Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?


Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.
~ French Proverb

Do good fences make good neighbors?
Not so much. Good neighbors make good fencing choices! That can make any fence a good fence. Planning ahead and making careful choices along the way, means you’re more likely to end with a beautiful fence and happy neighbors.

Below are 5 things to include in your fence planning process as well as three important decisions that can impact the sturdiness and usefulness of your new fence.

Plan Ahead:

  1. Call before you dig.
    Anywhere in the country you can call 8-1-1 to request your Public Utility Commission to come out and mark underground utilities before you dig for any reason on your property…but especially for fences, which require multiple holes in the ground. Don’t blow yourself to kingdom come putting in a fence, it’s not worth it!
  2. Contact the powers that be.
    Call your local zoning office, your HOA, and your neighbors. Call or visit anyone who can get offended, write you a ticket, or make you take your fence down BEFORE you put it up. Be proactive, friendly and smart!
  3. Get your paperwork in order.
    That means getting building permits, HOA variances, and even signed letters from your neighbors if you need them. Oh, and if you don’t call before you dig? Get a will and life insurance. Your dependents will thank you!
  4. Get multiple estimates from contractors with good references.
    Check with your neighbors, see who they used for their fences and if they’d use them again. You can also check with a referral service like Angie’s List or a ratings agency like the Better Business Bureau to find reliable contractors. Choose several, and get estimates on the types of fencing you like best. Try to get estimates for the same fences, so you can compare apples to apples.
  5. Talk to your neighbors.
    Use the Golden Rule here. You wouldn’t want to be jarred awake at 7am on a Saturday morning by the dulcet tones of hammers and saws, only to find that your neighbor was putting in a fence you hadn’t known was going up. It would make you cranky! Plus, you just might find that old Zelda is thinking of putting in a fence to protect her veggie garden, and would be happy to split the cost for the joint fence line with you. A good deed, and a discount – bonus! Also, if you want to attach your fence to your neighbor’s, it’s a good idea (and sometimes the law) to get permission first.

Choose Wisely:

  1. Think before you build.
    Too simplistic? You’d be surprised. If you hate doing yardwork and yearly maintenance, then a wood fence may not be for you. Want a fence for privacy? Metal is beautiful, but doesn’t provide much privacy. Have a Great Dane? Make sure that fence is tall and strong, not a dainty lattice fence. Change the color of your house every few years? Wood is easily paintable, so it may be the way to go if you want your fence to be matchy-matchy (remember, don’t bore Nina!).
  2. Contractors come in different flavors.
    If a guarantee against frost heave damage is important, find a contractor who will re-sink your posts if they went in too shallow. If you’re looking for a union shop, look for one that displays and ad with a union bug. Want local, and family owned? Ask! They’ll be proud to tell you about it.
  3. Choose your site.
    Think about your family’s needs and your use of your yard when planning your fence. It costs money to replace a tree, or repair a fence that’s been clobbered by one, so you may not want to build close to a tree. Do you want to hide your garbage cans? Exclude the utility easement? Add extra gates or removable panels for that easement? It’s cheaper to use your home as part of one side of the fence. How many gates do you really need? What kind and where?