You want to make sure during this process that you are asking all the right questions so that you can make a well-informed decision on your next fence purchase. Below is a list of the eight most important questions that you should ask each fence company when they are giving you a formal fence estimate:
1. Who is going to handle applying for and obtaining the fence permit?
Depending on the city you live in, there are rules and regulations, one of which requires you to get a fence permit. It's important to note that most municipalities require that you obtain the permit before any work begins. In some cities, they also require that you complete a final inspection as well to make sure that your new fence meets the city's codes. You want to talk with each fence company and determine if this will is your responsibility or if the fence company will handle this process for you. And not only who will handle it but who will pay for it. Is the permit processing fee included in the final estimate for the fence, or will this be an additional out of pocket expense for you?
2. Is the fence company going to contact the utility locator company?
You need to make sure that before any digging starts in your backyard, that a utility locator company comes out and marks any underground cables so that the fence company does not hit any during the digging process. The utility locator company comes out and basically locates the underground wires and then spray paints on your grass the exact areas where the cables are running throughout your yard. As the fence installers are working, they can easily recognize where and when they are going to have to be working around these cables. Having the wires marked helps ensure a smooth fence installation process both for the fence company and the homeowner. The good news is, most reputable fence companies have insurance in place to protect against the cost of cutting expensive cables, so the homeowners are, in most cases, never liable for cable cuts.
3. Are there any utility easements on your property?
You may be wondering what exactly is a utility easement. It is not uncommon for a homeowner to have an area of their property that has power/cable lines and boxes in their yard. While this may be on your property, the utility companies have the right to access these areas anytime they want for any reason. The easiest way to think about it is that it's almost as if they co-own that portion of the land with you, and they have rights over it as well. These shared rights are especially important when it comes to installing a fence in an area that has a utility easement. You want to make sure that your new fence isn't going to hinder or obstruct the access of a utility company. Most cities declare in their regulations that if the utility company has trouble accessing an easement, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to remove the fence. We highly recommend that if you are installing a fence in or around an easement, that you ask the fence company to install removable section(s) so that if there is ever an access issue, you won't have to come out of pocket to have the fence temporarily removed.
4. Does your yard contain any areas with significant grade changes?
What both you and fence estimator should look for is any areas of the yard that have substantial changes in the surface level of the ground throughout your yard. The reason this is important is that it can affect the technique used during the fence installation process. Depending on the level of change in the grade, there are generally two ways to handle it. If the slope is severe, most fence companies will recommend each fence panel to be stepped down along the grade of the yard. The stepped down process creates triangular spaces under the bottom of the fence, which can be a crucial issue if you have small pets, but again, depending on the severity of the slope, it may be your only option. The second option, usually used in less extreme cases, would be to have the fence follow along with the grade of the ground throughout the run of the fence. Following the grade is the most common practice used in fence installations today.
5. Will the height of the fence vary throughout the yard?
This question piggybacks off the last point. You need to keep in mind, that although you purchased a 6-foot fence, the height will vary at different parts of the yard based on the grade differences we recently discussed above. In other words, the top line of the fence will most likely not be the same height throughout the yard if there are significant grade changes. When measuring the height of the fence, make sure to measure from the grade below the area in question.
6. Are gates, hardware, dirt removal, and takedown/haul away of old fence included in the fence estimate proposal?
These extras or add ons, as some fence companies call them, can add up to a significant amount. Gates and hardware, for the most part, are included inside the basic fence estimate. But things such as dirt removal and removal of an old fence are usually extras. You want to make sure to ask how much they are going to cost and make sure to get that included in the final estimate so that you have an accurate price of what the whole project is going to cost you.
7. What kind of warranty does the fence company offer?
Warranties are a sticky subject. You will usually find a lot of fine print that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. You want to ask each fence company what kind of guarantees they are offering with their fence installation. Does their warranty cover just the material used, or does it cover their labor as well? In many cases, especially with vinyl and aluminum products, there are manufacturer warranties to cover defective material. When it comes to wood, it's a more complicated issue. Wood naturally cracks, splits, and fades over time. So knowing what is covered and what is not is even more critical. What you want to make sure is that if something goes wrong, within a reasonable amount of time, the fence company is going to stand behind you and send someone out to remedy the situation.
8. How long is it going to take to get a new fence into the ground?
It depends on the time of year. In the spring and summer months, you are going to find that top-rated companies are booked out for weeks and in some cases, months. But this is not a bad sign. It's a good thing to know that so many other people are signing up to use the same company. If you are hoping to have a new fence in your backyard to enjoy during the summer months, we highly recommend that you start shopping for a new fence in early March to have it ready in time. Another thing you want to find out from the fence company is how long the actual fence installation itself is going to take once the crew arrives. Depending on the size of your backyard, most fence installations take approximately 1-2 days.