7 Costly DIY Fencing Mistakes You Must Avoid

a rotting wooden fence

A well made fence is not only important to your home security, it can enhance your exterior decor, improve your garden, and even increase the value of your property. Hiring professional help to build barriers can be expensive, though. Labor costs keep getting higher and higher, and if you pick the wrong contractor, you may have to redo some or all of the work down the road.

As a professional in the fencing business for more than two decades, I enjoy helping other people build DIY fencing cheaply. It makes a lot of sense to build your own fence! However, in your eagerness to get things done, you might make some mistakes which could eventually prove costly. Some can even get you in trouble with the law. Here are the biggest blunders to avoid.

1. Not Checking Local Laws and Regulations

Most municipalities have laws that govern property maintenance, fencing included. You'll have to follow both local regulations and any subdivision rules, commonly known in the US as covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).

Many municipalities restrict artificial fences near roads and public walkways to a height limit of three to five feet. Natural fences (bushes, trees, etc.) have maximum height restrictions, too—in America, only a few states allow more than eight feet on the front side. These height restrictions help ensure free light penetration, particularly in highly populated residential areas.

Moreover, if your property borders a public path or road, there may be rules about the materials you can use for fencing. For instance, most urban towns prohibit permanent faces made from razor and chicken wire in residential areas, as these materials are risky for children.

To save yourself from future headaches, take a good look at all your local laws before commencing your fencing project.

two men discuss papers in an office

2. Shopping Lazily for Fencing Material

If you are not careful, you may find yourself paying a lot more than you should, so it's important to dedicate a few hours to intensive research on all the fencing techniques and options available.

Factors to consider when shopping for a fence include durability, quality, appearance, and cost. Since it's a DIY project, make sure the fencing you buy doesn't need a higher level of expertise, as it could force you to hire someone. Wooden fences are among the easiest to install for novice DIY enthusiasts.

3. Going Beyond Your Boundaries

One of the biggest and most expensive fencing mistakes you can make is to encroach on your neighbor's property, or even worse, government land. Often, this is not intentional and comes down to absent or invisible demarcation monuments. Still, the end result can be disastrous—you may end up paying a huge fine.

Before putting your fence up, familiarize yourself with your boundary, and put markers in place (if there are none) to guide your work. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a small chat with your neighbor and inform them of your plans beforehand. It's an excellent way to minimize conflicts, and who knows, your neighbor(s) may also be planning a fence and want to partner with you.

4. Using Inaccurate Measurements

Accurate measurements can make for a functional, balanced, and beautiful fence. On the flipside, inaccurate measurements can lead to an ugly, shambolic fence that will need to be redone later on.

First, the plot measurements have to be as accurate as possible. This helps avoid trouble with the government or neighbors, and can also help you establish the right amount of material to purchase.

Other important measurements include the lengths and widths of the section(s) to be fenced, the desired distance between each post, and the desired width of the fence. The latter is particularly essential for natural fences, which tend to take up more space, and could potentially encroach on your neighbor's plot.

If you're using wooden posts, you may need to set them in concrete to make them more sturdy and durable, especially if your area has heavy rainy seasons. The length of the post underground should be long enough to ensure stability, preferably 1/4 of the post.

5. Using Shortcuts with Concrete

On some online forums, you will find allegedly cost-efficient "tips" about building a fence. For instance, if you want to use concrete to add stability to your fence, there are some who will wrongly advise you to put your posts in dry concrete and add water later to save time.

If you do that, though, you run the risk of not mixing the concrete well, which will reduce the post's stability. The right, albeit more tiresome, way to go about it is to thoroughly premix the concrete with water in a container, then transfer it to the holes.

a concrete mixing bucket

6. Spacing Your Posts Too Far Apart

Yes, good quality posts may be a bit expensive, but if you're going for a chain link or woven wire fence, you need to splurge on strong posts. Reducing costs by getting fewer posts and spacing them further apart is understandably appealing. However, too much spacing will make your fence vulnerable to collapse.

Ideally, you should put up a post every five feet, but if you can't afford it, just make sure the distance between posts does not go beyond eight feet. Apart from providing stability, closely spaced posts enhance a fence's aesthetics.

7. Thinking All Wood Is Good Wood

Wooden fences are the most common type of fence, but they often don't last as long as wrought iron or aluminum fences. This is not because wood is not durable—countless ancient wooden furniture pieces prove the opposite—it's usually the result of poor decisions.

If you just pick up a bunch of untreated wooden posts from your local merchant and use them on your fence, they will most likely rot when exposed to water, or be damaged by ants and other insects. When you buy your wooden posts, look for materials already treated for outdoor use. If you can't find those, purchase wood preservative and apply it yourself.

The best and most affordable types of wood for fencing are pressure treated pine, cypress, red cedar, and white oak. Unlike other common woods, these don't warp or shrink easily, and can withstand a higher level of hostile conditions. Avoid woods like spruce and eucalyptus, as they have a low resistance to moisture, and warp more easily.