You’re sitting on the porch and notice your fence is leaning. You see some rot on your pickets while clearing debris. A nasty storm took out a fence panel. However it happened, your fence needs repairs. But should you DIY your fence repair or hire a professional?
Believe it or not, the answer to DIY vs. professional fence repair depends on the person. Many factors go into making this decision, including the pros and cons of DIY and professional fence repair.
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Pros of DIY Fence Repair
Do-it-yourself fence repair and fence installation can be challenging, especially if it’s your first home improvement project. But giving DIY a shot has several benefits, including the chance to save money, customize your fence, and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
Save on labor cost
One of the most significant benefits of DIY-ing your fence repair is saving on labor costs. If it’s a relatively easy fix, you don’t have to fork out money for a professional to give you an estimate to repair your fence.
For labor alone, homeowners spend an average of $455, but the cost of fence repair labor varies between $215 and $720. If you need specialty work, like welding, you may spend even more.
However, you’ll accrue other costs if you DIY your fence repair. Remember to factor in the following to your DIY budget:
- Equipment rental: If it’s a big job, specialty equipment needs to be rented.
- Materials: Whether you DIY or hire a professional, you’ll have to pay for materials. But a professional may be able to get a discount since they buy frequently and in bulk.
- Labor: As mentioned above, this is where you’ll save big. Though, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll pay in other ways.
Can customize your fence
DIY-ing your fence equals the ultimate power regarding the final result. Not all fence contractors can do all fencing-related things. But when you’re wielding the hammer, you can (given time, money, and patience, of course).
While the list of customization options is vast, here are a few things you can personalize.
- Post caps
- Fence design
- Fence material
- Gates, arbors, trellises
- Size, height, shape
With DIY fence repair, you’re able to switch gears quickly. You don’t like the look of the fence caps? No problem. You can switch them out as quickly as you can get to the hardware store.
A sense of pride
A sense of pride in a job well done is no small thing. At work, you may get a promotion. At school, you’ll get an A. But if you construct a well-built fence, all you have is your much-earned sense of accomplishment (and bragging rights, of course). Proof of your hard work will stand for decades.
Better than building it solo, you can put up your fence with a spouse, a friend, or the whole family. You may gain a gray hair or two, but you’ll also gain beautiful memories.
Cons of DIY Fence Repair
The saying “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” applies to many sizable DIY fence repair projects. There are some drawbacks to DIY-ing your repairs, such as lack of warranties, the amount of time, and inexperience.
No warranties or guarantees
Will you save money DIY-ing your fence? In theory, yes. In practice, sometimes. Because you’re doing your own work, the work isn’t backed by warranties or guarantees. If you hit a snag or make a mistake, the cost of fixing the problem will fall on your shoulders. Because fence building and some repairs are an exact science, many homeowners hire a professional.
Takes a lot of time
Whether the fence repair job is big or small, it will take time. Sometimes, it takes a lot of it. If you have days or weeks to fix your fence, then no problem. If you don’t, you may be looking at a work in progress for some time. It’s one of the main reasons people choose professionals to fix their fences. After all, time is money.
Lack of expertise
If you have limited DIY experience, there are better places to start than fencing. Inexperience leads to mistakes, costly problems, and possible ER visits. Fence repair is back-breakingly laborious, especially if you’re not used to it.
With small jobs like rust repair, you might be OK You can read books or watch videos, but you need to be comfortable following instructions. Bigger jobs will take planning, preparation, and know-how. You can still learn how to tackle the big jobs, but it’s difficult if you’re an inexperienced DIY-er or struggle to follow instructions. Remember, these jobs require precision.
Because you don’t have the experience that a professional does, you likely don’t have the tools either. You’ll need to purchase or rent everything that an experienced fencing contractor already has at their disposal.
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Pros of Professional Fence Repair
Hiring a professional for fence repair or fence installation certainly has its advantages. One of the many benefits is contractor experience. Along with expertise, you save time and gain peace of mind, knowing their work is protected.
Work is protected
Any contractor worth his salt (and your money) will be licensed, insured, and offer a warranty or guarantee. These assurances will protect your fence against well-meaning but poorly executed repairs.
Saves you time
As the saying goes, time is money. Saving time is one of the biggest reasons homeowners hire a contractor. Most people don’t have the spare time to spend days fixing a fence. And if they have that time, they’d rather be doing a hobby or spending time with loved ones.
Most fencing companies will have a team of experts working on your fence, minimizing repair time.
When you hire a professional fencing company, you expect professional service. The employees will have years of experience under their belts. With experience comes fewer mistakes, unforeseen problems, and injuries. They also have the right quality tools for the job.
Some issues that may come up include:
- Rockier than expected soil
- Code violations
- HOA violations
Cons of Professional Fence Repair
Unfortunately, professional fence repair also has its disadvantages. The hassle of finding the right contractor, personalization limitations, and sometimes wallet-busting labor costs will make some homeowners think twice about hiring a professional.
Hiring a fence repair company certainly has its drawbacks. The biggest disadvantage is arguably the cost of labor, which is non-existent with DIY jobs. Like any service job, most professional fencing costs are from labor. In this case, labor cost is aptly named since many fence repairs require a lot of physical labor.
If you’ve ever hired anyone for a service job, like for lawn care or pest control, it’s hard to find the one that works best for you.
Here are some things to consider when choosing the company you want to hire for your fence repairs:
- Licensed: Not only does a license show that this contractor has the knowledge and skill to do the job, but they take their job seriously.
- Specialty: Some professional fence companies specialize in residential fencing while others focus on commercial — some work on privacy fences, others on professional installation. From chain-link fences to iron fences, you’ll need to find professional help that works for you.
- Insured: An insured company protects you and the company from accidents or mistakes.
- Labor cost: Although most companies should be in the same ballpark, shop around to see which fits with your budget. Remember that the saying “you get what you pay for” exists for a reason.
- Reputation: Finding a company with a deserved reputation is challenging. With bad reviews, you only get one side of the story and may not reflect what happened. And with good ones, did their mom write that glowing review? Your best bet is to read many reviews and look for common threads to give you a more accurate picture.
- Recommendations: Word-of-mouth recommendations are gold. Usually, you can see firsthand that the neighbor or friend had a great (or terrible) experience.
Lack of customization
Most fencing companies specialize in just a few types of fences because each kind requires different knowledge and skill sets. And if you find a company you like, they may offer a different design than you want.
Scheduling is also a significant factor. Many contractors will book weeks and months in advance, so finding one that will work with your timeline may be tricky.
What Kinds of Fence Repairs are DIY vs. Professional?
Not all your fence repair has to be done by a professional fence contractor, and not all of your fence fixes have to be done by you. There’s a vast range of fencing services, some of which you can handle yourself.
DIY fence repair projects
Everyone’s DIY project capacity is different, but a good line to draw is if it requires special equipment. Here are some DIY fencing projects you can tackle on your own.
- Stain and paint: This is a time-consuming project, but if you can devote a weekend, this is a task the whole family can do together.
- Wood pickets: Wood fence pickets usually require a new picket, nails, and a hammer (or screws and a screwdriver). Just be careful to line them up correctly and match the picket tops.
- Rust repair: You can tackle this project independently if you catch the rust before it corrodes. It’ll require sanding and painting materials as well as some elbow grease.
Professional fence repair projects
Unless you’re experienced, it’s best to leave the heavy-duty repairs to the professionals. Here are some projects you should hire a professional for.
- Fence panels: Several types of fencing don’t have pickets but entire panels that require special brackets, tools, and knowledge to install. If you have composite, metal (like aluminum or wrought iron), or vinyl fence, consider enlisting the help of a professional.
- Posts: Depending on the fence post type, replacing it can be a DIY job because it’s straightforward. However, it requires a hefty amount of physical labor and precision. Making a mistake with this job can put your entire fence in jeopardy.
- Metal fence: If you have metal fencing other than chain-link, you should consider a professional contractor. Bent or broken rails, pickets, corroded through rust, and many other repairs, will require at least some replacement. These repairs involve a reciprocating saw, a drill, precision, and child-temper-tantrum-level patience.
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Cost of DIY vs. Professional Fence Repair
Professional fence repair costs will vary, but the national average is $460. For most homeowners, the price range will be between $255 and $685. However, some repairs cost as little as $50, while others are $2,500 or more. Factors that will impact the cost of professional fence repair include:
- Repair type: A broken picket will be cheaper than an uprooted terminal post.
- Repair size: The bigger the project, the more materials and labor, increasing the cost.
- Fence type: Wood has many small parts, so fixing it is relatively easy. But vinyl often has more extensive parts, making it a larger project to fix.
- Material: Wood, chain link, and wire fences have inexpensive materials, while metal, composite, and vinyl will cost more.
- Local costs: Material and labor prices will vary by area. For example, wood is less expensive in the Northeast, where there is a big logging industry. Similarly, labor costs will be higher in urban areas than in rural areas due to the cost of living and local economics.
- Fence height: A taller fence requires more materials, increasing the price.
- Severity of damage: The worse the damage, the more time and materials it will require to fix.
- Fence design: With a more intricate design comes more expensive materials and more skilled labor. Both of which will increase your cost.
DIY fence repair is less expensive on paper because you don’t have to pay for labor costs. But you’ll still have to pay for materials and equipment. DIY fence repair costs start at about $160 and quickly grow higher based on the abovementioned factors.
Like many home improvement projects, you’ll probably run into snags, which you may or may not be equipped to handle. Hiccups increase your DIY cost and might necessitate a professional repair anyway.
Here are a few things you can do to avoid these mistakes and mishaps.
- Research: Investigate what problems you may encounter, look up how-to’s, and understand what you’re doing before you start.
- Patience: Take your time and do it right the first time. Doing it over will just cost more money, time, and sanity.
- Partner: Many DIY fence repair projects require an extra set of hands, and some projects will go faster with a partner. Enlist the help of a friend or loved one to be an extra set of eyes, hands, and brains.
FAQ About DIY vs. Professional Fence Repair
Simply stated, if it’s your property, it’s your fence and your responsibility. Likewise, if it’s your neighbor’s property, it’s their fence and their responsibility. However, fences often fall on the property line, which makes the fence a shared property and, therefore, a shared responsibility.
If your shared fence needs repairs, contact your neighbor to discuss payment and labor. They don’t want a broken fence any more than you do.
Usually, yes. Homeowner’s insurance will cover most fence repairs under the “other structures” policy. There are a few instances where the insurance may deny your claim.
• Disrepair: Insurance companies will cover a maintained fence, meaning the fence receives regular cleaning, staining, and minor repairs. But if you need major repair or replacement due to a lack of maintenance, they can deny your claim.
• Flood or earthquake: Many companies require you to purchase separate flood and earthquake insurance.
• Unmaintained tree: If a tree is the cause of the fence damage, you’ll be covered as long as your tree is maintained, i.e., healthy, cared for, and trimmed.
Yes. A leaning fence can be fixed by hiring a contractor or doing the job yourself. Before you start, consider the following.
• Whose fence is it? If it’s yours, then you can sally forth and fix away. But if the fence is your neighbor’s or a shared fence, the neighborly thing to do is contact them first.
• What’s the root problem? A fence in good repair typically doesn’t learn. Find out what the problem is and address that first. Hint: It often involves posts.
• DIY or professional? This choice depends on two major factors: the problem and your budget. Fixing a leaning fence is usually a bigger job, so unless extensive DIY is your happy place, consider a contractor.
DIY or Hire a Pro for Fence Repair?
Whether you just started the fence repair journey or are knee-deep in how-to’s and quotes, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Fence Gnome can help. We can answer your questions and find a local, highly-rated fence contractor that works for you, your family, and your home.