Now that you have moved into your home, you are ready to build a fence. Who do you call? How do you find your property lines? How much do I need to allow for an easement?
Building a fence is more digging holes and stringing up wire or installing a few fence panels. The size of your property, you location, and the local building codes and regulations, and the reason you are building a fence all affects how you start and what kind of questions you have to ask.
The easy way – call a fence company
The easiest way to build a fence is to call up a fence company and hire it done. A reputable fence company will know the local building codes and regulations and can guide you on the type of fence you need and give you an estimate on the cost. Most fence companies can build anything from a barbed wire livestock fence to wrought iron decorative fencing to privacy wood fencing to a fence to keep your pet giraffe safe.
DIY build your own fence
Many homeowners choose to build their own fence or better yet, invite their friends and family over to HELP them build a fence! Either way, there are a few steps you will want to take before starting your fence.
Decide on the type of fence you want
Do you need a barbed wire fence to hold cattle in? A chain link fence for your dog? A low-cost wooden privacy fence to keep your kids safe? Maybe a wrought-iron decorative fence so you can maintain the view from your back yard yet keep unwanted visitors away from your swimming pool? Decide on the type of fence you need, and compare it to your available budget. Building a fence yourself will certainly save you money but a six foot cedar and steel fence is still going to be much more expensive than a chain link fence.
Research local building codes and neighborhood restrictions
Most city lots and even homes on county roads have local fence building restrictions. Typically you can’t build your fence right up to the road. Cities may restrict fences to back yards only, while neighborhoods may have restrictions on the building materials, fence height, and other components. You most likely won’t be able to build a barbed wire fence between your pool and the golf course behind your lot! Call city hall and ask for the local residential building inspector and ask them for advice. Most will stop by and look your lot over and give you friendly advice on local fence building codes. Contact your neighborhood association and request a copy of building restrictions and covenants. Call a neighborhood board member and ask them what is allowed. They can provide advice, although you will want to read and understand the neighborhood and city restrictions yourself. Nobody wants to build a fence only to find they have to tear it down and rebuild it!
Plan and measure your fence
Grab a long tape measure and do some planning. Get an overhead view of your lot – often available from your title company or city hall. For larger parcels you can get a good satellite view from Google Maps. Go to the county assessors web site and download a plat map for your property. These can easily be overlaid on top of Google Maps to get a better understanding of your property and easement lines. You can draw the planned fence lines on paper or computer. Figure out where you will need fence and corner posts, and think about where you want gates and which way they will open. Remember, you will need a post on each side of the gate – one sturdy post to mount the gate on and another post to close the gate against. Think about access to your back yard. Will you need room to get a mower in the back? Maybe a small trailer or pickup truck? The bigger the gate, the more room it will need to swing open.
If you are building your fence for privacy, think about how high it will need to be to block the view from your neighbors and the street. Remember, it can get really windy in Oklahoma so you will want to brace your fence to withstand our strong spring winds.
Apply for a building permit
Once you have your fence plan on “paper”, invite someone over to review your plans. Two brains and four eyes are always better than your own, so getting advice now is better than after you start construction. If you need any building permits, now is the time to apply for a permit at your local city offices and provide the city inspector with a drawing of your plans.
Develop a cost estimate
Once your plans are finalized, figure out a bill of materials so you can estimate the cost. This doesn’t have to be exact, but it is always nice to have a ballpark estimate of the materials required before starting construction.
You will also need to think about the labor involved in building the fence. Are you doing all the work yourself? Can you talk friends and family into helping, or do you need to hire temporary help for the hard parts?
Think about how you are going to dig fence posts. If you only have a few to dig you can probably dig those by hand. If you have over a half dozen posts, you may want to rent a post hole digger from your local rental store. These are typically very affordable and can make short work of the most difficult part of fence building. Be aware that parts of central Oklahoma have a very dense, hard clay base, and some of the smaller hand-held diggers have a difficult time digging a hole in this hard ground, especially during the hot summer. If you need a more powerful digger, check into renting a skid steer loader with a post hole digging attachment. These generally cost around $250 per day and can save a LOT of time, especially in hard ground. Kay and I often rent from P&K Equipment.
Call before you dig!
Once you have your plans in place and the materials on-site, it is time to call OKIE at least 48 hours before you dig a hole in the ground. They will send someone out to mark and flag your property for underground power, gas, and telephone lines. THIS IS A MUST BEFORE DIGGING ANY HOLE! This provides you with information so that you can be careful when digging holes in the ground. Nobody wants to get electrocuted!
Gather materials – and friends – and start building fence.
Once you have the utilities marked, it is time to schedule a weekend to start building your fence. You may want to dig the holes for fence posts one weekend – the hardest work – and then build fence the following weekend. This gives the posts time to dry if you placed them in concrete, and allows you to rest up from all the hard work of digging and setting posts. If you are building a LOT of fence then you may want to rent a skid steer loader with a post hole digging attachment and use it to dig your holes. These generally cost about $250 per day but allow you to dig dozens of holes in an afternoon, and are much less work than even a hand-held power digger – which by the way will not always dig the holes needed in our hard Oklahoma clay.
There are plenty of Youtube videos that show you how to build a wide variety of fences. Take the time to watch a few of these and polish your fence-building knowledge before tackling this large – although fairly straightforward – home improvement project. Lots and lots of people have built their own fences. With a little bit of planning and lots of elbow grease, you can to.
But don’t forget to CALL OKIE before you dig. It is free and can literally save your life!