When purchasing and installing a fencing system, accurate measurements are the backbone of the entire operation. You might be lax when it comes to measuring wrapping paper, ingredients for a recipe, or even your height, but don’t make the mistake of slacking off when it comes to measuring the size of your new fence. Building past your land’s official boundary, misreading the length of the panels, or forgetting to account for an incline could be disastrous. Not only would a measurement mistake be difficult to fix, but the repair would likely cost a lot of money. All this to say: it’s important that you get it right the first time around! For help, use our tips below to learn how to measure for a fence correctly.
How to Measure for a Fence
REVIEW YOUR PLAT
A plat is “a map or plan of an area of land showing actual or proposed features” (source). If you don’t have a plat already, now is the time to get one. A plat will help you confirm the location of your property line, so that you won’t build a fence on someone else’s property by mistake. You may wish to review the plat with your neighbor as well, to check that you’re on the same page before the digging begins (and while you’re at it, discuss your fencing project in more detail to see if your neighbor has any issues with the plan).
A mistake at this stage of the project could be disastrous; if you accidentally build on a neighbor’s property or public property, you could confront a lawsuit and be forced to remove the fence. Not only would this be frustrating and expensive, but it would likely be embarrassing as well. Don’t risk it!
RESEARCH LOCAL ZONING CODES & RESTRICTIONS
Some cities and neighborhoods have strict guidelines regarding fencing. Review these codes before you measure, as they may limit your fence’s placement, height, and/or style. Although this occurs most often with fences installed in front yards, it can also apply to backyard fences. Check these regulations now, before you begin digging, so that you aren’t forced to remove and rebuild your fence in the future.
ACCOUNT FOR SLOPES & OBSTRUCTIONS
Are there any trees or permanent obstructions along the perimeter of your property? If so, you will need to work around these as you take your measurements. This includes utility lines and pipes, which should be marked before you measure for your fence.
In addition, many yards have slopes and contours that will affect the fence’s measurement and installation. To determine the slope percentage, run a string line from the start of the fence line to the end of the fence line. Measure the length (measuring horizontally) and the height. Then, divide the height by the length and multiply this figure by 100. This will give you the percentage of the slope. You will need to decide between stepping the fence (with each panel stepping up, creating gaps beneath) or racking the fence (with the fence hugging the ground, all the posts and pickets the same length).
Before you begin measuring, mark your corner posts by placing a stake where the fence panels will meet at a 90-degree angle. Then, measure the perimeter of the area you wish to enclose in feet, using the stakes as a guideline. Be sure the tape measure is stretched tight, so that slack doesn’t affect the measurement. After that, look up the length of the fence panels you will be using (typically six or eight feet). Divide the area’s perimeter by the length of the panels to figure out how many panels you will need. At this point, you may wish to place stakes where your line posts and end posts will be located. To do this, start at a corner, measure out the length of a panel, and place a stake.
Note that, depending on the length of each run and the length of the panels, you may have partial sections. Partial sections should not be less than two-feet long, and they should be located near corners or gates. Figure out where you will place your gates at this stage as well.
DOUBLE-CHECK & TRIPLE-CHECK
You’re spending a lot of time and money on this fence, so precision is key. After measuring once, measure again to double-check your work. Take the process just as seriously as you did the first time, and don’t assume that your original measurements are correct. If you find a discrepancy, determine where you went wrong by measuring again. Finally, you might ask someone else (your spouse, your dad, a friend) to triple-check your work, just in case. After all, even those of us who know how to measure for a fence sometimes make mistakes.
CONSIDER HIRING A PROFESSIONAL
Although every homeowner is capable of learning how to measure for a fence, you may not have the time or the tools necessary to complete the task. If you don’t feel confident, you want to ensure that the measurements are truly accurate, and/or you have a hilly yard that will be difficult to assess, consult a professional. This small investment could bring you peace of mind as you begin your fence’s installation.
REVIEW WITH YOUR FENCING SUPPLIER
Before you order your fence, consider laying out these plans and measurements on paper. Then, when you order your fencing system, review the measurements with the supplier to ensure that you’re ordering the correct amount of materials. In addition, if you have any questions about your measurements, the installation process, or the fencing materials, ask your supplier before you complete your purchase.
Now that you’ve learned how to measure for a fence, remember this one last tip: take your time! As we mentioned above, if you goof up on your measurements, you will pay for it with some or all of the following: many hours of hard work, a large check, wasted time, or perhaps a flawed and/or uneven fence. Use the tips above to avoid this fate, and work with your fencing company to be sure that you understand the dimensions of the product you plan to purchase.
Finally, if you’re interested in purchasing a new fence, be sure to check out MMC Fencing & Railing. In our online store, you’ll find high-quality and virtually maintenance-free vinyl and aluminum fencing systems. All of our products come with a protective warranty and are built to last a lifetime. To learn more about our fencing systems, please give us a call at 1-866-931-5002. We would be happy to help you select a fencing system that fits your needs. Good luck!