For those who like to define their spaces, good fences make good neighbors. They keep children and pets safe in the yard and keep strangers out. They shield private activities from prying eyes. They create boundaries for outdoor spaces, providing privacy and security around dining areas and gardens. Yet, when fences start showing signs of age or sustain damage in a storm or accident, they cannot do their job. It’s time to repair them — but with the wide variety of types of damage and associated repairs, there is also a wide range of costs to anticipate.
When calculating the cost to repair a fence, take into account the fence’s design and material as well as the cost of labor to complete the work. Other primary cost factors include:
Material: Vinyl and wood fences come in panels that may be easier to replace than repairing damage to a chain link fence. Chain link and wood fences cost less than vinyl, and vinyl costs less than stone or brick fences.
Length and Extent of Damage: Replacing a complete panel sometimes takes less time than repairing a small section within a panel. Depending on how far the damage extends down the fence, multiple panels may need to be replaced, which increases costs.
Height: Taller fences are generally costlier because they require more material. However, fences in non-standard panel heights may require extra labor to adjust them to their correct size, which can also increase costs.
Types of Repairs
Fences repairs range from simple projects that involve filling holes or cracks to replacing entire sections of a damaged fence. The type of repair affects the cost of the project; more complex repairs require more materials and labor than simple repairs do.
Wood rot occurs when fungi start the natural process of decomposing the wood. This type of damage is one of the most common types of fence maintenance that property owners face. Repairing wood rot requires chemically treating the wood, filling or patching holes, and staining or painting the wood. The cost of the project varies depending on the amount of damage, but national prices average between $150 to $500. Severe cases of wood rot may cause enough structural damage that the entire fence needs to be replaced.
Fence posts are important to the fence’s structural integrity, as they provide support for its panels and rails. Posts move out of position when the ground beneath them shifts, and they can sustain damage as the result of a collision with an automobile or other object. The average cost to replace posts ranges from an average of $134 to $400. Simple repairs that require little more than repositioning and resetting the posts cost less than completely replacing them.
Fallen Fence Sections
Fallen fence sections are more than unsightly. They leave gaps in the fence and potentially damage the support posts, which raises the repair costs. In some cases, the fence panels remain intact so you only need to rehang them. Other cases require work on the top rails or support posts. Repair costs average between $140 and $400.
Holes and Cracks
Repairing holes and cracks in a fence costs between $124 to $367, depending on the fence’s construction and the severity of the damage. In addition to patching the holes and cracks, wood and vinyl fences need refinishing or painting, which increases the cost of the project.
The cost to replace or repair missing boards or panels in a wood or vinyl fence varies, averaging between $111 and $330. This price depends on the type of wood, size of the replacement pieces, and the extent of the damage.
Gate repairs include everything from replacing damaged hinges and latches to installing a completely new gate. If the gate shows signs of structural damage, workers may need to replace or reset the gate supports so that the gate functions normally. The cost for this work ranges from $114 to $338.
Sources of Fence Damage
Fences take considerable abuse over the course of their lives, from the effects of the environment to accidental collisions and improper installation. Excessive sunlight, rain, and snow can warp fences and fade their finishes. In extreme weather conditions, wind gusts or large amounts of snow have the power to knock over fences or send trees and other objects flying into them. Fences also sustain damage from collisions with automobiles, toys, and people climbing on them.
Before repairing a fence, it is important to consider some of the legal issues related to fences. Even though fences are local property and many homeowners consider them part of the landscape, state and local governments have laws regulating fence construction. Some states require all parties who benefit from a shared fence to maintain them and pay for necessary repairs. Certain cities and counties consider fence repairs a construction project that requires an approved building permit.
Who Pays for Shared Fences?
In most states, boundary fences that divide two pieces of property belong to the owners who use the fence. Although each state’s laws interpret use differently, they consider the following questions:
Which owner uses the land near and leading to the fence?
Does either owner have another fence attached to the boundary fence?
Is either property completely enclosed by a fence attached to the boundary fence?
For example, in California, the law holds both property owners equally responsible for maintaining boundary fences unless one owner chooses to leave the remaining sides of the property unfenced. Illinois law assigns responsibility for division fences to both property owners and stipulates that the owners of adjoining properties must “bear the same proportion of the costs” to maintain the fence.
Do You Need a Permit?
Even if the fence is in drastic need of repair, you need to make sure the project stays within the guidelines of state and local law as well as community agreements. Some municipalities require a building permit for construction or repair work on a fence. Property owners living in neighborhoods with homeowner’s associations may need to receive approval from the neighborhood association before doing any work on a fence. Before starting the project, property owners should speak with a representative at the local building code enforcement office or the appropriate individual within the homeowner’s association to verify the local requirements. This prevents unnecessary fines and conflict with neighbors.
Other Services That Can Happen at the Same Time as Repair
Repairing a fence provides an opportunity to take care of other outdoor projects. After filling holes and cracks or installing new panels, you can repaint the entire fence to give it a refreshed look and cover the evidence of the repair. You may also take advantage of the chance to remodel the landscaping near the fence by removing or adding plants, lining the fence with mulch or pebbles, or creating a walking or sitting area with stone tiles. These services can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or you can go all out and spend a few thousand dollars; the outcome is up to you.