hollabaughr

Should we expect a new fence to be square to our home?

R H
2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

We just had 145' of aluminum fence installed adjacent to our home, in a small section of our one-acre backyard (for the dog). The fence is not square to our house. When we look out our windows at the fenced area, we can see the longest line of fence that *should* run parallel to the back of the house, is not. It runs at an angle and is off by about 2.5-3 ft from one corner to the other (See my drawing below). One side of the fence DOES run at an angle intentionally behind our raised deck, which is angled off of our home. However, I don't see that it should affect the other parts of the fence.

We haven't paid the contractor's balance yet since he also is waiting on a remaining item from our order. When asked about it, he said he was just installing it "based on our discussions and the materials he ordered." Well, our discussions were all approximate points of where we wanted the fence to start, stop, etc. We had just assumed he would measure and install so it was square as much as possible, and left it up to him. I would think this is standard procedure for a fence that is adjacent to a home vs. running the perimeter of a property. Are we being unrealistic?

Here is a crude drawing. Nothing is to scale, but the red line shows how the fence runs vs. what we thought it should do (black line). Thank you in advance for any assistance!



Comments (22)

  • Christopher C Nc
    2 months ago

    There is no rule that a fence should be square with the house. There are so many site specific variables that can come into play to make such a rule unworkable.

    An OCD brain however can easily detect when a line is out of alignment, unbalanced and annoying. It will remain forever annoying once detected. Ask me how I know.

    Maybe explain to the fence installer that this is like fingernails on a chalkboard to you and do what you can to get the fence squared.

    R H thanked Christopher C Nc
  • R H
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Yes. My husband and I both have "detail" brains. While it's not so noticeable from outside, the not-straight fence line is obvious inside when compared to the straight lines of the windows from which we view it.


    I have to say, I've been looking at fences a lot lately. It seems most that attach to a home are square, unless there is a compelling reason/landscape feature for otherwise. In our case, the fence is surrounded by the rest of our yard and there is no reason for it to not be straight in that back section.

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  • JuneKnow
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    If the property is rough terrain, densely wooded, isn’t square, and the house isn’t square to the property, there’s zero expectation about anything else being “square”. If you are “picky” you do not “assume”. You get involved with a paid survey, and a surveyed staked out line, from that surveyor, on the front end. So everything is precisely placed. So add another 2K+ for that.


    The time to register your disapproval of a fence being built is during the original stakeout of the fence line. That time has passed. Any changes must be paid for by you, after a change order is created. Do overs cost as much as the original work. You don’t get picky after the fact. Unless you’re willing to pay for the work to be redone.

  • formulaross20
    2 months ago

    The understanding between you and the contractor was approximate; you received what you agreed to.

  • R H
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    JuneKnow, why would we need a survey for a small section of fence that is well inside our property lines? As I said above, this is NOT a fence that runs the perimeter of the property. It is a small section off the rear of our home for the dog. The rest of our large lawn surrounds it and and the house.


    For the record, we didn't realize we were being picky at the time. When I look at fences in small residential backyards, the fence lines look straight. Our yard is large, this is a small fenced area within a grassy yard, connected to the house. There is no rough terrain or trees to work around and the contractor gave no explanation of such. When they staked out the fence we were inside the house. No one asked us to approve a stakeout of the fence line at any point in time. They came on short notice that day and just started installing. We have young kids to attend to and also didn't want to appear to be micromanaging what we thought was a simple job. When we noticed something appeared "off" they had already installed most of the rear fence line and we thought it was an optical illusion from inside the house. It wasn't until they left that we took measurements and confirmed our suspicions.


    Anyway, my main purpose for this question was to determine if fences are typically square in instances where they connect directly to a home, do NOT follow a property line, and there are no landscape features that would cause them not to be. It's sort of an extension of our home, so just looks needlessly off kilter. *Shrug*

  • JuneKnow
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    You’re the one self describing as picky. 🤷🏽‍♀️ Precision requires precision methods of measuring. Not your standard go stake out the corners by tape measure and eyeball, and run a string back. But, even those eyeball stakes and strings were visible before they started the real work. If you couldn’t tell that it was off then, maybe you’re not as precision oriented as you think you are. You’re certainly not, if you’re not willing to pay to change it.

    Some municipalities require surveys for before and after of permanent property additions like this fencing. Plus the permit. Because municipalities like accuracy in fencing. It keeps good neighbors to not build it 7’ over the property line. If your municipality doesn’t require it, it still doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea. Especially for someone “picky”.

  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
    2 months ago

    R H..I feel your pain..an off kilter fence would bother me too..I think the fence should've been installed square with the house..but I've realized what I consider standard others perceive as perfection and unobtainable..I love my neighbor's comment..she said "so why should I be nice say nothing and then live with their unattractive work forever after they leave?"..I hate to admit it but she and I micromanage..if we don't we're in the same boat you're in..good luck..

    just asking..shouldn't some things not in writing be understood?..is this my fault?..a chimney contractor's helper dumped leftover concrete in my yard..when cleaned up it filled 15 drywall buckets..I didn't see the helper dump it (our lot is wooded but pristine)..I discovered it the next day..I called the company owner who was horrified..they came back and cleaned up the mess..R H was expecting a straight fence..it seems like a truly professional contractor would've installed a straight fence without putting it in writing..I guess we can't assume that the work will be what we want without complete instructions..

    R H thanked nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    R H..the same neighbor also said.."I wish I could do everything myself" Lol!!..wouldn't that be great?..but she and I know that we can't..sometimes there's no choice..you need to hire people..


    I wrote the above before I saw your comment..I've tried "leaving them on their own" thinking let them work in peace..but sadly there's usually an issue to address later..so isn't it better to be involved and get it right the first time?..my husband gets a little embarrassed because I speak up..but it's necessary..


  • JuneKnow
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    It’s up to the home owners to design and specify where they want the gosh darn fence. In writing. Which is where the survey or past survey comes in. Or with a preliminary stake out yourselves. If you didn’t communicate exactly where you wanted it to go, and only indicated a generalized location, again, that’s your failing, not the contractor’s. No contractor is going to read your mind. You didn’t give adequate design instructions, or view the rough stakeout yourself, to give approval, or denial of approval. I bet you paid attention to the picket choice though.

  • Christopher C Nc
    2 months ago

    In this situation I would expect the fence to be square with the house because that is what an organized brain would do. The angled deck combined with the set length of the manufactured fence panels is probably what threw it off. The fence contractor dude probably didn't want to have to cut anything to make it square.

  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    JuneKnow..if there's an unknown shouldn't a GOOD contractor ask the client?..you're defending the contractor as if the fence WAS built according to written instructions to build an off kilter fence..

  • JuneKnow
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    It’s the responsibility of the homeowner to provide the design documents. They’re the ones that care about the results. So the results have to be defined by them on the front end.

    A great contractor would have insisted on the survey.

    A good contractor would have requested a sketch, or stakeout location from the homeowner.

    An above average contractor would do the stakeout, request the homeowner view for approval, and proceed.

    An average contractor would do the stakeout, and, just like the homeowner, if nothing was said, assume that it was fine, and proceed. Which is what happened.

    A below average contractor would place the far corner fence post and do a snaggletooth meandering route back to the other points.

    A truly terrible contractor would start at the house and get off course before 5 postholes were dug.


    A finished fence is going to mean paying in full, a paid change order, or a lien on the home for non payment.

  • kathyg_in_mi
    2 months ago

    How many feet off is it. 6‘ or 10’?


  • raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio
    2 months ago

    I think the contractor gave you the answer: he built the fence "based on the materials he ordered" and he didn't order enough to continue the one fence line back to make a square.

    My expectation certainly would be a square enclosure, unless there was some reason, discussed with me, why that wasn't possible.

  • R H
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Thanks all. I'll move forward and work toward a compromise with the contractor when he gets the last part of the fence in. He is a nice guy and I have no intention of being a jerk, but it's disappointing.


    What I take away from this thread is in keeping with my experience over the years — that contractors think differently than many homeowners, and success boils down to communication. The challenge is, no matter how good of a communicator the homeowner is, they can't inquire about, request, or challenge projects they don't know about. Homeowners are not the experts, the contractors supposedly are. And frankly, the communication of most contractors is terrible. As witnessed in this thread, there are contractors who assume a client would know enough about fencing to demand a survey, design sketch, stakeout, etc. for a simple, 145' fence job that is not remotely close to any property lines. Having never installed a fence, and not being fence experts, we don't know to ask for these things. We provide the info. requested by the contractor and assume (yes, assume since he is the supposed expert) he can do a good job with what we provide at his request. Now, if the contractor had requested x,y,z and we didn't provide it, this would be an entirely different story. He didn't, yet somehow it's our fault.


    On a final note, I will say that I'm sure there are many crazy homeowners and valid complaints from contractors. I also know that running a business is expensive and so is doing good work, and many people don't want to pay for that good work. This was not a case of trying to get something cheap and cutting corners.

  • Fori
    2 months ago

    How did you determine where the fence would be? Did you say "it should be x feet from the house"? If so, it implies parallel to the house; otherwise you'd say "x feet from the house at the door" or "x from the south corner". Yes, the expectation is to get a normal shape with right angles except where specified (like at your angle).


    That doesn't mean he has to fix it. He can use Juno's argument, which--forced as it is--is pretty much where you're at.

  • Christopher C Nc
    2 months ago

    Good luck R H.

    My white Christmas is still melting. I have been pacing and had a thought you may appreciate or not. File it away as Plan B. Or Plan Z if need be.

    Because this is a smaller space inside your larger property there could be a landscape design solution done outside the new fence, I say outside the fence because DOG, that could make the angled back fence line disappear or even better, make the angled fence line actually work. I have no idea what that solution might be because I know nothing about your circumstances or site conditions.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with an offset line. If it is one part of a bigger picture and balanced, it is quite possible to make the annoying go away when you look out the windows.

  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
    2 months ago

    Christopher C Nc..I didn't say it but I was thinking the same thing..I thought a "living fence" (a mixed hedge..trees..shrubs) outside or inside of the actual fence would disguise the off kilter installation..

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC
    2 months ago

    R H:


    Starting in the corner allegedly out of square, measure 30 feet in one direction and make a mark. Again starting in the corner, measure 40 feet in the adjacent direction and mark. Measure between the marks please. The amount you're off from 50 feet is the amount your fence is out of square if at all.

  • PRO
    Revolutionary Gardens
    2 months ago

    On an issue like this it's not so much "defending the contractor" as advising on what the likely outcome would be if this got to a judge or mediator. If the terms of the contract have been met, you need to pay the contractor. It's that simple. If your expectation was never communicated and explicitly documented it didn't exist, from that standpoint.


    Fence contractors make money by being fast. If a detail is important it needs to be established before work starts. Because as you've seen, you blink and the job is done.

  • Katie Dotson
    2 months ago

    That would drive me bonkers as well. However, the outcome depends on how detailed your instructions to the contractor was given. Of course there are contractors that also have "detailed" brain and and would tell you that the fence would not be square if your instructions were followed. Others have a "Do what I think they said" attitude. As long as the contractor can get their money, that is all they care.


    You may be able to discuss this with your fence guy and come to some equitable agreement or it may turn out to be one of those hard learned lessons about getting things in writing, complete with drawings. Don't ask me how I know this.


    It's also to your advantage to ask for references and then contact the references! You also have the right to ask if the contractor is licensed and insured. If they can't show proof, then send them on down the road. Anyone can have the words "Licensed and Insured" printed on a business card. Heck, I could claim to be an astronaut. (I've learned that astronaut and space cadet have nothing to do with each other. Another disappointment in my life.)


    I hope you get this resolved.