While building a fence isn’t the most expensive renovation you can do, it still costs a sizeable chunk of cash for a structure that will hopefully last for decades. How much does building a fence cost? How can you save money? And what are the causes of unexpected price jumps?
Building a backyard fence costs between $1,600 and $3,500 on average, although this can rise up to $15,000 or more. Costs will depend on materials used, the perimeter shape, ground obstacles, and whether you hire a contractor, DIY it, or find something in between.
- 1 What to Consider When Building a Fence?
- 2 Ways to Save Money When Building a Fence in Your Backyard
- 3 What Causes a Fence to Cost a Lot More Than Expected?
- 4 Final Thoughts
What to Consider When Building a Fence?
Why You Want A Fence
Before you figure out the how, you need to know the why. You might think you’re saving money with that chain-linked fence, but if you want the fence for privacy, you’re just wasting money.
Do you want a fence to provide backyard privacy? To keep your dogs in your yard — or keep dogs off your front lawn? To block noise from a busy street? To provide more security? To keep wind from ravaging your patio? Are you just absolutely in love with white picket fences or tall iron gates? Knowing the answer to this will tell you the best place to invest more cash and where you can save while still getting what you want.
You may wonder what the weather has to do with a fence, but if you want your fence to last for decades (and not have to shell out more money for maintenance or even to rebuild it entirely), it needs to withstand the trials of your local climate. If you’re in a cold climate, then your concrete anchors need to be beneath the frost line. If you’re in a wetter climate, your fence needs to resist water damage. If your summers are scorching, then avoid vinyls.
Municipal Building Codes / Local Restrictive Covenants
Depending on where you live, you may face different municipal building codes that will determine what you can use for fencing materials and how it must look (ex. the nice side of the fence faces the public side), where the fence can go on your property, and if you need a building permit. A fence typically needs to be set back 2 to 8 inches from sidewalks and property lines. Depending on where you live, these codes can be pretty straightforward or really strange, like being unable to grow hedges on your front lawn.
Research or Survey Property Lines
Also, make sure you verify where your property lines actually are! In some neighbourhoods, this might be an obvious rectangle, but in others, the property line might run in unusual shapes. Better to be certain ahead of time than to have to rip up your fence midway through — or, perish the thought, after finishing.
You can find the official property lines either by an existing property survey (either one you already have or at a local records office) or by hiring a surveyor to create one.
Once you know where your official property line is and where you need to build the fence, you can measure the perimeter and figure out exactly how long of a fence you’ll need. Where will the corners go? Where will the gates go? (For safety and convenience, plan two paths into a fenced area.) How much space do you need or want between posts or pickets? The more features you add, the more the fence will cost.
Walking the perimeter, you’ll also find out about any obstacles, whether there’s a small hill (or a big hill) or any rocks. Also, take time to estimate how tall of a fence you’ll need to fulfil its purpose. The taller the fence, the more expensive.
Fence Material Used
|Material||Advantages||Disadvantages||Average Cost Per Foot*|
||$10 – $20|
||$20 – $25|
||$15 – $45|
|Metal (Iron, Aluminum, Steel)||
||$20 – $35 for wrought iron
$20 – $30 for aluminum
||$10 – $20|
||$15 – $40|
||$5 – $40|
Ways to Save Money When Building a Fence in Your Backyard
Do As Much Prep Yourself As You Can
Even if completely DIYing your fence project is outside of your skill set, you can still tear down an existing fence or remove obstacles and cut back vegetation. All three of these actions will save time for the contractors, which saves money on labour. Just leave pulling out posts and cores to the professionals.
Use Repurposed Materials
If you have access to enough materials and a bit of creativity, you can repurpose materials into a new fence. People sometimes offer the materials for barns and large sheds to anyone who will take it apart. You can repurpose current fence materials. You can also make a decent fence out of pallets. Just make sure your repurposed materials abide by local municipal codes.
Build It Yourself
Chain link and natural wood fences can be pretty easy to DIY yourself. An aluminum panel fence is considered the easiest fence to DIY as all you have to do is assemble the panels, rather than have to cut, drill, and attach wood panels. The more basic your fence, the easier it will be to build, especially if you have carpentry skills.
As a bonus, you’re going to get really familiar with your yard as you make discoveries digging fence holes.
If you’re not handy, or you don’t enjoy DIY projects, then the cost of your own blood, sweat, and tears is going to outweigh the financial cost of contractors. You’re not just paying for their labour — you’re paying for all the expertise they’ve gained by installing hundreds of other fences. They’ll get your fence done faster, with long-standing quality and attractiveness.
You don’t have to choose to go entirely one way or the other. Pre-made DIY fence kits make building a fence easier, although you will have to pay more for these prefab materials.
Get Multiple Estimates From Contractors
You may still save in the long run by getting your fence built quickly and proficiently by contractors. Get estimates from three to six contractors and always ask to see examples of fences they have installed already (that contractor might be cheap for a reason…).
Also, make sure you have an accurate measurement for the fence before contacting them!
Install In Phases
There’s no rule that you must complete an entire fencing project all in one go. So long as you know the end goal, your contractor may be able to build each phase in a way to make the next phase easier. This option is handy when you have complex fencing needs or plans.
What Causes a Fence to Cost a Lot More Than Expected?
Rocks in the Ground
One of the most labour intensive and important tasks when building a fence is digging straight and sturdy post holes. If the post hole isn’t straight, then the fence post won’t be straight, or the post may shift. Rocky ground makes this labour-intensive task even harder. Hiring someone to run a post hole digger can increase the cost.
Soggy or Muddy Area
Constantly soaked soil will also make it more difficult to dig post holes and build a fence. It also increases maintenance costs, as the fence will shift in the soft soil and moisture will eat through materials.
Building on a Slope
Depending on how steep a slope is or how difficult it is to build on it, building a fence on a slope can cause some unexpected increases. You may need to buy longer line posts, or adjust the materials to run up the slope.
Increase in Price of Materials
The COVID pandemic has seen a tremendous increase in material prices, especially with lumber prices. Stuck at home, people invested in backyard construction of decks and raised beds to enjoy their backyards, while lumber mills faced shutdowns and slowdowns.
Adding a Gate
Because they require additional materials and hardware, adding a gate will increase the average cost. A fenced area should have at least two gates. But they don’t need to be the same material as the main fence. Gates are a great way to increase the attractiveness of the fence while skimping on the rest of the fence material. You can build a stone gate with a wood fence, or build a trellis over the gate to grow roses over.
Too Many Corners
The longer and straighter a fence is, the cheaper the materials are per linear foot. All those corners, ends, and elevation changes add up. If you can adjust your proposed fence to make it as straight as possible, you can save money. (Just keep your fence on your own property!)
A fence is an investment in your property, just like any other renovation you make. By taking time ahead of time to know what you want, what you need, and the best way to achieve that, you’ll save money and time, and have a great new addition to your property.