Before fencing themselves in, homeowners need to know a few things. Fences define boundaries, provide privacy, add property value, keep pets in and keep people out. Homeowners thinking about having a fence installed need to do their homework before the first fence post goes in the ground. The old adage "Good fences make for good neighbors,” from the "Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, holds some truth. Neighbors and fences can be a volatile combination. "Putting up a fence isn't like buying a loaf of bread,” said Diana Morrison of Morrison Fence Co. "The construction of a fence can be emotional, and some people are offended when a fence goes up. Neighbors have called the police and reported a fence going in. People want fences for many different reasons, and it's not always pets and pools, although those are the main reasons. Some people don't want to see their neighbors, and I've had customers who are the opposite — they want a see-through fence so they can see their neighbors.” Morrison and her brother Sam grew up in the fence business their parents started in 1949 in Oklahoma City. Fence contractors sometimes see the best and the worst of neighborly relations when installing a fence, but it is usually an uneventful home improvement. It helps when people try to get along and many neighbors share the cost of a fence, though they are not required to split the cost. The first aspect of fence installation is for homeowners to know the location of their property line, Morrison said. It is not up to the contractor to establish the property line.Comments
The cost of fence materials is increasing. Morrison said steel prices have risen 100 percent since the first of the year, and companies have to get current prices on all materials before providing a bid.
"Chain link was the most common fencing in 1949, when my dad started the fence business,” Morrison said. "All the fences in a neighborhood were $200, and the gates were $10 each. The more expensive homes had brick or picket fences.”
Walk the line"If there is an existing fence or a clear boundary, that's usually OK,” Morrison said. "If it is a new house, the homeowner can find out from their builder. If it is an old house and there has never been a fence and no established lines, the property may need surveying.” David Swando, owner of Cook's Fence and Iron in Oklahoma City, said there aren't many happy stories about property line disputes. "People want to save money, and they don't want to add survey costs,” Swando said. "And most of the time, it is OK. But when it isn't, it is generally an ugly thing and will cost much more. "We had one customer who had a tennis court, and the corner of the tennis court was 3 inches over the property line. When a new neighbor moved next door, they didn't want their property encroached on, and the corner post had to be cut off and moved 3 inches. It was a huge annoyance and expense.” Once the fence line is determined, the next step is to determine the type of fencing material. The choices include vinyl, chain link, wood, decorative iron, brick and rock. Before selecting fencing, homeowners who live in housing additions should check on covenants regarding the type of fence allowed in their neighborhood. This precaution can prevent wasted time and money. Morrison said, "One time, we were installing a vinyl fence in a new housing addition, and the homeowners' association president tried to stop us. Our customer was adamant about installing a vinyl fence and, in order to meet the restrictions, the outside of the fence had to be wood. We combined the two. The fence was vinyl, but people driving down the street saw a wood fence.”
The good and the uglyAnd who gets the so-called ugly side of the fence? There is the post side and the finished side with many wood fences. Mark Ballard with Cook's Fence and Iron said neighbors often split the cost at a 60/40 split. The neighbor who pays more gets the finished side. Vines and other landscaping often cover a fence, and the unfinished side often isn't noticeable. Some customers want a double-faced fence, and the cost goes up with that option. A shadowbox fence is another solution. This style of fence has overlapping boards, and the look is the same on both sides of the fence. "I think fence arrangements with neighbors depend mostly on common sense,” Ballard said. When that doesn't work, it can involve lawyers, law enforcement, surveys and fence contractors. Fence contractors step out of the picture until things get settled. One angry homeowner bought a chain saw and cut down a fence in a shared driveway. Swando recalled that woman, a senior citizen, didn't appear strong enough to lift the chain saw out of a truck bed. The person who installs a fence is responsible for the fence. If the way a fence is installed infringes on a neighbor's property, that neighbor can make the person take down the fence.
Don't let the dogs outLee Crumbaugh, spokesman for the American Fence Association in Glen Ellyn, Ill., said homeowners can communicate better with their fence contractor if they define the fence's purpose. The purpose may be purely aesthetic, necessary to keep animals in or out, to provide privacy, protect property, enhance property value or define property lines. A fence installation is an investment, and it's often done for a combination of reasons. "Good planning results in the best choices,” Crumbaugh said. "Talk to fencing contractors, get bids and don't rule out options such as chain link. Vinyl coated chain link gives an entirely different look, and slats in the chain link provide privacy.” If you have always wanted a charming white picket fence to enhance the rosebushes, that's simple. Get a bid for wood versus vinyl, and find a contractor. Bids will vary, depending on location and terrain. Fences needed for security require more planning. Homeowners with a backyard swimming pool usually desire a fence for privacy and are required to have one for safety reasons. More than 350 children younger than 5 drown in swimming pools each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. As a result, many municipalities require fences around swimming pools . Pool fences should be built to ensure a youngster cannot go under or climb over or through the fence. In addition to a perimeter fence, a fence between the home and the pool is recommended, especially for homeowners with young children. The type of gate installed for pool fencing is especially important. Self-latching gates can reduce access to a pool area. Homeowners will find information about fences from the American Fence Association online at www. americanfenceassociation.com. The site lists members by state. Swando said there are pages and pages of fence companies listed in the phone book. He advised homeowners seeking a fence contractor to look for an established business. "There is a tremendous turnover rate, and it is important to look for an address for the place of business,” Swando said. "Check out their business and make sure they aren't operating out of a mini storage.”