You may think replacing your fence will be more expensive than repairing it. In many cases, this is true, but not always. To determine which option is cheaper (or better, overall), there are several factors to examine. Let’s look at some of them here.
One of the main costs of any construction project is materials. With a fence project, materials
include not only your fence itself (whether it’s made of wood, vinyl, or aluminum) but also fasteners, fence posts, and fence caps. Other “materials” not included in your fence project might include gravel or mulch for landscaping around the fence, new plants, or grass seed. Don’t forget your first coat of paint or stain if your fence is made from wood!
When installing a new fence, all of these materials are needed. A new fence will likely have a higher materials cost due to there being… well, more material involved in a from-scratch operation. Posts, panels or pickets, fasteners, gates, latches, post caps, and all the accoutrements of a beautiful fence need to be ordered or manufactured by your fence professional. If you are installing a new fence design, or need a specialty fence like a stepped fence, you may also want to incorporate landscaping into the design, which will be a separate cost.
If you choose to repair a fence, you’ll need fewer materials. If you’re lucky and all of your fence posts are in perfect shape, you may only need to replace some panels or pickets, which will cost less than completely new posts, panels and pickets. Depending on the condition of your fence, you might have damaged or missing post caps or hardware, too. Unfortunately, the age of your fence or the original installation might mean you have greater expense in sourcing matching parts. If you (or the previous homeowner) used a generic installation company, you might not know the brand of fence that was installed. This makes finding a perfect match more difficult. If the company that manufactured your fence is out of business or no longer making that style you might also incur a greater expense since the pickets or panels might be rare.
When it comes to labor costs, it’s easy to assume that installing more fence = more labor. Technically, yes, installing an entirely new fence takes time. It might not take as much time as repairing a fence, though! Labor costs are entirely dependent on the difficulty and time spent working on your fence.
If you are looking at labor for a new fence installation, the estimate is pretty straight-forward. A professional fence installation company will be able to measure your yard, account for any unique features, and estimate how long the job will take based on the linear footage of fence you are installing. A typical job, for example, might be 200 feet of fence, and might take 1-2 days to install.
When estimating labor for a fence repair, many things are an unknown. Your fence contractor
may discover the extent of your fence damage is much greater than anticipated, leading you to have to replace more parts, which require more time. Your contractor may also have to disassemble a lot of your fence in order to replace parts, like fence posts, and then put it back together, which can take almost twice as much time as just installing a new fence! If your fence has warped or discolored, your installer might also spend more time trying to match and reshape the pieces that need replacement so the final product looks seamless, and not just patched together.
Don’t forget the DIY option!
DIYing your fence, either new or repaired, can save you money on labor costs. Since you’ve probably, likely, never installed a fence before, it will take you longer than a professional installer to do it. If time isn’t an issue for you or there’s no deadline for when you need to get your fence installed, you can definitely save money here. Since your labor cost is, essentially, free, it’s quite a savings over professional installation. Just keep in mind that your investment will be in time, rather than money, and your time may be worth more than several evenings and weekends entirely in the yard!
When DIYing, you may also spend more on materials than a contractor. Due to volume discounts, contractors can often purchase materials for less than the general public. If purchasing materials on your own, see if you can find wholesale pricing or a retailer who will deliver all the materials you need for one low price.
When pricing replacement fence installation, consider the following items as well:
Rocks or obstacles
If you have a tree you’re intent on saving, even though it’s on your property line, your fence will have to go around it, requiring more materials and likely more labor. Boulders, landscaping, existing building or other obstacles can mean similar cost increases when you are replacing a fence with a new one.
If your yard is on a slope or uneven you may face some challenges when installing a fence. “Challenges” is a word that usually means “expenses” in the fence world. You can contour a fence to hug the terrain, or you can install a stepped fence on a severe slope. Both options may require more labor or materials, which will be accounted for when you get an estimate for a replacement fence.
Ask your fence installer about whether they will work with your municipality to acquire a permit for your job. A new fence will need a permit, but if you are replacing an old fence in the same exact spot with the same dimensions, you may be okay. Repairing a fence, of course, will not require this additional expense. If you are installing your own fence, you will be responsible for the permit as well.
Whether or not you repair or replace your fence depends on many things, not the least of which is the condition of your current fence. With the right professionals on your side and a little knowledge about fences, you can make the best – and most economical – choice.