Buying a Fence – 6 Crucial Things to Ask Before Purchasing

You need a fence. Before you begin shopping, do you know the information required to get your fence project started?

4ft Iron Fence Installed on a Concrete Walkway with Flange Posts
Ask These 6 Questions to Ensure a Smooth Fence Project

The first thing most folks want to do is start shopping the different kinds and styles of fence available. Part of the fun with a new project is the shopping and selection process, right?I’ll be the first to admit, that’s what I want to do when I take on a new project!

However, there are 6 crucial things potential fence buyers should look into before jumping headfirst into the selection and buying process. Knowing this information ahead of time holds true for all fence projects regardless of the fence material you choose (iron, steel, aluminum, chain-link, vinyl or wood). It’s also crucial information to have whether you decide to take the DIY route or hire an installer for your fence. This is all information you should be able to find out with pretty minimal effort on your own.

Finding the answers to the following 6 questions ahead of time will ensure there won’t be any unexpected surprises with your new fence project.

Check out the video below we did outlining these crucial questions or read on below:

#1 – Do I Need a Fence Permit?

Unless you live in a township or unincorporated township, chances are your local Building / Engineering Department requires a permit for putting up a fence. A quick visit to your city’s website should answer that question or at least give you the phone number for the Building/ Engineering Department. Getting a fence permit is usually a pretty painless process and typically entails filling out a form showing the fence’s location and paying a permit fee.

#2 – Are There Any Restrictions on the Type, Style or Height of Fence?

Your local Building/ Engineering Department will inform you of any guidelines or restrictions the city has when you apply for the permit. If you belong to a Homeowners Association (HOA) or live in a historic district, it would probably be a good idea to contact the association chairperson or historic society committee.

These groups will typically have guidelines or restrictions on the type, style and height of fence you can install.

#3 – What Do the Neighbors Think?

Even if you don’t hang out with your neighbors every weekend, it’s still a good idea to run the idea of a fence past them. The last thing you want is an irate neighbor making problems after the fence has been ordered and is already being installed.

Photo Courtesy of Angela Brown (
Photo Courtesy of Angela Brown (

If the fence is mutually beneficial to both of you (like you both have dogs you need to keep in the yard), then you may even be able to get them to pitch in towards the cost.

#4 – Are There Any Underground Utilities in My Yard?

The last thing you want to do is sever a buried cable or sewer line when digging the post holes for your fence. Dial 811 and ask to have your utilities marked. That number works nationwide and will route you to your local utilities provider. Once you put a request in, they typically come out within1-3 days and mark any buried utilities on your property
811with flags and/ or spray paint (don’t worry, its not permanent).  It’s a free service and cheap insurance to make sure you don’t come across any surprises while digging. If you would like some more information on how 811 works, you can visit the their website for more details on how they operate:

#5 – Where Are My Property Lines?

This is a key piece of information to know even if you are hiring an installer (since they will typically require you to get that information). When you bought your house, you should have received a drawing of your property lines in relation to the house (often referred to as a Plat). You can use that to determine where your property lines are.

If you do not have that information, you should be able to go to your county’s (not city’s) website and look for the “Property/ Land/ GIS” page. It will allow you to pull up your property by address and view the boundaries.

property lines

If your county doesn’t offer that service, you can request a Plat map of your surrounding property from your city as they should have something on file showing property lines for addresses within the city limits.

#6 – How Much Fence Do I Roughly Need?

Even if you choose to hire an installer to handle your fence, having a rough idea on the scale of the job will help with estimating, budgeting and fence type selection.

The number you want to come up with is a linear footage. So if you walked the perimeter of the fence line, how many feet would it roughly be? You can do this either very generally by walking the proposed fence line and counting off using your feet or purchase a ‘measuring wheel’ tool. If your project is fairly small, you may be able to get away with using a standard tape measurer.

If you are doing a larger project, purchase a measuring wheel. They range from $15.00 to $50.00 depending on how fancy a model you want. The less-expensive ones typically do a fine job.   Measuring wheels with a larger wheel tend to move over grass and terrain easier than their smaller-wheeled counterparts.


Another item to consider while determining the footage of fence you want is how many gates you will need along with their position in the fence line. Keep access for yard equipment (like mowers) in mind as well as ease of entering the yard. You don’t want your only access gate to be on one side of the house so that you have to run over to that side of the house every time you want to get in the yard. If you have a pool or large trees on your lot, consider planning for a larger double gate with in 10-12 foot width so that trucks can access your yard if necessary.

In Conclusion…

A little homework goes a long way. By knowing these 6 bits of information ahead of time, your fence project should encounter smooth sailing from start to finish.


A Picture of JasonAuthorJason

I've been working in the fence industry since 2009 with a wide array of installation, sales and marketing experience. I've had lots of experience with different types of iron and aluminum fence and gate installations. Generally a 'DIY' kind of guy when it comes to a wide array of projects.

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