Aside from buying your home, one of the most significant purchases you’ll make to further invest in your property is buying a fence. Whether it’s for additional security, privacy or keeping your children and pets safe inside your yard, buying a fence requires a homeowner to weigh in on a lot of factors before making an informed buying decision. Perhaps the most important question to answer is who will do the job, which can create confusion if you happen to have multiple vendors providing you estimates.
If you’re in the market for a fence this year, here are some tips to help you select the right fence contractor to work with you and your family so that the entire process, from negotiation to installation to maintenance, is as painless as possible. These are things we tell all our clients because we want our customers to feel safe and secure when they sign a contract with us since that fence will be around for many years. First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible!
Below are some tips we tell many of our clients to consider before hiring a fence contractor:
Do your homework
Before you make that first phone call, you should spend some time doing research and find out everything you can about the fence contractors you will invite to provide you an estimate. Doing this helps narrow down the list of companies who will visit your home, which can save you a great deal of time. Here are some things to consider when doing your research:
Does the fence contractor have a website? Nowadays any fence contractor worth contacting ought to have a website that highlights what the company offers and provides you with some details on the types of fences they can build. You should also get an idea from their website as to who the management team is, how long the company has been in business and what their service area is.
Can you see examples of the company’s portfolio? Not all fence contractors understand that a picture is worth a thousand words. You should easily see sample projects on the website. If there are none readily available, check to see how long the company has been in business.
What kind of reputation does the fence contractor have? Thanks to the internet, it’s pretty easy to learn what past customers think of a contractor. You now have places like Angie’s List that post customer ratings online. You may also want to head over to the regional version of Consumer Reports called The Washington Checkbook, which does a great job of researching service providers and offers a great education on what you need to know about fence contractors and pricing options. This site also provides information from the Better Business Bureau, making it a highly valuable resource to reinforce your overall impression of the company. One other thing to do is ask your neighbors, friends and family who live in the same area as you about the company. Most fence contractors place a small sign on your fence that lets people know who built it; we often tell clients to walk through their neighborhood to look at our past projects and to ask the homeowner what their experience was like. If you can’t find any information about the company, ask yourself why you would do business with them.
Setting your first appointment with a fencing contractor
Once you’ve done your initial homework and are ready to make that initial call to set up an estimate, here are some things to think about as you’re scheduling your appointment to know you’re working with the right company:
Do you get a live person when you call and/or a professional sounding voice mail? This one may not seem obvious to you, but anyone in the fencing industry ought to have someone there to take your call, or a professional voice mail message should you reach them after hours. If you call and you don’t hear the name of the company in the message or you get a mechanical greeting, chances are you may be talking to a company of one, which should raise a red flag in terms of the quality of service. While there are some reputable small companies out there, make sure you’re dealing with an actual company and not someone’s cell phone. We’ve seen “weekend warriors,” or DIY experts who think they can put up a fake company site and try to sell services (with not a lot of options) to unsuspecting homeowners. Make sure you’re dealing with a true company that can handle your needs.
Does the company work with your schedule? If the contractor says you need to wait two to three weeks for an appointment or they can see you only between certain hours or only one day a week, hang up and move on. These small companies may not be able to handle more than a few clients at a time, meaning that if you have to wait for an appointment to get an estimate, you could be waiting a lot longer for your fence installation. A professional company always works with your schedule.
Can you opt to visit the company and see their showroom? If you want to see all the various options and samples, go visit the company’s showroom. At Frederick Fence, we love it when customers come see us because sometimes they need to see and touch every kind of material to get a sense of what kind of fence to build. When you can see portions of a wood fence or vinyl fence up close, it’s much easier to know what fencing materials will work on your property.
Meeting your fencing contractor for the first time
When a contractor comes to your home to measure a fence and provide an estimate, this is often where you can truly tell if you’ve invited the right company to support your home improvement and fencing needs. You should look for someone who is professionally dressed who represents his or her company well. Just like any service organization, a professional fence installation contractor should send its team out with business cards, marketing collateral and the technology to measure your property and tools to write up an estimate for you. Unless a job is highly complex or you want a ton of options to consider, most contractors can either print out or email you an estimate while they are in your home. Some other things to consider are:
Do they show up on time or at least call if they are running late? If you’re appointment is at 6 PM, that’s when you should expect the contractor to show up. A professional company should recognize your time is important and keep the appointment as scheduled. However, things do happen, so if someone is running late, they ought to call you to make sure the new time works or reschedule. If they schedule an appointment and never show up, chances are you won’t want to call back and reschedule!
Does the contractor demonstrate their expertise? Even if a company’s been around for quite a few years, make sure the person providing you an estimate truly knows about the product lines they are selling. If someone cannot explain the difference between pressure-treated wood and vinyl, then you know you’re dealing with someone who is not well versed in fencing materials.
Does the contractor provide you a written estimate? Never accept an estimate without getting it in writing. A reputable fence contractor will provide you with an estimate that should properly itemize what you’re buying—and it should include the labor and fence materials. If you get an estimate with just a fixed price without details, you may have no idea what you’re really buying. Additionally, that estimate should also provide you with some form of a written warranty in case you need any repair work done on the fence. Recognize that a wood fence has a lower warranty period than a vinyl or aluminum fence, but a professional fence contractor will cover repairs for at least a year or more.
Does the contractor respect your decision-making process? If a contractor requires you to make an immediate decision to get a special price or if they do not respect that you may need to sit and work with your family to review the budget for this type of purchase, that’s a sign that you need another vendor to give you an estimate. You should never feel pressured when buying a fence—this is such a major purchase that it is worth taking an extra moment to commit because this fence will last for years. You don’t want to get rushed into a decision you could regret later on.
Good questions to ask any fence contractor
In addition to feeling good about the negotiation process for purchasing a fence, you should also feel comfortable asking certain questions that will let you know if the contractor is a good fit for installing a fence on your property. Bear in mind that there are no right answers to these questions; a fence contractor representing an honest and decent fence company should have no problems answering them! In this case, it’s what you don’t hear that should raise a red flag about the contractor!
Here are some questions to ask:
- How high does the fence need to be?
- How do you deal with sloped terrain or rocky areas?
- How environmentally friendly are your materials?
- Does the fence need to touch the ground?
- Are your installers employees or do you hire independent contractors for your installation?
- Do you pull permits and call Miss Utility for me?
- Does this estimate include the pricing for gates and hardware?
- How long will I have to wait to get on the installation schedule?
- How many days will it take to do the build?
- What are the payment terms for your work?
- What kind of financing plans do you offer?
- Do you haul away old materials if you are replacing my current fence?
- What do I need to do to prepare my property for installation?
- What happens if someone breaks something by accident?
- How often do you finish your jobs on time?
Ready to work with the best fence contractor?
If you’re ready to get started on your fence project and want to work with a company with years of experience, strong expertise, and knowledgeable fence designers and installers, then contact us today and one of our consultants will be glad to work with you. Frederick Fence can easily address all of these and any other questions you may have as we’ve been in business for more than thirty years! In fact, I encourage you to read about our amazing team on our About Us page as we have some of the top fence experts who are dedicated to providing you with an amazing fence at an affordable price!