Things to Consider Before Building a Fence

Popular reasons homeowners build fences are for privacy, security, aesthetics, and keeping children and pets in the yard. Regardless of the kind of fence you intend on installing, thoughtful planning will ensure the success of your home improvement project. Here are some things to consider before building your fence.

What is the purpose of the fence?

Knowing why you would like to build a fence on your property will have a ripple effect on other decisions you make regarding materials, appearance, height, and location. For example, if the fence is to provide a barrier between the back lane and your back yard to keep small children safe it will most likely be more utilitarian in appearance than a low-standing lattice fence in the front yard designed to boost curb appeal.

What do you want the fence to be made of?

Fences come in a variety of materials – pretty much anything is fair game in Metro Vancouver except for barbed wire, razor wire, and electrified fences. Due to its availability and versatility, wood is the most popular fencing material. However, keep in mind that to keep it well-maintained, it will require painting or staining every two to three years. In our Northwest Pacific climate alternatives to wood that aren’t prone to rotting or warping such as vinyl, chain link, wrought iron, or bamboo might better choices and require less maintenance than wood.

Do you know where your property line is?

It might seem obvious that your property ends where your neighbour’s begins. But if you don’t want to build a fence only to find you’re technically in their backyard, know exactly where the property line is. To find out, start with your local municipality or do an online search – make sure the information applies to your location.

Will you have to apply for a permit?

In most municipalities in the lower mainland, you won’t need a permit for a fence that is four feet and under, located in the front yard. A permit is not required for a six-foot fence to be erected at the side or the rear of the house.

Are there any restriction you should know about?

While you might not need a permit to build a fence, are there any other restrictions you should know about? Find out if there are local bylaws that dictate height, location, etc. in specific cases or certain conditions. If you live in a gated community, townhouse, or some other type of strata housing, check strata council guidelines or the neighbourhood association for details about permitted colours, materials, and designs.

Do you know who to call before digging?

Plan to call BC 1 Call before you build your fence. It is suggested that you phone at least three business days before you start digging and working on your home improvement project. Checking with this organization ensures your safety and prevents damage to underground “surprises” such as pipes and cables.

Where will the fence be located?

The first answer that might spring to mind is, “On my property.” But before installing a fence, take the lay of the land. Walk parallel to where you intend on putting the fence. Notice any bushes, trees, and shrubs that grow nearby. Tree roots can create obstacles for a fence builder. Also take note of young trees and bushes – as they grow, make certain that their roots won’t uproot your fence.

Are you aware of neighbourly fence etiquette?

Plan on building the fence so that the finished side faces your neighbour’s house or the street. You can skip this step if you decide to build a fence that is the same on both sides.

Before you actually start digging, let the neighbors know about your home improvement project.