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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Larson

Want to Fence in Your Backyard? 5 Important Steps Homeowners Need to do to Prepare for a New Fence

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Having a new fence installed can seem overwhelming and some homeowners may give up before they even start. But, by following our
5 steps to prepare for a new fence, you are guaranteed to have a smooth project from start to finish; while avoiding any unnecessary headaches.

If you have completed a fence project, you already know that planning can come with challenges.

It is time to sit down and choose the right fence for your project.

Are you overwhelmed by the choices and don’t know where to start?

And are you worried that despite your research, you will place your fence on your neighbor’s property or you won't have the proper permit?

It is a stressful, not to mention expensive, place to be when you are in the middle of a fence project and find out you have placed your fence in the wrong location or forgot a permit.

So, if you are considering building a new fence or repairing an old one, it is time to sit down and prepare your plan.

Apex Fence has helped multiple customers overcome these same barriers, and we also have the experience and knowledge to help you prepare for hidden obstacles found in your yard.

We can help you implement a strategy and well-thought-out plan that will help you succeed in planning your project from start to finish.

We will give you the 5 most important steps when planning your fence project, but even better, we will explain why you need to implement these steps.

  • Create privacy

  • Protect animals

  • Economical fence

  • Garden fence

  • Improve your home's appearance

  • If your city requires a permit, who will obtain the permit, you or your contractor?

  • Potentially having a professional survey

  • Surveying or engineering firms


1. What Type of Fence do You Want, and What Type of Fence do You Need?


It is nearly impossible to determine the style of fence you want without considering the purpose of the fence. The fence's purpose can alter the type of material you need for a beautiful, long-lasting fence.

Several residential fence options can meet almost any need and give you the desired outcome you had hoped to achieve.

For instance, if you want a private backyard, you can choose something more natural, such as a 6-foot-tall wood privacy fence.

However, if you also are looking for a privacy fence without the maintenance of a wood fence, then you need to consider a 6-foot vinyl privacy fence.

Need privacy and prefer chain-link, you can get slat inserts in multiple colors.

Do you have a small dog but want that beautiful ornamental? A puppy picket is an excellent solution for keeping your pup in.

If your small pup is a jumper, the shorter puppy picket only goes halfway up the fence, so you would want to consider installing the double picket for ornamental. Double picket is the taller option for the puppy picket. This will ensure the safety of your small dog. You can find out which styles are available in puppy picket here.

picture of ornamental fence with puppy pickets
Ornamental Fence With Puppy Picket

Are you looking for an economical fence to keep your kids and pets safe while playing in the backyard? If so, a chain link fence would be the best option. And if you are turned off by galvanized, you can upgrade to a black chain link, which is both aesthetically pleasing and economical.

Gardens are growing in popularity in and out of city limits. If you plan to install a garden fence within city limits, you will want to check with your HOA and city for the requirements and restrictions on fences in your neighborhood. For a garden fence in Rochester, Minnesota, 6 feet tall is the tallest it can be within city limits; however, if you are outside the city limits, you can install any height fence.

Your material options for a garden fence will usually be determined by your desired style, how tall your fence will be, and your budget. Vinyl, chain link, ornamental, and wood come in various heights. So, have an honest conversation with your fence contractor early on when planning your fence style, so they can help meet your budget and goals.

Black chain link fence used to make a garden fence
8 Foot Black Chain Link Garden Fence

Is your goal to improve your home's appearance and create the backyard you have been dreaming of? I suggest you look into ornamental fence options. It comes in various colors and styles with options to add lighting and accents. In the end, an ornamental fence will add value to your property and curb appeal. Please have a look at all of our available ornamental styles and options here.


2. Check with Your Homeowners Association.


Before you start your fence project, you need to be sure you are not restricted by any Homeowners Association (HOA) covenants, conditions, or restrictions.

Most HOAs will have regulations on fence material, style, height, and location.

Are you unsure if you have an HOA? Usually, this information is listed under the community or subdivision’s name.

How to find your HOA

  • Using the name of your subdivision or community, search the MN Secretary of State's website to find the legal standing of your Homeowner’s association.

  • All HOAs must file with the County recorder’s office. The association's covenants, conditions, and restrictions are not enforceable if they are not recorded in the county land records.

  • Once you have the legal name of your HOA, you can get the HOA covenants, conditions, and restrictions by contacting your local recorder's office.

  • You may also be able to find the information with a quick search of the legal HOA name on the web.

Rochester, Minnesota, has several neighborhoods with HOAs here: Boulder Creek, Mayo Woodlands Third, Manor Woods North, and Rochester Crimson Ridge. If you are still determining if you have an HOA, check and avoid installing a fence you'll have to turn around and remove.

It is essential to read your HOAs covenants; some restrict fences on the property entirely apart from fences around pools. Even then, most HOAs require prior written notice before installing a new fence; You can read more on HOA laws and resources here.

3. Do You Need a Permit, and if so, how do You get one?


Not all cities require a permit for fence installation, but you must check with your town before starting your fence project, so you don’t get slapped with an extra fine or end up being forced to put your fence installation on hold.

Still not convinced a permit is essential?

Skipping a permit can do more than add a fine. Your homeowner’s insurance can deny any claims due to property damage or injuries during your project.

Below we have listed some of the local areas with links to their regulations and applications.

  • If you live in Rochester, Minnesota, you do NOT need a permit for a fence that is 6 feet or less. You can read more information on Rochester’s fence regulation’s here.

Wood Privacy Fence
6 Foot Privacy Fence in Backyard. No Permit is Required for Rochester Residents.
Fence height is measured from the ground to the highest point of the fence.

  • Stewartville, Minnesota, residents must apply for a fence permit; you can find that information here. The application itself only costs $20.

  • If you live in Byron, Minnesota, or Kasson, Minnesota, you do not need a fence permit unless you require a fence over 7 feet.

  • Chatfield, Minnesota, requires a “fence certificate” for all fence installation. You can download the application here.

  • Plainview, Minnesota, also requires a permit for all new fence installation. The application can be found here.

  • If you live in Mankato, Minnesota, you must apply for a fence permit. However, you also need to submit a site Plan. You can go ahead and print the application here if you like.

Remember, it is ultimately the homeowner’s responsibility to have a permit for their new fence installation. Make sure that if you are hiring a fence contractor, you discuss with them who will obtain the permit from your city.

4. Where Are Your Property Lines?


Before you start your fence project, please be confident about where your property lines are.

The local assessor’s office records the current owner and property boundaries. Some records are kept as hard copies, and some can be found online.

Homeowners can also get their property plat map by searching their address on their county GIS website. Here is the link to the Olmsted GIS site.

Olmsted County GIS website
Olmsted County GIS

The GIS is not a legal property survey but an approximate property boundary.

When should you have your property surveyed before fence installation?

  • When property lines are unclear

  • When there is a dispute on property lines

  • When you want to add property/increase lot size

  • To determine who owns the current fence

How do I get my property surveyed before my fence installation?

To obtain a survey, you will need to contact a licensed surveyor.

We suggest starting the process early because a survey can take several weeks to complete, and if you are waiting for your survey to complete your fence project, you may experience delays.

The cost for a survey varies depending on the property's size, terrain, and previous surveys.

Here is a list of local residential land surveyors:

5. If you haven’t talked with your neighbors about your upcoming fence project, now’s the time.


Good fences make good neighbors,’ written by Frost, Robert. “Mending Wall.” Poetry

Sometimes it's a neighbor that made us conclude that we needed to install a new fence, so maybe we are trying to be the good neighbor, or perhaps the fence is to get rid of bad neighbors.

Whatever the reason that brought you to needing or wanting a new fence, you still want to make sure you and your neighbors agree on where the fence will be placed.

-on the shared property line

-up to the property line

-a few feet off the property line

If you build your fence within your property, you won’t have any restrictions besides the ones we discussed prior: HOAs, and city ordinances.

However, if you're building the fence on the shared property line, you'll want to talk about the type of fence with your neighbor and make sure your neighbor agrees to the location of the new fence. Not only is this good fence etiquette, but your neighbor may be willing to share the cost of the fence, making your project more affordable. It is also possible that your neighbor may not like chain link fences and would prefer a vinyl fence and is willing to pay the difference.

Talking with your neighbor does not need to be stressful and will help your fence project go more smoothly.

Man hiding behind wood fence

You can decrease your stress when talking to your neighbor about your fence project by doing these simple steps:

  • Being prepared

  • Know what type of fence you want to install

a. Vinyl

d. Wood

  • Know where your property lines are

a. Get a survey

  • Know the cost of the fence

  • Be approachable

  • Let them ask questions

  • Be open to suggestions

  • Use a licensed fence contractor

a. Get a free consultation

If you’re not friendly with your neighbor and need another approach, try leaving a note or sending an email, you can even send a text if you have their phone number. Just be careful when sending texts because texts can often be misunderstood in stressful situations.

Additional tips for your fence project

Always make sure you are using a licensed contractor. To check a contractor's licensing status, call the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry at 651-284-5065.

Research your contractor using reviews and references. Any contractor should be happy to provide a reference.

And if you are planning a DIY fence project, contact Gopher State One Call to locate buried utilities: (651) 454-0002.

Now What?


With our 5 essential steps to prepare for your fence project, you are ready to begin. Call us at (507) 993-2744, and we can help you select the perfect materials for your dream fence.

Still have questions?


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