How to Approach Your Neighbors About Building a Fence
You’ve probably heard the axiom, Good fences make good neighbors. It’s the truth, and for more reasons than one. Building a fence without first communicating with your neighbors, or building a poorly constructed fence, can unnecessarily sour relations with neighbors.
However, by understanding the potential pitfalls of building a fence, and by approaching the situation well-prepared and open-minded, you can ensure your new fence will look good, serve its purpose and be enjoyed by all.
Anticipate Obstacles to Your Fence
When building a fence, one of the best ways to avoid major problems is to know what kinds of obstacles you may face. Most problems fall into one of two main categories: construction and communication.
Construction problems can often be easily foreseen and dealt with. If you are planning on hiring a professional to build your fence, make sure the company has a number of positive references and, if available, good standing with the Better Business Bureau. Shopping around will help you find the best services for the best price.
Building your own fence is a major construction project. It’s important to have all the right tools, fencing materials and know-how. If you aren’t 100 percent sure of your construction abilities, hire a professional.
Communication problems between you and your neighbors or city zoning officials can be another source of complication along the way. Check with your local and state law libraries to find out if there are any regulations specific to your property. In some cases, the law may require your neighbor to pay for some of the construction costs. Whatever the case, knowing the fence building regulations before you approach your neighbors will help you prevent potential problems.
How you approach your neighbors plays a big part in how your new fencing project will be received. If you don’t know your neighbors very well, you may want to start by hosting a dinner party or barbeque in attempt to build a friendship. Once you’ve established a positive relationship, it should be a lot easier to approach your neighbors with your plans.
If you’re already on good terms, try to predict how they will react to the situation and approach them accordingly. Some neighbors will want to help with construction and some may be willing to split the costs, while still others still may want nothing to do with the project. Be prepared for any number of reactions.
Assuming the cost of the fence from the get-go is a great way to help prevent awkward neighbor relations. While the law may require a neighbor to pay for part of the fence’s construction and maintenance, you should never initially approach a neighbor with this in mind. The most diplomatic approach is to plan to foot the whole bill yourself.
Design With Everyone in Mind
Once you’ve opened up lines of communication with your neighbors, keep them open as you set about choosing a fence design. Cedar fences are some of the most popular available, and for good reason. Cedar is one of the most attractive, sturdy types of wood you can find, and a solid-style cedar fence is a great option for parents, pet owners and people who want privacy.
The popular “Good Neighbor” fence is another great cedar option. These fences appear the same from both sides, which means all neighbors involved get a nice view, and they provide a sturdy barrier without giving your yard a boxed-in feel. If you and your neighbor are sharing responsibility for the project, this fence style can reflect your cooperation. If you’re building the fence on your own, choosing a Good Neighbor fence can be a gesture of goodwill.
Do you want a more decorative, ornate fence? Consider a lattice-top, picket or split rail fence. The lattice-top fence offers privacy, while a traditional picket fence or split rail fence can add charm and whimsy to any yard.
Whatever type of fence you decide on, do your best to ensure your neighbors aren’t at odds with it, especially if they’re sharing construction costs.
Keep Up on Maintenance
So you’ve spoken with your neighbors, picked the type of fence you want and hired the perfect construction company. You’re done, right? Wrong. A fence is not just a one-time investment.
Cedar fences require maintenance and occasional repair, especially in areas with extreme weather. Allowing your fence to fall into disrepair can frustrate your neighbors, whereas keeping up on maintenance will demonstrate your commitment to a fence that looks great for everyone involved.
If you have included your neighbors in the construction process or costs, you should work out an agreement about maintenance and repair. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a legal document, but it’s good to get something down on paper to help avoid confusion and conflict in the future.
Building a fence, with or without your neighbors’ input or approval, can be a challenging, time-consuming task. Approach the project and the people involved with a good attitude, keep an open mind and be ready to compromise on some things, and you’ll do just fine.
~Ben Nystrom, 2010