Building a Fence

Category Fences
Whether you are replacing an older broken fence or adding fencing to your property, it is important to build a sturdy yet attractive fence. It is a big job but worth the time and effort to do it right. This is a page about building a fence.


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When building a deck or fence, use the appropriate size screws instead of nails. In doing so, you can easily remove and replace the boards without damaging either the posts or the post rails and it's a much easier job to do that way, too!

For example, one time we needed to remove a section of the fence for a hot tub delivery. Another time, we needed to remove just enough boards to slide a very large backyard glass top table through that we couldn't maneuver through the gate. And yet one other time, we needed to remove a few boards from the deck floor for access to do a hot tub wiring repair.

I don't remember the cost difference between a box of nails and a box screws but it wasn't much and ended up being worth it in the long run.

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February 11, 2011

Building a fence is a long-term investment, so it's important to choose a material and design style that enhances your home and garden. It's also important to be realistic about future repair costs and how much regular maintenance you're willing to take on. Here some things to consider before building one.


Check Local Zoning Laws

Before you decide on what type of fence to build, you need to make sure you're allowed to build one. Check with local zoning officials to see if building a fence is permitted in your area, whether or not your need a permit to build one, and what the restrictions are in regards to height, style, etc.

Verify Your Property Lines

Once you've been given the go-ahead on building your fence, you'll need to verify the location of your property lines. Look for metal corner pins driven flush with the ground on the edges of your property. If you don't see any, it's well worth the time and money to invest in an updated survey. Also, before you start driving fence posts into the ground, contact local utility companies and have them mark the location of underground cables, water pipes, and gas lines.

Comparing Fencing Materials


Advantages: Sustainably harvested wood is a renewable resource and environmentally friendly. It can be constructed to suit a variety of styles (post-and-rail, picket, split-rail, etc.) and works in both formal and informal garden settings.

Disadvantages: Over time, wooden posts and panels (even when pressure treated) are highly susceptible to rot and will need replacing. Painted wood requires regular touch-ups to maintain its appearance.

Tip: Choose rot-resistant woods like cypress, red or white cedar, or redwood. To extend the life of the wood, apply at least one coat of wood preservative, stain, or paint to individual pieces before assembling the fence. This will help to ensure that all exposed surfaces get at least some coverage. Apply additional coats as necessary once the fence is fully assembled. Ideally, touch-ups and repairs should always be done before bare wood becomes exposed.


"Synthetic Wood" or Vinyl

Advantages: Many synthetic wood fences are made from waste polystyrene and recycled plastic, and can be considered at least somewhat environmentally friendly. They are easy to clean and maintain, and very resistant to decay.

Disadvantages: Plastic becomes less flexible when exposed to cold temperatures and may chip and crack over time. Depending on the materials it's made of, it may also turn yellow or fade during prolonged exposure to the sun. Because plastic is non-porous, paint does not adhere well to it, so color choices are usually limited. Accidental contact with trimmers and other lawn equipment can cause damage that is difficult to repair.

Tip: Look for fencing that is warranted against discoloration and damage when exposed to the elements.


Advantages: Metal fences offer the greatest amount of longevity. Chain-link fences are economical in price (for their longevity) and relatively easy to install. Iron fences often feature ornate designs that compliment older homes and formal gardens.


Disadvantages: High-end iron fences can be quite costly to install. From an environmental standpoint they are energy intensive to produce and difficult to dispose of. Unpainted, non-galvanized metals rust with age. Metal that is painted will eventually chip or flake and require regular touch-ups to prevent rust and maintain its appearance.

Tip: Always buy the best quality fence you can afford. If you're buying chain-link, make sure it's galvanized or coated with plastic, which will inhibit rust and increase its longevity.

Design Considerations


Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

August 10, 2004

I need to replace the fence I have, it's really old. I need a 6 foot fence which I hope to look decent. Anyone have any tips for an inexpensive way to go about this? I don't have a lot of money right now but want to get it done before the fall/winter.

Samantha in CA


By Virginia (Guest Post)
August 11, 20040 found this helpful

Check out Bamboo coverings. They come in rolls and with ties. All you have to do is roll it out and tie it down. is a great site for bamboo (and other woods) fencing.

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By trina (Guest Post)
August 17, 20040 found this helpful

This is a lot of work,but you could use free pallets that newspaper offices set out for free pickup,take them apart and use the 2x4's or other material that these are made of.

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By Louise (Guest Post)
August 18, 20040 found this helpful

Go to your local Pallet company,they have lots of broken palets that are mostly oal and they would work beautifully,what about chicken wire or used chainlink?

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March 28, 2015

What are some alternative ideas for a fence?

By chrissycda2011


March 30, 20150 found this helpful

And, of course, shrubbery.

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