On the fence: what you need to know before you wall in your property

As spring starts to arrive in Calgary, homeowners might be looking ahead to the warmer months and the possibilities for home improvement or building something new on their property.

Many of the most popular projects involve fences, whether building new or breathing life into an old one. However, fence building can be fraught with frustrations: Who is responsible for fence construction between two properties? What are the costs? What should it be made of?

Here are some key considerations to think about before beginning any fence project, big or small.

Materials
Hardware stores like Home Depot and Rona sell fencing packages that are pre-configured and help reduce costs. Deciding which materials to use can be difficult, but the main options are cedar, wrought iron, vinyl and aluminum. Regardless of the material, fences need to be maintained over each season to extend their life.

“Treated cedar is usually the most cost effective and will last between 10 and 15 years if properly cared for,” said Ray Vodden, a sales specialist at Rona in Calgary.

“Sight lines for vehicles and pedestrians are a safety concern and fences cannot inhibit the view.” – Leanna McMillan, City of Calgary media relations

Cost
Fencing costs will largely depending on the materials used in construction and the area being fenced in. For eight linear feet of standard brown treated cedar, which is one of the most common in Calgary, the cost would be $150 plus a gate package at $200. Multiplying this by the number of feet on your property should provide a fair approximation of total cost.

Choosing another building material might lower your costs, but the resulting fence could be less than ideal for cold weather. “With vinyl and aluminum … You have the problem with hot to cold, so it’s not designed to go between those temperatures,” said Vodden. “Aluminum will discolour over time as well.”

Permits and bylaw
There are several bylaw considerations that need to be respected when planning a new fence. According to the City of Calgary, fence heights should be two metres for the backyard, 1.5 metres in the front and gates should be no more than 2.5 metres. Posts must be dug four feet deep in order to avoid frost damage.

Calgarians can always call 311 with specific questions or to deal with any issues that appear.

Common issues
Disputes between neighbours over fences are a matter for civil courts and not under the purview of the City of Calgary. However, there are other issues where the City may be forced to intervene.

“One consideration that often surprises homeowners on corner lots is the corner visibility triangle,” said Leanna McMillan, a media relations contact with the City of Calgary. “Sight lines for vehicles and pedestrians are a safety concern and fences cannot inhibit the view.”

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