How Do You Estimate How Much A New Wood Fence Will Cost?

Estimating the cost of a fence can be a lot simpler than you think

Need a New Fence?

They say that "good fences make good neighbors" but, when you need a new fence it is sometimes hard to know where to begin and more importantly how much it might cost to replace or build a new one. You can call a contractor to get a fence bid but how do you know if you are getting a fair price and what if you want to build the fence yourself? It is actually quite easy to come fairly close to the construction cost just with the simple tools of a tape measure, a pencil a piece of paper and a calculator. These are the same tools a contractor starts with. The additional tool that a contractor has is only information and experience and fortunately this information this is easy to come by. The more care and time you spend on your estimate the closer your estimate should be to reality.

Establish the Scope

The first step to any estimate project is to establish the scope or the project.

This means you need to know how much fence you are building, how high the fence will be and what type of fence you wish to build. You can determine the length of the fence by using a tape measure and measuring the length. Start by sketching a simple diagram of what you want to build. Include any gates or openings and the length and height of the fence. Also check out different fence designs either online, by looking at other fences in your neighborhood or by researching at the local library. On your diagram you can mark out the fence post locations and any grade changes that will need to be made. This will be what you use to do your fence estimate.

The Basic Costs

The next step is to determine the basic costs. This is most accurately done using the stick method of estimating. This involves figuring out every piece of material and the labor that you will need to build your project. It starts with doing what's called a material take-off from your diagram. If you are unfamiliar with what types of materials you will need to construct your fence, most hardware stores have a help desk that will gladly help you determine what pieces you need and even price them out for you. If you are more industrious, you can figure out these materials for yourself and make a list to get three competitive bids from different hardware store. A word of caution, even if a hardware store figures out your materials list be sure and add a bit extra for wastage and contingency. Remember the gate hardware, paint, concrete, tools, and try to visualize anything else you will need to build your fence. This way there will be no surprises in your cost.

The next step is to figure out your labor costs. If you have never built a fence before this might be a little more difficult. If you are doing all the labor yourself it may not matter to you what your time is worth but if you want to get a truer picture of the fence labor costs calculate your time and put a realistic number like $ 20- $ 25per hour to it. To figure out the time it will take, start by asking the hardware store how long they think it will take to build your fence. Then sit down and break the project up into pieces and try and estimate the time to do each piece. For example, if you have twenty holes to dig and you can say it will take about one hour per hole or if you have 300 boards to nail on and that will each board will take about 10 minutes. Then add up all your time multiply it by what you think your labor is worth and you should have a good estimate of your labor cost.

Now add the extras

You now have good idea of what the materials and labor will cost. The next step is to add any extras. Will you need to have a concrete truck bring you ready-mix? Will you have to have any special equipment or tools? Will you need any labor help? What about dump fees if you are disposing of an old fence? Make sure you look carefully at any logistical problems with doing the job. Finally, if you want to know what a contractor would charge to build the fence add 30-50% for company profit and overhead to your basic bid and this should be very close approximation to a contractor's price.

Check your estimate

After you have done the work of figuring out what your fence should cost, you can check your estimate by using a tool called unit prices. These are prices that are widely published and easily available. They can be found on the internet or at the library and will give you a cost per foot of fence constructed for both labor and material costs. You can take this simple price per foot and multiply it times the feet of fence you are building to give you an idea of what this fencing should cost. These numbers change through time and certain locations will have slight variations in material and labor prices but for purposes of rough estimation and checking your stick method estimate these numbers have some value.

One system called National Estimator shows a current unit price for a 57" high 3 rail post and rail fence at $ 5.30 per foot for materials and $ 3.05 for labor this would make a fence like this with a 30% contractors overhead cost about $ 10.85 per foot. Be careful using unit prices to make sure that all your units are accounted for. In this case this means also adding the unit price for each gate at $ 143.00 each.

In Summary

By following some simple rules and using some simple tools you don't have to be a fence expert to calculate a simple estimate for what your fence will cost, Remember though that all estimates are just that estimates. Even the best fencing contractors sometimes makes mistakes. Each project is different and you will never know your actual costs until you get the project built but, having a good fence built should at least mean you will now have good neighbors. Good luck and happy fence building.

© High Speed Ventures 2011