Before You Build a Fence

There are many reasons why a homeowner would want to build a fence. No matter what kind of fence you build, planning and designing a fence is one of those DIY projects that might seem straightforward, but can have a lot of moving parts. Whatever your reason, before you start building there are some things to consider before you begin your home improvement project.

Check Your Property Line

You don’t want to build a fence only to find you’re in a legal battle with your neighbours or you are ordered by a municipal ruling to tear the fence down. Before actually building a fence, check your property line to ensure that it won’t infringe on any side of the property where the fence is to go. There are several ways to do this, including online options. Since different municipalities in the Lower Mainland are subject to different building codes and bylaws, begin with your local zoning area.

Know the Rules

If you live in a gated community or strata housing, there might be rules and regulations that determine the kind of fence you build, its colour, the material, and its height. The same goes for any local by-laws. Check first to determine if any permits and by-laws apply.

Call before Digging

Regardless of how small or large your project is, whether it’s a vegetable garden (shallow depth) or fence posts (deep), plan to call before you build your fence, at least three business days before you begin. If you are hiring someone to build the fence for you, this should be done before the contractor is scheduled to be on-site.

Know Why You want to Build the Fence

The top three reasons are privacy, keeping stray animals out and pets in, and improving the security of your home. Other reasons include:

  • Curb appeal
  • Setting visual boundaries between you and your neighbours
  • Blocking an unsightly view
  • Reducing unwanted sounds and traffic noise

Knowing the purpose of the fence will determine the type of fence required. For example, a fence in the front yard to increase curb appeal might be more decorative than the fence in the backyard to keep pets safe.

Fencing Materials

A wood fence, particularly the classic white picket fence is a popular choice because it’s both functional and attractive. Nothing warms up a backyard quire like wood privacy fence or a woven fence. However, as a fencing material, it can be high maintenance, requiring staining, painting, or sealing. As they age, wood fences are prone to wood rot or warping. Other common fencing materials include vinyl, aluminum, wrought iron, and bamboo.

Make the Fence Look Pretty

Whether or not it is a city planning bylaw, the finished side of the fence should face the neighbour’s property or the street/back lane. Even if it’s not mandated by law, it makes sense to have the rails and posts facing your house in the interest of curb appeal. If you don’t want to see the “ugly” side of the fence, build one that looks the same on both sides: this type of fence is known by a number of names including, double-sided fence, good-neighbour fence, and shadow box fence.

When to Hire a Contractor

Unless by profession you have a direct connection to the construction industry or you are an excellent do-it-yourselfer with a lot of experience in building-related DIY projects, don’t DIY. When it comes to building a fence, there are a number of things a less experienced DIYer can miss. Hire a professional if you’re not sure that you can troubleshoot any problems that might arise.