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Plan for Your Fence Installation

Building a fence is a great do-it-yourself project. Find tips on how to choose the right type of fence for your yard and learn the initial steps to get it installed.

Plan a fence installation

Planning for a Fence

Taking the time to design and select the proper materials will help make sure your fence is practical, secure and safe.


Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities.


Step 1

Contact your local building department or homeowner’s association to verify fence requirements and restrictions. Some zoning ordinances limit fence height, style, location and some even prohibit fence construction. In most cases, to begin any construction, you’ll need to apply for a building permit and be subject to inspection by a building inspector.

Good to Know

If your town has restrictions on fence construction, you might be able to apply for a variance. A variance is a request to perform some type of new construction or alteration that's otherwise not permitted by zoning regulations.

Step 2

Select your fence's functions. Here are a few:

  • Keep pets or children safely in the yard
  • Offer increased privacy
  • Surround a swimming pool or other safety hazard
  • Protect landscaping
  • Be a decorative addition to your yard
Good to Know

You can select different styles of fences for your yard, matching the various functions. For example, select a tall vinyl fence for patio privacy and a short chain-link fence for a small pet area.

Step 3

Select a type of fence.

  • A privacy fence is a solid panel where the top is typically at eye level or higher.
  • Semiprivacy options can have solid panels with decorative lattice along the top. Or they can be shadowbox, meaning the individual boards alternate on both sides of the panel.
  • Decorative fences have pickets, which can help keep children and pets in your yard but are more ornamental.
Good to Know

Try to match the architecture of the home and landscape with a complementary fence design.

Step 4

Plan fence installation

Select fence materials.

  • Wood fences have a traditional look but require ongoing maintenance. They need to be cleaned and stained or painted periodically to help keep the wood in good condition.
  • Vinyl fences only require an occasional rinsing. It doesn’t fade or rot, and it offers options that look similar to wood.
  • Aluminum and steel can add a more decorative style to landscaping. Aluminum fencing materials require little maintenance, while steel needs a coat of paint every few years to keep it looking its best.
  • A quality chain-link fence will resist years of weathering and is a good way to keep pets in the yard.

Step 5

Consider fence component styles.

  • Component fences, sometimes called stick-built fences, typically are made of wood. Every piece is assembled separately, so they can take a little longer to build. Some people like the way they can follow the contours of the land, a technique called racking. Panel fences are constructed of preassembled panels. Most metal and vinyl fences, as well as some wood fences, are only available as panels.
  • Panel fences can be easier to assemble but instead of following the ground contours, many have to stair-step on grades.

Step 6

Use a tape measure and pencil to begin sketching the location of the new fence on paper. Include the location of the house, garage, outbuildings, trees, landscaping and any existing fences.

Step 7

If the fence will run along property lines, talk to the owners of the neighboring property. You want to make sure your fence will indeed be on your land, and if needed, contact a land surveyor to mark the property line.

Step 8

If required by local ordinance, apply for a building permit from the local building department, who can offer guidelines on post depth, post spacing and other technical requirements, as applicable. Some ordinances only require a building permit for structures taller than four feet or of a specific value.