The Big Decision: Do-It-Yourself or Professional

Mar 1, 2017 | Home Improvement

There’s a certain level of satisfaction that comes from completing a project around the house – and the cost savings on professional labor can be a big factor when it comes to finishing tasks on budget. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) has become a movement, if not a way of life; but is the grass really greener when you plant it yourself?

In general, there are pro’s and con’s to working with a professional and doing the work yourself. But when it comes to big projects, like installing a new fence or building a deck, DIY mistakes can become costly and can quickly spiral out of control.

Today, we’re taking a look at whether it makes sense to tackle these big-ticket items on your own, or with the help of a seasoned industry veteran.

Can I Install a Fence or Deck on My Own?

The short answer is yes. It is definitely possible to install or a repair a fence or deck without the assistance of a professional. Before you get started, there are a number of things to consider:

Do you need to obtain a permit from your municipal or county planning office to install a new fence or deck?

Some cities, towns, and counties require that all major residential construction projects be signed off on by a permitting official to make sure that the new addition meets the legal and safety requirements of your hometown. It’s important to check on this before you even get started – unpermitted construction can lead to trouble down the road (difficulty selling a house, for example) and can also lead to fines or legal ramifications depending on where you live.

Where am I allowed to install a fence or deck on my property?

In addition to permitting requirements, some locales have special rules and regulations about what you’re allowed to install and where. This includes local ordinances and requirements set by a Homeowner’s or Condo Association. Sometimes homeowners are required to leave a certain amount of distance between a fence or deck and the edge of their property (especially the edge nearest to public right-of-way, such as a sidewalk or road). Utilities are also a big factor – fences and decks are often not permitted to obstruct access to public utilities, including sediment ponds and drainage facilities. These questions can usually be answered during the permitting process, but may require additional outreach, to an HOA for example.

Handling the Logistics

Once you’ve taken care of all the legal stuff, it’s important to look into some other logistics that can grow into real problems when installing a new fence or deck. These items include:

  • Underground Utilities. It’s essential that you contact utility companies prior to beginning any construction work that requires digging (for example, setting fence and deck posts). Hitting an underground utility line while digging is not a situation that anyone wants to deal with, and can lead to big problems. Visit and select your state to learn more about dealing with underground utilities for your project.
  • Property Lines. In addition to any setbacks and easements in place by your county or municipality, it’s important to know where your property boundaries are. If you aren’t sure, you may want to have your property professionally surveyed so that you don’t accidentally build on a neighbor’s land.

When Should I Go Pro?

If you have questions or concerns about permitting processes, handling utilities and property surveys, or simply aren’t sure you’ve got the know-how to handle a project like this on your own, it may be worth it to hire a professional. Individuals that have worked in the fence and deck industry for a while are not only familiar with all of the logistics that go into installing a new residential fence or deck, but also have the experience to handle unexpected obstacles efficiently and in the most cost-effective way.

If you aren’t sure about taking on a big fence or deck project, contact a professional and ask for a consultation. Be up front and tell them you’re considering a DIY solution, and ask them what challenges they think you might face. A reputable contractor will be honest with you about whether they think the job needs a pro, or whether they think it’s something you can do on your own.