There’s much more to planning and installing a new fence than simply “planting” a couple posts from your local hardware store and nailing boards to them. To avoid making a costly (or life-threatening) mistake, you should always take the following steps:
- Check with your local city planning office to find out what type of fence you are allowed to install. Most localities publish their fence restrictions online. In general, restrictions are for public safety and usually deal with height and distance from public right of ways. For example, as shown in the link above, you wouldn’t want your visibility restricted by a fence when approaching an intersection, so some localities don’t allow you to build right up to the corner of your lot even though it is your property. Violators of these restrictions will be made to move or lower their fence to comply or be faced with a recurring monetary penalty until such a time when the fence is brought into compliance.
- Call Miss Utility before you dig. It’s not just a catchy jingle, it could save your life! Power and gas lines running to your house are supposed to be 30″ – 36″ deep, which shouldn’t interfere with most fences, but this is not something to bet your life on. For a number of reasons (e.g. final grading, landscaping, error during installation) these utility lines could be shallower. You can call 811 to request utility marking on your property. You can also go online to make a request. Miss utility will locate and mark all public utilities on your property, usually within 48 hours. They mark each utility (gas, water, electric, cable) with different color paint. If you must dig near a marked utility, you should take extra caution and never use a piercing tool like a breaker bar or post hole diggers. Keep in mind, these markings are only valid for a certain amount of time, usually about 25 days. If the marks fade, or you suspect your utilities were not marked correctly or at all, you can often request a 3-hour locate from Miss Utility.
- Some localities require your new fence to be marked on your plat. Your plat, if you have one, can often be found with all the other real estate documents that you received when you purchased your home. If you do not have a plat, or can’t find it, a property survey is recommended, especially if you want to build along your property line. You can either pay the surveyor to construct a new plat from scratch, or, to save money, you can simply ask them to locate your property lines in the vicinity of where your fence will be installed. A plat (or survey) is need during installation so that your fence ends up in the right place. The last thing you (or your neighbor) wants is to have to move your fence because it was on your neighbor’s side of the property line.
Find answers to other common questions about fences here.
My Fence Guys is a licensed contractor in the state of Virginia.