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  • Writer's pictureMicah Taintor

Location, Location, Location - Where Should I Put My Fence?

There are many factors to consider when building a new fence. The location of the fence is one of the most important, up there with deciding which material to use. The most common placement of residential fences encloses the entire rear yard - going next to the property lines on the sides and back of the property. Unfortunately, enclosing the backyard isn’t always that simple. With no outside factors, such as the city, county or a Home Owners Association (HOA) telling you where to put it, there are still some decisions that need to be made. Some are aesthetic: if your neighbor’s fence comes to a certain spot you may want to match it. Are there trees or landscaping you want to blend in with? Others are functional: do you want the water spigot on the inside or the outside of the fence? Do you want your air conditioning unit where your kids or your neighbor’s kids will be able to put Legos in it? Will your dog be able to escape under the raised deck? These are things that we can help you consider and adjust the fence to match your needs. Your governing jurisdiction (i.e. city, county etc.) will also have some *opinions* on your fence location. Typically, they will not allow more than a 4’ tall fence in a front yard. They may also have a certain setback requirement near sidewalks, detention ponds, etc. For instance, you may need to “setback” 10 feet from a city pond, even if your property line is only 5’ from the pond. Utility companies, although necessary for a good quality of life in our day-to-day living, can make fence installation challenging. Before we start building a fence, we always call 811 “Iowa One Call.” Municipal utility providers (such as electric, water and sewer) will typically mark their own buried lines. Third party locating vendors such as Vanguard and USIC will often mark utilities such as internet, gas and electric if not owned by a municipality (such as Mediacom and Mid-American Energy). These lines may be buried anywhere in the yard, but are often found near property lines (where you want the fence to go….rats). If the lines are marked within 18 inches of where our posts will go, we must carefully dig by hand to make sure we do not damage them. Due to the extra labor and reduced efficiency from not being able to use power augers and post pounders, those “hand-dig” holes will cost extra. If you find that the utilities run next to your planned fence line and you do not want to pay for hand digs, you may choose to move your fence location. Another way utilities make fencing interesting is their placement of utility boxes. Given that utility workers will need access to those boxes at some point, we need to ensure the fence allows for that; otherwise, they may tear the fence down to get where they need to be. The fence near an electrical box should be 10’ from the front where they open it (the padlock side), and 3’ from the other sides. Other utilities’ clearance is typically 3’ from all sides. This can usually be accomplished by doing a “dog ear” corner where we cut the corner in front of the box and go diagonally across to meet the other side. The other option is to jog around it by using several right angle corners to go around the utility box and meet the rest of the fenceline. A final consideration for your fence location is your landscaping and plants. Sometimes, especially on properties adjacent to forested areas, a tree might be on the property line, or branches can be in the way of the fence. You can decide whether to remove the tree or change fence location. Relatedly, sometimes a fence location decision should anticipate future growth. Trees are amazingly adept at growing through whatever is in their way, including fences. In order to secure the future structural integrity of the fence, we recommend going around trees instead of trying to go through them. Once you’ve decided on the fence location, gate location would be the next decision to make. Most people prefer to have one gate on each side of the house, but you may want more or less depending on preferences for dog or kid access. Or, you may want a large double gate to allow vehicle or large riding mower access. When possible, avoid putting a gate on a corner because corner hinge posts have less structural stability than “in-line” gates with connecting fencing. If the corner post will support hinges, the post may need to be a heavier gauge to prevent deflection and the concrete footing may need to be deeper. On the flip side, if using the corner as the latch post, carefully planning should be done to ensure proper function of the latch, since a latch could hit the fencing running at a 90 degree angle to the gate. Lastly, we recommend putting gates on as flat a spot as is available. We can build or custom-order sloped gates, but for your ease of access, flatter is better. These are some of the key things to consider for your fence project. We are happy to help you find the ideal location for your fence and gates.

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