So you’re thinking about building your own fence. It’s an excellent project for a home handy-person and doesn’t require lots of special equipment. You could hire a contractor to install a fence, but if you’re trying to save money, it could be worth your while to build one yourself.
It is cheaper to build and install your own fence, but depending on how skilled you are at carpentry it could cost you a lot of time. You should also consider the value a well-made fence adds to your home, and whether you have the skills needed to install it correctly.
Let’s look at some of the advantages of building your own fence, some downsides, and what you should consider before starting your fence project.
How Much Does It Cost To Build Your Own Fence?
There are a few factors that determine the cost of fence materials. Mainly the materials, length, style, and height of the fence.
Home advisor prices a new wooden fence between $1,674 and $4,020 for materials only. Let’s look at what causes this disparity.
You have a lot to choose from whether you pay for installation or build your fence yourself.
The materials are going to make a significant price difference, and you may not want to risk ruining high-quality materials if you’re not an experienced DIYer.
Here’s a general breakdown of the cost of different fence materials, according to an average at US Home Depot.
- Pickets vs. panels. Yes, it’s cheaper to buy the pickets and lumber instead of purchasing pre-made panels. It allows for more customization, and you can even space the pickets farther apart to save on material cost. However, this could save you a ton of time in the long run, and you already know it looks even and professionally done.
- Spruce. Spruce or whitewood fences are popular and affordable but not as durable as other woods. You can find pickets as low as $3 each, and panels start around $40. Sometimes, professionals will suggest you use a less expensive wood, like spruce for the fence posts. If you’re treating this as a ‘practice’ DIY build, spruce is a good way to ease into construction – you don’t have to be afraid of wasting expensive materials.
- Redwood. This is a beautiful wood but on the expensive side. The price of redwood tends to fluctuate depending on your area and the time of year. So, you’ll need to treat this wood to keep it looking great for years, as the red color can fade with age.
- Red and white cedar. Red cedar is one of the most durable woods and is a good choice for decking and other outdoor projects. Red cedar has a nice natural color but is more expensive than other wood options. White cedar is less expensive but doesn’t hold up as well as red cedar.
- Pressure treated wood. For a wooden fence that lasts and resists decay and rot, pressure-treated pickets are a great choice. They’re still economical, but you may wish to stain them, driving up the price of your project.
- Vinyl. Vinyl is a good option for the less experienced DIYer. You can find it in pre-fab panels, and sometimes you can even get whole kits with the posts and everything included. Vinyl panels come in tons of colors, styles and textures, and you don’t have to worry about staining or painting. They last a long time and look good for years.
- Chainlink. Chainlink and aluminum fencing is comparable to wood fencing but serve a different purpose. You’ll still have to install posts, but generally, just use cement on the corner posts. This makes it more economical and easier to install.
The type of fence determines how much wood you’ll need and whether you’ll be better off hiring pros to install the fence for you.
- Privacy fence. This takes the most amount of wood because they completely block the view of your yard. They’re often six-foot (1.83-meter) pickets with option lattice panels at the top, which increases the cost of raw materials even more.
- Classic picket fence. These take fewer materials and can range from four feet to six feet (1.23 to 1.83 meters). It’s still going to take some skill to install correctly. The great thing about building your own picket fence is that you can put the pickets as far apart as you like.
- Split rail. This rustic-looking fence is straightforward. It is connected by two to four horizontal beams. They’re usually used to keep animals from straying off property but can be an attractive border. This is a more manageable fence for a handy person to build.
- Custom fencing. If you’re crafty or an experienced woodworker, this could be where building your own fence really pays off. Professionals will charge a premium for funky designs or large scalloped fences. However, if you’re dreaming of a different-looking, totally custom fence, and you don’t know what you’re doing, this could end up costing you a ton in wasted materials, time, and effort.
3. Length and Height
The taller your fence, the more expensive it will be, but also the trickier to install. You may save a lot of time by hiring a crew to install the six-foot (1.83 meters) privacy fence.
The larger the yard, the more materials you’ll need. Here’s a handy fencing calculator from the Home Depot.
Keep in mind, the cost of fencing depends on the time of year and your location.
What Tools and Other Materials Do I Need to Install a Fence?
Don’t forget – your fence takes more than just lumber. You’ll also need a few tools, fasteners, and concrete.
Plus, if you’re taking down an old fence, you’ll have to add in extra time, an extra pair of hands and possibly specialty fencing tools.
- Concrete. This might not be a considerable expense, but it’s probably not something you have just lying around. You’ll need between one and four 50-pound (22.68-kg)bags of concrete per fence post, depending on the size of your fence and posts. Buy a quick setting concrete.
- Fasteners. You need nails and screws for securing boards and attaching trim. Generally, you’ll use two-inch (5.08-cm) deck screws to affix panels and shorter screws for attaching pickets. Building a fence with pre-fab panels takes fewer fasteners.
- Power tools. A fence has a lot of fasteners, and it would take you an unbelievably long time with just a hammer and nails. This is where you want a nail gun, power drill, or screw gun. You can rent these tools, but the longer the fence takes, the more expensive renting becomes. If you buy all of the new, it adds considerable cost to your project.
- Augur and post-hole digger. Depending on how rocky your yard is, you’ll need something to dig your post holes. This is not an easy task, even for a crew, so besides renting one of these tools, you also may need one.
- A friend. Building a fence is a lot of work, and many of the steps are nearly impossible to do alone. This means you have to ask a friend or hire some help. Especially if you have tough soil and need someone to help use the augur.
- A permit. You need a permit for that new fence almost anywhere you’re building. This cost is on you either way, but it’s essential you understand local building codes, call before you dig (for utility lines) and get your own permit.
The Cheapest Fence To Build
When you take in all these factors, the cheapest fence you can build on your own has these characteristics:
- Inexpensive wood. Choose spruce or a wood that is inexpensive in your area.
- Simple design. Classic picket fences or split rail fences take less time and less materials.
- Short. A four-foot fence is considerably less expensive than a six-foot privacy fence.
Upfront costs are easy to bring down by using less materials and getting your fence installed quicker.
However, in the long run, a hard-wearing, good-looking and highly functional fence is a much better value.
Is It Worth It To Build Your Own Fence?
Cost savings isn’t the only reason you might elect to build your own fence.
There is something special about a construction project around the house done 100% by you.
1. Get To Know Your Property
Building your own fence requires you to understand where the border of your yard is (you’ll have to go to the county recorder’s office), which is valuable information – you might learn something new about your own backyard.
You need to call before you dig to have the utility company mark where lines and pipes run. This is also good information for any future projects.
You will discover the landscape of your yard. How even is it? How rocky is the soil? Understanding the makeup and terrain of your lawn is excellent information any DIYer should know.
2. Totally Custom Fencing
You decide the exact height and style. Hardware stores often offer pre-made fence panels, but if you’re making your own fence, you can build it out however you like.
Sure, you can hire a contractor who can build custom fencing, but it’s usually costly and can be limited depending on where you live.
3. A Good Starting Point for Home Improvement
If you’re just branching out into construction or DIY home improvement, a small fence is an excellent place to start.
A decorative picket fence around a porch or a simple split-rail border fence is achievable by a beginner.
Take some pride in your home, and enjoy the satisfaction of having a functional and beautiful structure built by hand.
Does Building a Fence Add Value to Your Home?
Most professionals agree, the type of fence matters. Nonfunctional fences and chain link fences (even though they provide function) don’t tend to increase value in upscale neighborhoods.
Fences can increase the value of your home, sometimes as much as 50% of the cost of your fence building materials, if the fence is needed. Some value-added fences include:
- A privacy fence around a yard with a pool or hot tub.
- Quality fences that lend to the specific style of architecture of the home.
- Homes with non-obvious property lines.
Then of course it comes down to the individual home buyers.
Some buyers need a fence, usually for dogs or children, and a fenced-in backyard is extremely appealing, but if a fence doesn’t serve the potential buyers, it could be seen as simply an eyesore.
A poorly installed, inappropriate, or falling-down fence can certainly decrease the value and curb appeal of your home.
A fence should be attractive, well-maintained, and serve a purpose.
Can You Install a Fence Yourself?
All these things really begin to add up from the style and material to the size of your yard and soil.
If you’re still ‘on the fence about building your own fence or hiring it out, consider some of the following factors.
1. How Experienced Are You?
This is very important. A good carpenter or someone experienced with DIY can handle a basic fence easily. However, if you’re setting out on your home improvement journey for the first time, a fence can be a difficult task that takes many, many hours. You might also end up wasting materials, installing posts incorrectly, and putting large holes in your yard. All this eats up time and money. Consider pre-made panels.
Doing a fence yourself might also leave your yard in a state of limbo for weeks and weeks, something your neighbors might not appreciate. Is it worth the cost savings if it starts a fight?
2. How Much Is Your Time Worth?
Some people will want to build their own fence just for the joy and challenge of it. If your only consideration is cost-saving, you are likely going to end up ‘paying’ yourself the very bare minimum to put up that fence. A good contractor should be able to put up even a six-foot fence in a matter of days.
3. How Custom Do You Want Your Fence?
If you’ve got the skill to put together a fancy fence – do it. This service costs a premium in labor and where you’ll get the most cost savings if you can do it competently. Conversely, if you have high expectations for the style of your fence and have minimal experience, this is going to end up costing a ton in wasted time and materials.
4. What Is Your Yard Like?
It becomes much harder to install a fence in rocky soil and on uneven ground. Professional contractors know precisely what to look for and how to install in tricky yards. If you’re unsure how to navigate your property – you probably will waste a lot of time and materials.
5. Do You Need To Remove Old Fencing?
If you have to remove fence posts, you’ll at least need a friend, and it isn’t a job for just anyone. When you figure in the cost of renting tools and a helping hand, you might better hire a contractor.
You might get a warranty on work from your contractor, which is insurance you won’t have when you do it yourself. If you’re not 100% confident in your DIY abilities, this is something to consider. Some prefabricated and vinyl fencing also comes with a warranty if professionally installed.
Best Ways To Save on Your Fence
There are some benefits to building your own fence if you’re trying to save money. Even if you don’t make it entirely from scratch, there are some ways you can cut down on costs.
- Fewer pickets. While posts shouldn’t be farther than eight feet (2.44 meters) apart, there’s really no rule about how many pickets you need. Buying panels forces you into a standard number of pickets, and they’re often flush, but if you build it yourself, feel free to space them as far apart as you like.
- Cheaper posts. Fence posts come in different shapes and materials. Even if you opt for a more expensive picket fence, the posts can be less expensive wood for cost-saving. Round posts are generally cheaper.
- Hire a contractor during the winter. This is an easy one – there’s less demand for landscaping and construction projects in colder months. Take advantage of the off-season with a lower quote. It’s also a good time to hire an hourly worker if you just need an extra set of hands.
- Use recycled materials. You can find pallets for free if you’ve got the skill and ambition to turn them into fencing. You can also use recycled metal sheeting. Always run your more creative ideas past your neighbors. No one wants to start a fight over a fence.
- Do part of the fence yourself. If you’ve got the tools and skills for one part of your fence but not another, you can hire a contractor for any step you don’t feel able to do by yourself. Have a crew install just the fence posts, so you have a solid place to start and save money attaching the rails or pickets yourself. This also saves on expensive tool rental.
- Grow a privacy hedge. There are tons of options for attractive shrubs and evergreens that can create a beautiful living privacy fence. Use it for part of your fence or border your entire lawn. Some plants take longer to grow than others, but it’s a longer-lasting and cheaper option than a fence. However, unlike a fence, these hedges take regular maintenance.
- Rent or borrow your tools. Power staple guns, nail guns, hole diggers, and other power tools are expensive, and if you don’t already have them in your workshop, buying them, all new, will set you back. Rent and borrow whenever you don’t think you’ll use the tool regularly.
- Choose and pick up wood easily available in your area. Wood costs vary across the country. Get to know what’s available at a good value near you, and save money on shipping by picking up the lumber yourself.
Building a wood fence or installing a metal fence yourself will cost less out of pocket but is it worth it? This depends on your experience. Consider the following:
- Do you have the experience?
- Is it worth your time?
- Are you physically capable?
- Are there easier ways to save on your fence?
It never hurts to get a quote. Find a fence calculator to get an idea of what fence materials would cost in your area.
Always call before you dig, and check out your property lines and building codes before starting any project.
Cheers, tools owners!