projects, the workers will use a motorized auger-style post-hole digger. They will dig down below the frost line, if any.

Keeping the bottoms of the fence posts below the frost line helps to prevent the posts and the fence from heaving upward in below-freezing conditions.

Set Post Brackets in Concrete

Either when the post holes are dug or at a later date, galvanized post brackets should be set into the holes and straightened until they are plumb (or completely vertical). Concrete might be mixed up wet and poured into the holes, or dry concrete might be poured into the holes, around the post brackets, with water added later.

Tip

Setting fence posts directly into concrete can accelerate the dry-rot process, which is why it's best practice to use galvanized post brackets, which will elevate the posts above the soil. Confirm what kind of construction method your fence company plans to use before they begin work to ensure you're satisfied with their processes.

Quick set concrete usually will harden within an hour or two. Due to scheduling, the fence company may let the post brackets set for a day or two, or even longer, before installing the fence posts.

At this point, do not be alarmed if the fence posts look too high. Often, fence posts start high and are cut down to size later on.

Build Fence

Once the fence post brackets and posts are firmly in place, a crew will install stringers (the horizontal pieces), the vertical fencing material, gates, and everything else that comprises your fence.

If you choose to build a horizontal fence, stringers are not used. Instead, the fence post holes are spaced closer (usually 6 feet apart rather than 8 feet). This allows horizontal fence boards to be run from post to post.

Another option for vertically oriented fences is fence panels: pre-built sections of fence, complete with stringers and fence boards. The fence panels fit neatly between the fence posts, usually attaching by means of metal brackets.

Finishing and Cleaning

After building the fence, the crew should pick up all debris. You'll have the opportunity to inspect the fence.

Staining and Coating

If you chose to have the fence stained and coated for protection, this will usually happen at a later visit. Sometimes, the fence company will do the work itself. But in other cases, the fence company will contract out the work to another company.