10 Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting and Installing a Fence

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There are many reasons to build a fence. For some, additional security or privacy is at the top of the list. With around 2.5 million burglaries across America each year, this makes sense.

Others may want to keep their pets securely in their yard. Since about 10 million pets are lost or separated from their families each year, this also makes sense.

There are many other reasons. But it doesn’t matter why you want to build the fence if you don’t do it correctly. Properly building a fence requires research, planning, and copious amounts of time.

Some mistakes made on fence projects are common, and avoiding these could end up saving your project. Continue reading top ten mistakes fence companies say need to be avoided with your next fence.

1. Not Being Aware of Legal Restrictions

Many homeowners fail to realize you can’t just decide to build a fence and go for it. No matter where you live, there are certain legal restrictions on building anything. Some locations may have more restrictions on fencing than others.

Property Lines

The most basic legal restriction that applies to everyone is determining your actual property line. It’s significantly more common than you’d think for people to have inaccurately been guessing where their property ends. In some cases, mistaking the property line by only an inch can cause significant concerns and hassle.

There are a few ways you can accurately determine your property line. You can check your homeowner’s deed and verify boundaries using a tape measure. It may be helpful to see if there’s already been a survey done on the property that shows physical property lines.

Still lost or can’t find accurate property information? Then, you may want to hire a professional surveyor before building your fence. While this added cost may sound inconvenient, knowing your physical property lines now can be helpful again in the future.

Other Legal Restrictions

Before building or purchasing materials, check your neighborhood’s zoning laws. Different areas within the same city may have different zoning laws based on several considerations. For example, commercial and residential zones may have different restrictions, as will rural versus urban areas.

If zoning laws allow you to build a fence, be sure to check any requirements before starting. For example, you may need permission from your municipality or county before starting. You may also need to apply for a permit ahead of time.

2. Not Measuring Accurately

When measuring your future fence line, it’s essential to consider height as well. Forgetting to determine the height (or distance) accurately can set the entire project up for failure.

When measuring the distance of your fence line, remember to make notes of any custom cuts that will be required. Custom cuts generally occur around corners or where gates will be installed. However, odd-shaped property lines may call for more custom cuts.

When measuring the height of your fence, remember to take into consideration post holes. Fence posts should have one-third of their height buried below the ground, at a minimum. This will help ensure the fence is secure.

Let’s say you’re hoping to have a six-foot-tall fence. At a minimum, one-third (or two feet) of the posts should be buried beneath the ground. This means you’ll need eight-foot posts instead of six-foot to keep your desired measurements.

3. Forgetting To Set Posts Properly

Setting the fence posts properly is one of the most essential tasks during building. Why? How the posts are set will determine how well the fence holds up to wear, tear, weather, and more.

Digging holes and setting the posts in sand or dirt isn’t enough. It’s essential to set the posts in either concrete or gravel. This adds extra weight and durability to the post holes.

Fences need to withstand being hit or run into, as well as whatever weather events are common in your area. Depending on your location, weather events may include:

  • Heavy snowfall or blizzards
  • Tropical storms or hurricanes
  • Derechos
  • Severe thunderstorms
  • High winds
  • Coastal, river, or lake flooding

True, it’s common for fence panels to blow away in high winds or severe weather events. However, replacing fence panels is significantly easier and more cost-efficient than replacing posts. When posts become flying projectiles, they’re also likely to be more dangerous than panels because of their size and shape.

How To Set a Fence Post Properly

The first step to setting a fence post properly is to ensure you’ve dug a deep enough hole. As mentioned above, you want at least one-third of the desired fence height under the ground. For heavier fences, you may wish to bury up to half of the post in the ground.

Once you’ve determined how deep you want your posts buried, you can dig the holes. Place the posts in the middle of the hole, ensuring they stay straight upright.

Then, fill the post holes a little more than three-quarters of the way with gravel or concrete. Concrete is the more durable option for areas prone to hazardous weather events. However, gravel is always a better option than regular dirt.

Once the post holes are filled, allow them to harden if necessary. Once they’ve set, you can fill in the last part of the hole with regular dirt. You’ll want to fill the hole to ground-level and can check how even the ground is with a leveler tool if you’d like.

4. Using Poor Quality Materials

There are many things it’s okay to try to cut costs on. But, your fencing materials are not one of them. Purchasing poor-quality materials can end up costing you significantly more in the long run.

Initial costs aren’t how to determine the most cost-efficient fencing materials. Instead, you should be looking at your return on investment (ROI). The return of investment can be broken down by annual costs, based on the initial price and estimated life span.

Let’s look at an example of how determining ROI for fencing works. Keep in mind the numbers used are only examples and likely aren’t the exact costs you’ll experience on your project.

For this example, we’ll look at two potential fencing options for a wood fence. Option A’s total project cost is only $200, but the materials used are of lesser quality and are estimated to last only ten years. Option B’s total project cost is $350, but the materials used are of superior quality and estimated to last about 20 years.

  • Fencing ROI (i.e. cost per year) = total initial costs / estimated lifespan
  • Option A: $200 / 10 years = $20 per year
  • Option B: $350 / 20 years = $17.50 per year

By choosing Option B, you’ll save $2.50 per year. You’ll also get ten additional years of use out of the fence before it needs replacement. Although Option A initially looks like the cost-efficient option, it’s significantly more costly in the long run.

5. Not Considering All Available Fence Materials

There are several different materials that fences can be made from. Each material type has a unique set of pros and cons associated with its use. Therefore, the best material for one project may not be the best for another.

Take time to consider what materials can be used. Then, compare them with your fencing goals (discussed in the following step). The most common types of available fence materials are discussed below.


Vinyl fencing is durable, versatile, and easy to care for. However, the upfront costs are significantly more compared to alternative materials. Vinyl fences can vary in height, design, and color.

  • Excellent For: privacy, security, aesthetics, property line fencing, enclosing animals or children
  • Downsides: costly


Chain-link fencing is durable and affordable, with very little maintenance required. Their affordability is one reason chain-link fences are often used for schools and commercial buildings. The primary downside is that chain-link on its own doesn’t provide a lot of privacy and may be lacking slightly in security versus other options.

  • Excellent For: aesthetics, property fence line, garden fence lines, enclosing animals or children
  • Downsides: lack of privacy, lack of security


Wood fencing is the most popular option across America and with good reason. Wood fences are relatively durable, secure, and offer plenty of privacy. The downside is that wood fences take longer to install versus alternatives and require quite a bit of maintenance.

  • Excellent For: privacy, security, aesthetics, gardening fences, property line fencing, enclosing animals or children
  • Downsides: difficult to care for, costly, long install times


Composite fencing combines the affordability and easy maintenance of PVC with the classical look of wooden fencing. Composite fencing is a solid middle ground between these two options.

  • Excellent For: privacy, security, aesthetics, property line fencing, enclosing children or animals
  • Downsides: less durable versus other options

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron fences are significantly less common modernly than they were in the past. These heavy fences are strong, beautiful, and long-lasting. However, wrought iron is difficult to maintain and costs significantly more than any other potential fencing material.

  • Excellent For: security, aesthetics, property line fencing, enclosing animals or children
  • Downsides: difficult to care for, long install times, costly


Aluminum fencing provides a timeless aesthetic appeal and is easy to maintain. However, aluminum isn’t as secure as other alternatives, nor does it offer as much privacy. Most (although not all) aluminum options are more for decoration and establishing physical property boundaries versus security or privacy.

  • Excellent For: aesthetics, property fence line, enclosing children (but typically not animals)
  • Downsides: limited security, limited privacy


PVC fencing is one of the best options by far. PVC/Vinyl Fence withstands the harsh elements very well and usually comes with a lifetime guarantee. It also adequately provides security or privacy. It is in the high range of fencing costs in this group of fence options.

  • Excellent For: privacy, security, aesthetics, gardening fences, property fence line, enclosing children or animals
  • Downsides: cost

6. Not Accurately Determining Your Fencing Goals

Before building the fence, you need to ask yourself an important question. “Why do I want to build this fence?” In other words, what purpose (or purposes) will the fence serve?

The reasons people build fences can generally be broken down into a few categories, which you may have noticed were alluded to in the above section. Fencing goals generally include one or more of the following:

  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Aesthetics
  • Gardening fencing
  • Property line fencing
  • Enclosing children or animals

These aren’t all the reasons someone might want to build a fence. However, these reasons will encompass most homeowner’s primary considerations.


Privacy fences tend to be taller than the average person’s height to ensure nobody can peak into your yard. Although some people use privacy fences for their whole property, many use them only for their backyards.

If privacy is your primary goal, the best fence options are wood, vinyl, or aluminum. Inadequate choices include wrought iron or chain link.


Fences can provide security by offering additional deterrents against burglars. They can also help protect your family while in the yard, to some degree.

If security is your primary goal, the best fence options are wood, vinyl, or aluminum. Wrought iron and chain link can also be decent options. Generally, PVC or composite fences offer the least security but may still perform the job well.


Some people simply enjoy the look of certain fences over others. For aesthetics, it’s a matter of personal preference entirely. At times, this goal can be used to determine the better of two or three other options.

Gardening Fencing

Gardening fencing is used to keep animals out of vegetable gardens or flower beds. Some of these animals are very small, like rabbits. For this reason, solid fencing is the better option when possible.

Solid fencing options can be anything except chain link or wrought iron. If the only garden destroyers are larger animals like deer, even these fences will work fine. The best gardening fences, when possible, are taller ones made of wood or vinyl.

Property Line Fencing

Property line fencing is meant to develop an obvious, physical boundary for your yard. This may be to stop others from walking in the yard or simply as a precaution.

When meant to determine physical boundaries alone, there’s no right or wrong option. You can choose a fence material that fits another fencing goal or the one you find most aesthetically pleasing.

Enclosing Children or Animals

By enclosing children or animals, we mean keeping them in the yard. Younger children are prone to wandering off, while dogs and other animals tend to do the same.

If this is one of your primary fencing goals, almost any fence tall enough will do. However, it’s imperative to avoid fences with sharp tops (like picket fences or wrought iron) if you have a dog that jumps or a child that likes to climb. Also, be careful where you place the lock on your gates, as children can easily unlock them if placed within their grasp.

7. Digging Blindly

Before you start digging, you need to make sure you know where everything is. The first thing you should do is call the utility company to find out where any lines are buried. Cable and electric lines could potentially be buried anywhere.

If you accidentally strike one of these utility lines, it could be disastrous. The problem isn’t only that your cable, internet, or electricity could go out. You could also be electrocuted, which in some cases is fatal.

Other things you’ll want to know the exact location of include your sewage lines, septic tank, plumbing, and well. If you don’t know where these are, see if your property was surveyed. If not, you may want to have it surveyed before you start building your fence.

8. Not Speaking to Your Neighbors

Not many people speak to their neighbors before building a fence, but there are two good reasons you need to. The most obvious reason is to be polite. Letting them know you’ll be building (which may be noisy) is good manners and can stop some arguments before they begin.

The second reason to speak to the neighbors to either side (and possibly behind) you is the property line. Confirm where your neighbors believe the property line is before you put up your fence. You’d be amazed at how many people dispute boundaries post-fence or have inaccurate ideas about where one property starts or ends.

If you find one of your neighbors believes the property line is different than what you think, it’s easier to solve before the fence is built. If you end up being wrong, the fence may need to be moved back a few inches. This is a massive hassle once the fence is already in place.

9. Not Preparing For Building Day

When building a fence, you need to be prepared. Everything you need for the project should be on hand once construction begins. You don’t want to run around looking for what you need after you’ve already started the project.

Be sure you have all the materials necessary in an easy-to-access place. Check you have all the tools you need to complete the project. Also, be sure to confirm any help will be arriving on the day of.

Before choosing a day to tackle your fence project, check the weather forecast. You don’t want to build your fence when it’s raining or storming.

10. Not Hiring Professional Help

Unless you’re in construction or have extensive fence-building experience, you really should hire professional help. Building a fence requires a lot of tedious, challenging work. For example, every fence post must line up exactly, or it simply won’t work.

Hiring the right professional help is essential because not every fencing company is created equally. Below are a few ways to vet the company you hope to use.


To determine how qualified a company or contractor is, start by asking what schooling or training they received. How long have they been in business? What additional certifications have they received?

The more schooling, training, and certifications a company or contractor has received, the better. The same goes for experience. To remain in business for five or ten years, a professional has to prove themselves reliable.


The professional you hire should be knowledgeable on various fencing types, as well as your local laws and regulations. If asked, they should be able to tell you what’s necessary before building. A fencing contractor should also be able to provide reasonable suggestions on the best materials based on your fencing goals.


Avoid shoddy work, disappointment, and potentially wasting money by assessing a company’s reputation before beginning. There are many websites dedicated to reviewing service companies. Look for those with the highest ratings.

Also, take a few moments to browse the written reviews. This can help you understand what a company does well at and where they may lack.

Finally, you can also check the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been leveraged against the company. If there are official complaints, you can also see if (and how) they were settled. Any company with numerous unsettled complaints should be avoided at all costs.


Costs should be the last consideration made, but the price is still important. You need to ensure the project is within your budget.

Make sure to get quotes from at least two different companies, although three or four is better. Why? This helps you understand the average cost of fences in your area.

No quote should be significantly higher at one company versus another if based on the same project. This could indicate a company is price gouging, which you’ll want to avoid.

More Questions About Mistakes Fence Companies Say To Avoid?

Properly building a fence requires planning, experience, and research. To create a safe, sturdy fence, avoid the ten mistakes listed above.

Do you have more questions about mistakes fence companies say to avoid? Or would you like to inquire about having a fence professionally built for you?Contact us today. One of our associates would be happy to answer any questions you still have. They can also set you up for a consultation if desired.

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