Do-It-Yourself Fences on the Cheap
by Reader Contributors
Is privacy fence installation a DIY job? Try these installation tips for affordable do-it-yourself fencing or consider one of these recommended cheap fencing alternatives.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
The house we are buying is a corner lot and we need to install a fence immediately. We have two young children and I work at home and have to have a fence. We have priced installed fencing and it could cost anywhere from $2400 to $3200 for wooden fencing. We really won’t have that much to pay out for fencing after just buying the house. We have priced the actual material and it would only cost about $1000 to $1300 for really nice fencing. I am doing a class with my husband at Home Depot on wood fence installation.
Do any of your readers have any suggestions? Is it a job that my husband and I would be capable of? My husband is quite handy, and if it’s for my own house, I will give it all I have. We don’t have any family or friends to ask to help. I was wondering about hiring one of those handymen I see advertised in the newspaper. We prefer wooden fencing but would listen to any other readers’ experiences installing any type of fencing. Was it overwhelming or was it easy? Do we really need professionals to do it? Or can we really do it ourselves?
A Do-It-Yourself Fence on the Cheap: Is It s Realistic Job for the Average Homeowner?
We asked our frugal readers to weigh in on this question. Read on for the great advice they provided, not only for the cheapest ways to build a privacy fence on your own, but also for some easy-to-do cheap fencing alternatives.
Yes You Can Install a Fence on Your Own
Yes, you can do it yourself. I’m sure the fencing class you are taking will give you more than enough information. After helping erect 500′ of 6′ tall privacy fence, I was tired, sore, and thrilled with the results. I’m a medium build/medium fitness female and if I can do it, most anyone can. My only suggestions:
- Be sure and leave adequate space between the board bottoms and the ground to prevent rot.
- It may be worthwhile to rent an auger for the day to help stand your posts.
- Don’t waste your money on pre-made fencing panels. It’s not worth the cost and the finished product is inferior to a fence made a board at a time.
Seal Your Wooden Fencing First
I like wood fencing too, but I’ve learned one thing about wood out in the openness of the outdoors. If it’s not treated properly, it’ll quickly rot!
My suggestions is that it’s worthwhile to treat it with the best wood sealant you can find. Sealing it right away can double the lifespan of the wood, and a good quality sealant can almost double the life of a cheapo type.
My hubby works in the R & D of a company that manufactures wood sealants and paints, and he’ll tell you that there’s a big difference. Also, a tip from my hubby is to treat the wood before you put the fence together. By doing it that way, it’s quicker to apply and you get down into the cracks better, so your fence will last longer.
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Consider Chain Link Fencing
I would strongly urge Catherine and her husband to consider a 6-foot chain link fence rather than wood. I moved to this house 27 years ago when my kids were ages one and three. Our house backs up to a utility right of way so we decided to put chain link across the back and wood on each side; the neighbors wanted to split the cost of the sides but wanted wood. We are on our third wooden fence, but the chain link section is in perfect condition. You can plant vines or shrubs if you want complete privacy.
Rent the Proper Tools to Install a Fence
We installed a wooden fence two years ago, and the job wasn’t so hard. The best tip I can give you is to rent an auger! It drills the holes for you because you have to cement the posts. We had our fence up in less than two weeks and that was just working on it on weekends.
D.W. in Napavine, WA
We’ve Done It But You Might Want to Hire Help
It is a lot of work to put up a wooden fence, but it can be done. To say that it is easy would be a lie, but my husband and I are both in our 50s and we have done it before and will do it again when we need new fencing.
An easier way of doing it would be to hire someone to put up the post and set them in concrete and then rent a nail gun to put up the individual planks and do that yourself. It goes very quickly that way.
Check Building Codes
I think you should be able to do the fencing yourselves with the class you are taking. But, check your local building codes to make sure what kind of fence you are allowed to put up or how high it can be. Otherwise, you could end up tearing it back down and/or paying a hefty fine.
Cost Reduction Strategies
We had to replace our fencing recently and I did a little research to try to alleviate the cost.
First, I assume that you do not have an old fence to tear down, which is an additional cost if a professional does the work. We had a fence removal party with neighbors.
Second, wood fencing provides immediate privacy, but will deteriorate after awhile and need to be replaced usually before the metal fencing. Metal lasts longer and is usually less expensive to install.
Third, the variable is the installation, and the difficulty in installing either is about equal. Cementing posts with wood or metal is about the same. Dig the hole, level the post, and fill with cement. It is quite a bit of work, and harder than it seems. Since the wood fence comes in sections, it is bulkier, but so is chain link. Professionals will want to measure before giving an estimate.
There are lots of options to bring the cost down, like removing the old fencing yourself, clearing the area where the new fence is be placed, knowing your materials so you know what is and is not a good buy, and keeping old posts which are still good.
Also, hauling the old fence away will save money. Our pickup service charges for removing large pieces of fence material. You may even save money by providing some of the materials, but it’s a good idea to ask.
The best way to start is to measure the area to be fenced and price materials. Once you have an idea of the cost of supplies, you can then “test” price installers. We found a reliable installer to put up a cypress fence. We already had a solid, reliable gate with cement footers, which my husband had put in place, and that helped keep the cost down.
After the fence was up, I put plastic edging material under it all the way around to deter water absorption, which is what hastens wood rot. While the fence was being put up, which took about a week in all, we put up a temporary fence with chicken wire and 4′ wood stakes to keep our four legged dependents within boundaries.
Be Sure to Consider the Maintenance a Wooden Fence Will Require
I’ve built a couple of wooden fences over 20 years; we don’t own that house anymore but I do visit and I’m happy to say the first redwood one still looks classy and great. On a humorous note, it was one of our first projects as a married couple and we ended up calling time out and retreating to separate ends of the ranch. (We couldn’t agree on where the property line was; my husband wanted to err on the side of caution and set the fence several inches inside the line; I was determined not to give up that property! We survived and learned from the experience.)
Our newer cedar fence has me worried about longevity. Wooden fences do require maintenance and waterproofing, and wood in the U.S. is getting poorer in quality and higher in cost. The lumber yard sales force looks at us sideways when we ask about redwood now. I’ve taken a look at the ready-made sections at the stores; to me, they’re expensive, poorly built, of poor quality wood, and already warped before you take them home! I just passed one this morning, not too old, and a whole section was curled at the bottom. Of course, they provide instant gratification. Check quality very closely before you buy. Sort and pick the best of the best. Look at the rings at the end of the boards; you want pieces cut out of the center of the tree or near to it.
If you plan to stay in this house a long time, eventually you might have to replace or tear down a wooden fence. If you’re staying only a few years, you’ll probably get your money back as a property improvement. But when the fence starts wearing, it can become an eyesore. So maintain it.
Look at other alternatives. Welded wire to keep the kids and dogs in backed by a quick-growing shrub to camouflage the wire can be quite attractive in an older neighborhood. We just installed a white vinyl picket fence at our new house. (Never thought we’d do that as we both shudder at vinyl, but the quality and looks are superb.) It’s usually quite expensive; I waited for a sale at one store and asked for a price match at a competitor. I saved bundles of money (I got the sections for close to the store’s cost) and am not worried about growing old in this house and having to replace this fence. (See Affordable Fencing Options: Protection and Privacy for Less.)
If you decide on a wooden do-it-yourself fence or deck, I have a suggestion. Don’t use concrete to set the fence posts. Pack the holes with sand. It’s not just the money in materials or time saved or the problem in sloping the concrete away from the post at the bottom of a hole. Your fence posts will be sturdier and more durable. When we were building our first fence, we got this advice from a friend who had grown up on a farm and set thousands of posts. Just dig the holes, add some gravel, a little sand, set the post in and tamp the hole’s sides with sand, leveling as you go. When the hole is full and the post is level, water the sand in to pack it. In termite areas, add a little pesticide to the water, even for treated posts. I can’t guarantee results for others, but our posts haven’t rotted off at the concrete and have always withstood very heavy wind storms when our neighbors’ concrete-set posts gave way.
Reviewed September 2021
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