How To Save Money: Building a Fence

How To Save Money: Building a Fence

This weekend, we took on our first major home project since moving in to our home in 2010. We have about 350ft. of fence on our property that was old, rotten and falling over. For the past two years, I have been putting up patch boards to keep the fence up so our dog would stop visiting the neighbors without us. We had planned on rebuilding the fence our first summer that we moved in, but decided we needed to get settled first and save some money up. The next spring, we starting planning for the fence replacement again only to find out we were pregnant and needed to NOT SPEND MONEY until we figured out our financial plan moving forward. This year, we were finally ready.

Save Money Building A Fence

As Always, Start With a Plan

If there’s one major theme to any project or activity you decide to do, it’s that you must start with a plan. Your project will go 1000x smoother if you break it down and plan out each phase. You will also save yourself TIME AND MONEY! For our fence, we started by plotting out our current fence on paper, counting how many sections we had and writing down a rough estimate measurement of each side. We then discussed what we wanted our new fence to look like. We actually started by looking at fences on This has been a great resource for us planning many of our projects! We were able to see what fence we liked and my wife would pin those to her board. We could then compare them side-by-side to see which one we liked best. We decided instead of 1×4 boards we wanted 1×6 boards. And we wanted to have a 2×4 on the top of the boards for protection and style. Once we had our pattern selected, it was time to put together a list of materials.

Build a List of Materials and Tools

We took our new pattern and broke it down into 8ft. sections to start our materials list. We figured out how many boards and posts we needed and then multiplied that by how many 8ft. sections we were going to need. We then added in the gate hardware to finish off our materials list.

Hint: Always over-order the amount of materials you will need for a project, especially building a fence. Make sure to check with your lumber supplier, but you should be able to return any extra pieces that you didn’t use or that were bad. I suggest ordering 10-15% more than you need and returning what you do not use. This will ensure you have enough GOOD MATERIALS to finish and you can still get your money back for the extras.

Once you have a materials list, you also need to come up with a list of tools for the project. Having the right tools will make the difference between accomplishing your project on time or giving up in frustration and having your project drag on for months. We got most of our list by watching a “how-to” build a fence video from Home Depot. They started by showing all of the suggested tools need to complete the job. We copied this down and then started to ask people who had built fences if there was anything else we needed. This was a HUGE help because it came straight from people with experience doing exactly what we were about to do. Not only did they help us complete our tools list, but they also had time-saving tips and tricks to help us complete our project with less hassles!

Hint: I suggest watching a few “how-to” videos online to train yourself for your upcoming project. We went through about 5 of them and gleaned what we needed to feel confident in our skills to complete this project. Also, make sure to TALK TO PEOPLE who have done this to gain from their experience. The most valuable information we received was ‘what not to do” and “what to watch out for” when building a fence.

Set a Budget For Your Project

Of course I had to bring it back to budgets! You need to do this BEFORE YOU BUY ANYTHING for your project. If you start gather tools and materials only to find that you don’t have enough money to complete the project, you will either end up in debt or live in a construction zone indefinitely. AND NOBODY WANTS THAT! Trust me, setting up your budget ahead of time will keep your stress level to a minumum and help guide all of your buying decisions for your project. We had eyeball’d prices on lumber and put together an estimate for ourselves in the past. Based on our new pattern, we knew it was pretty close to our past estimates we had gathered. We took that number and added about 15% to make sure we had a little wiggle room. We already had savings for this project, so we set aside the amount we needed and started to purchase the materials.

I suggest pricing it out at a few different places to get an average price for your materials. We used Home Depot and Lowes for base prices, and then my dad got a quote from a lumber company he used to work at who got us better pricing for most of the fence materials, except the cedar boards. We ended up buying everything but the cedar boards from my dad’s old company and purchasing the cedar from Home Depot. We also rented the post-hole auger and nail guns from Home Depot as well. I recommend shopping all prices by Home Depot to make sure you’re not overpaying for any part of the project.

Plan Out Labor and Time

My suggestion for getting something like our fence project done in one weekend is as follows:

  1. Be born into a family with big dudes who can carry stuff
  2. Marry into a family that also has big dudes who can carry stuff
  3. Pizza and beer

We were fortunate enough to have family and friends who were ready to help and had some construction know-how. They also happened to be big, strong dudes. This is great when hauling heavy wood posts and 60lb. bags of concrete all over the yard. To ensure they were available, I sent out invites over Facebook about a month in advance of the project. I then verbally confirmed several times with each of them to make sure they were still on board. We ended up having 6 people each day to help get this project done. I suggest that you find some good friends/family that are willing to do anything for pizza and beer and that love you enough to just want to help.

You should also plan our your activities on a realistic timeline. We had planned to have our old fence down and posts set the first day, then to nail up the boards on the second day. We ended up having our old fence down in 50 minutes and then set posts the rest of the day. Setting posts took a lot longer than I anticipated, so I was glad we had almost all day to get it done. We also got a late start the next day, but it was less labor-intensive so we were able to finish nailing up the boards by evening.

Hint: Make sure you plan time for contingencies in your original timeline. Nailing up the boards we much slower than expected due to uneven ground and not being able to find the right nails for a while. Luckily I had the whole day open just for nailing boards. If I had planned the trim work and hanging gates as well, we would have not reached our goal and would have been stressed out the entire time. Make sure to leave room for adjustments to your schedule.

You’re Ready

You’re now ready to take our your next home project. I hope my experience has helped some of you see how planning a project properly can save your time, your wallet and your sanity! Here’s some before/after pictures of our fence adventure!

The old fence on it’s way out

New Fence Being Built

The beautiful new fence. Looks a bit more sturdy.

Don’t forget to celebrate your victories. Dinner courtesy of the amazing, supportive wives of the manly men who put this fence up. And me in the green.

Comments: Does anyone have any fun upcoming home projects? Anyone just finish a home project? Anyone still living in a construction zone due to poor planning? Let me know your experiences and how you saved money on YOUR project!

Disclosure: There is an affiliate link in here for Home Depot. We had great success with them for fence boards, hardware and tool rental, I definitely recommend them. I do receive a commission if you purchase through my link, as always, I appreciate the support 🙂

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  1. Our new fence looks amazing! Now I’m just waiting to see what kind of magic iHB can work with my raised garden beds and chicken coop! (oh, and don’t forget my swing! ;D)

  2. Nice job on the fence!!! My BF is the only one who does all the heavy lifting and building things at our place, so it kinda sucks that he doesn’t have a family full of big guys that can help. I like the fact that you budgeted for pizza and beer!

    • Thanks! Yes, I did a 6 month stint in general construction labor and realized that keeping myself fed well was the secret to staying productive. We Not only budgeted for Pizza and beer, but also fruit and snacks to keep us going. We ended up having an awesome chili and sweet cornbread dinner on day 2, which we were able to enjoy in our newly-fenced yard. Felt pretty good!

  3. The new fence looks awesome Jacob. I admit that the old one sure did look like it was due to be replaced. Out of curiosity, did you have to talk to the neighbors about your plan at all? I’m sure they appreciated the fence being replaced, but it kinda seems like they should be paying for part of it.

    • Thanks Jeremy! I forgot to add that info, good call. I did talk to the neighbors a few weeks ahead of time and they had agreed to pay half the materials’ cost for their sides. It’s great to have awesome neighbors! I still have to build/hang the gates and do the trim work, but after that we’ll return the extras and sort out the financing. The nice thing is we earned a ton of airline miles doing it this way 🙂

  4. Robert @ The College Investor says:

    Nice job with the fence project. I did the same thing a few years ago, and it was a lot of work. Planning is so important!

    • Thanks Robert! I have realized over my short lifetime that planning can make any experience more enjoyable. Especially when doing a large project, having all the pieces in place before starting saves SO MUCH TIME AND MONEY! I feel the same way about a good vacation, or even a date night. Having a plan makes the stress go away and allows you to enjoy your time!

  5. DebtsnTaxes says:

    I just put up a chain-linked fence two years ago. We didn’t have to worry about privacy (we live in the woods.) We did a ton of research on how to build it and priced out materials at a couple places. That was all relatively easy. We ended up buying the materials at Lowes, they weren’t the best price originally, but after the 10% discount they give to military it ended up being cheaper. We also used the rewards points from our CC to get Lowes gift cards. Total cost after renting an auger and stump grinder, and materials was under $500 for 160′ of 6′ high fence.

    • Nice work! We definitely paid a bit more than $500 (like, x7!). And you just reminded me, I’ve got to rent a backhoe for flattening one corner of our yard and pulling out all our stumps. Also, I totally forgot to apply for the Home Depot credit card to save 10%. UGH!! I wonder if I can retro the transaction?

  6. I watch Youtube for EVERYTHING. I learned how to tile that way.

    • Heck yes! We’re doing our whole backyard off of youtube tutorials. My boss at work even assigned me to watch a youtube channel to learn AutoCAD! My favorite, though, was when I learned to pick a lock on youtube so I could get our passports out of the lockbox so we could go on our honeymoon!

  7. Fence looks great. The time thing always throws me. A project like that will always take twice as long as your best prediction.

    • Thanks John! Yea, I was actually surprised we got as far as we did. It worked out exactly as I had planned, which isn’t always the case, especially since this is my first home project. Now, here’s to hoping our brick paver patio and Pergola goes just as smooth!

  8. “Be born into a family with big dudes” cracked me up. I have my dad and that’s it! Good thing I’ve got handy, generous friends. My husband is also a big dude, so that helps. Our current project? Jefferson is putting the baseboards up in our main floor. This is something that has been needing attention for about a year (since we got new flooring and they took down the old ones) and he’s about 25% done? Hopefully, if he continues on this pace, we will have baseboards by 2015! I’m so excited!

    • Woohoo! New baseboards in 3 years!!! (I had to google “baseboard” to see what they were, HAHA). Baseboards (or “trim”) will make EVERYTHING LOOK BETTER for sure. I want to replace all of my trim with some thicker, white trim and even do moulding on the ceiling. I think it’s one of the things that really increases your home value a ton!

  9. James Rodriguez says:

    My family and I have been thinking about putting wood fencing around our backyard for some time now. I like what you said about starting with a plan. I think this is what we are lacking right now, we don’t have a solid plan about what we want to do. Thanks for the article, a lot of great tips!

  10. Wendy Cartright says:

    Wow, the fence looks awesome! I would imagine that it helped to have lots of strong men doing the project. My husband and I want to have a fence put in, but we don’t really have any family in the area. We think it will be worth it to hire someone to do it for us.

  11. Bennett Fischer says:

    I’m looking to build a fence soon, but I don’t have a ton of money to spend on it. That being said, I really appreciate you giving me some insight about this and letting me know what things I can do to save a little money to build this new fence. I’ll be sure to follow your insight and see how much it helps. Thanks a ton for this.

  12. Jack Palmer says:

    I appreciate the tip, “Your project will go 1000x smoother if you break it down and plan out each phase.” We just moved into a new home and want to put a fence up. I don’t think I’ll be putting it up on my own, we will need to look at fence contractors. However, I think it would be smart to learn how it’s done so I have a better idea of what to expect. Thanks for sharing this!

  13. Laurel Larsen says:

    I definitely feel like building a fence is not something that should be underestimate as far as time and money go. With something as important as safety from outsiders, or, in your case, keeping your pet safe inside the fence, time and dedication are required to get the best outcome. I wonder if you can still order the materials for the fence and then have a contractor come in and build it? I don’t know if I could tackle it all on my own, but still am interested in saving some money.

  14. Hazel Owens says:

    Your fence looks really nice! Researching budgets is useful so you can figure out about how much the project will cost. Planning is also super important for any building project, whether you use professionals or do it yourself. One of aspect of planning is making sure you have all the right permits, because even building a fence needs a lot of paperwork in some places! Thanks for the article.


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