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What Should you Take in Consideration When Getting an Estimate for your Fence, Gate or Railing Project

Getting a Fence Estimate

When you are getting estimates/bids for an fences, gates, or railings, do you have any idea of how much it should cost? Do you know what you are paying for and where fence contractors sometimes cut corners?

To help you be well informed and hire the right fence contractor in South Florida, we have outlined below what you should look for in a fence project estimate and fence contractors. All Fencing and Repair designed guides and price ranges to give you a good idea how much your custom fence, gate, catwalk railing, stair railing and balcony railing should cost.

Getting A Ballpark Price for your Project

Many homeowners have little experience dealing with fence contractors and have no idea of what they should budget. So they often use the estimating process to get a feel for what their project will cost -- instead of learning what they can get for the amount they want to spend. And this 'fishing for a price' is what drives fence contractors crazy, wasting their time and resulting in lots of call back problems ... because fence builders try to avoid investing time in clients who will never purchase from them.

So doing a little homework before choosing your fencing company is worth your time. Most custom built fence, gate and railing projects fall into three categories:

1- Basic designs

2- Custom designs built by craftsmen

3- Expensive high end designs

Knowing what quality/complexity price range fits your budget can help you decide what type of fence builder you are lookingfor.

After checking the pricing section you will have a better idea of the the price range of the structure you want built before you call for estimates.

So, now that you know what your are looking for and have a clear idea of your budget, it is time to try and find the right builder for you. That can start with personal recommendations and also you can check us at Southeast Florida Better Business Bureau.

Free vs. Paying For A Fence, Gate or Railing Estimate

Giving estimates is part of the basic services of a fencing contractor, and so all our estimates for fences, gates, arbor or decks are free. Be wary of fencing companies who wants to charge you for spending half an hour to give you a estimate.

Know Who Is Giving You An Estimate

All Fencing and Repair recommends that you make sure you are dealing only with licensed and bonded fencing contractors. This ensures that they have passed a basic test about their specific trade and, more importantly, it gives you a way to check on them.

Getting Bids For The Same Fence, Gate or Railing Project

Make sure that when you are getting your estimates you give the same project description and building requirements to each fencing company you are working up an estimate. Often homeowners/city project contractors find they learn something new from each fencing contractor they talk to, so the design and requirements change or evolve. The end result is that, even though the estimates sound like the same building project, the first estimate may not reflect the project estimated in the last one. So, you want to make sure that every fence contractor is bidding on building the exact same project and that the details are the same: materials, size, location, use, and style as well as less often talked about things like how long it will take to build and what kind of maintenance your fence, gate or deck will require.

Having All The Decision Makers Involved on Project

It is also important to have every person who will be participating in making decisions involved in the initial meeting. This allows everyone to be involved early ... so everyone can have input into the design concept, voice their design vetoes and evaluate the potential fence, deck, arbor builders. If you are having a fence built and your neighbors are not paying for part of the project, it is still important to have them present if it involves their property line or view. This way, their concerns can be addressed early on. It can get costly retrofitting a design in the middle or end of building to keep peace with the neighbors.

Know Your Budget Range for the Project

Finally, before you start getting estimates, it is essential to have a good idea of what your project should cost and the price range (basic, custom or high end) you are interested in. Knowing your price range lets you red flag builders who are overcharging you by submitting very high bids or giving you an unrealistically low bid to get your business.

It is also good to know ahead of time your ideal budget range and your maximum number. Why? Because for many homeowners, this is the first time they have the opportunity to have something truly custom built that reflects their personal tastes and preferences. Once the ideas start rolling, it is easy to come up with design concepts that far exceed what you really want to spend. Having a solid budget and communicating your ideas of design helps keep everyone's feet on the ground and avoid design options that lead to shocking surprise. For example, the choice of wood can double the cost of a project. Reputable professional fence, gate, arbor and deck builders can work within a budget and give you options and discuss trade offs based on how much you want to realistically spend.

Get A Detailed Estimate

All the estimates you get should be put into writing and include enough detail so you know exactly what you are buying. Getting a detailed estimate is preferable to a generic invoice form quickly filled out with the minimum of information. All Fencing and Repair written estimates include a lot of detail about the type of materials we use, including the grade of wood.

All Fencing and Repair has been in the business of installing commercial, industrial and residential high quality fences, gates, decks and arbors throughout South Florida since 1997. Through a combination of hard work, traditional skills and modern fence fabrication techniques, we have gained the trust and satisfaction of all our customers. Our fence products are individually designed by our fence craftsmen and all of our fencing manufacturing is offered under one roof. Our business is located in Sunrise, FL and we serve the whole South Florida area.

How to Compare your Written Fence, Gate or Railing Project Estimates

When comparing written bids or estimates, you need to evaluate and compare several things:
  • overall project description with dimensions
  • total price, along with breakdowns for materials and labor
  • hardware, wood, aluminum, wrought iron, composite material, and construction techniques to be used for the substructure or supports
  • hardware, wood, aluminum, wrought iron, composite material, and construction techniques to be used for the visible part (decking, fence boards)
  • finish details, special requests and add-ons like demolition and removal of existing structure, upgraded hardware, built-ins, and staining.
  • cost and time needed, along with total cost for the completed project

Overall Fence, Gate or Railing Project Description

Review all the bids to make sure they all describe the exact same end product. Usually homeowners make sure the overall dimensions are the same, but may miss subtle differences in the special requests which some builders may not have included. If these are added later as "in progress" work orders, change orders or "add-ons", you may end up paying more than if they were included in the original estimate. Sometimes the additional cost reflects valid costs by the contractor who may have to spend time making a special trip to purchase more materials or pay a restocking fee for returned materials. However, this is one area where fence contractors who have underbid the project to get your business can now recoup their losses or inflate the profit they can make on your job.

Substructure Materials & Construction Techniques for Fences, Gates and Railings

Although you may never see it -- the substructure or frame is the most important part of your structure. Why? Because how well it is built will determine how long your project will last. Poorly constructed frames can cause your deck to wobble or sink, your gate to sag and not close properly, your arbor to sway and your fence to lean. And, unfortunately, because the client rarely sees it, this is where some fence contractors cut corners.

The first thing to look if you are using wood, is what type of wood is going to be used, and the number and size of the beams or support posts. The substructure or frame should be made from wood that is well protected from the elements and will last a long time.

The beams or posts need to be strong enough to stand up to years of use. So you want to make sure that your frame is built with not only enough, but that the right size is used. Why is the size important? Because larger beams and posts cost more -- so a contractor can keep his material costs low by using undersized or minimum size framing materials.

The framing hardware is also important, since this is what anchors your wood beams and posts to the ground, holds the cross beams together and keeps your structure upright and wiggle free. Steel brackets and ties hold the cross members in the right position for years, and add strength and rigidity.

Finally, the construction techniques that bring all these elements together in the construction of your fence, deck, arbor or gate can have a big impact on the life of your structure. You want a strong foundation for your structure, so your frame should be built on solid foundations.

Key questions to ask:

1) What type of wood is being used for the frame, support posts or substructure?

2) How many beams and posts are being used and what size are they?

3) What type of brackets, ties and other hardware is being used to hold all this wood together? And what are they made of? (Galvanized is good, but the more expensive stainless steel is better.)

4) Are the posts being set into the ground, into concrete or mounted into above ground stirrups? (Wood in contact with the ground invites termites so I recommend mounting above the ground with stirrups placed in concrete filled holes.)

5) Are the failure points being double treated with extra preservative to prevent early failure? (Does each builder know where the failure points are?)

Visible Materials & Construction Techniques for Fences, Gates and Railings

Since this is what the client will see every day, this is where estimates provide the most detail. Again, you want to compare the type, grade and size of wood used if using wood, as well as the hardware, and construction details.

For a long life, you want to have a rot resistant wood (such as Redwood or Cedar), a hardwood (such as Red Balau) or a low maintenance wood composite (such as Trex�). Soft woods (such as Douglas Fir or Pine) are often cheap alternatives that do not last long when exposed to the outdoor elements and termites.

Just as important as the type of wood is the grade and quality of wood used. Cheaper grades cost less, so it is easy for a fence contractor to underbid a project by planning to use a lower grade of wood. Often, these lower grades feature more knots, uneven color, and less inherent protection from the elements.

Next, you want to evaluate the construction techniques used for this part of the project. The use of the right hardware (screws, brackets, adhesive) and techniques (notched beams, removable panels for maintenance) can have a big impact on the final look of your project.

Finish Details, Special Requests Add Ons to your Fence, Gate or Railing Project

The final look of your project is often created with the finish details which give you a unique look. However, these can also require more time and materials and lead to a big price difference in your estimates.

For example, the difference between building a straight picket fence or one that curves seems small on paper. But it takes substantially more labor to create this more sophisticated look. Having custom picket ends cut to match your existing porch railings or house trim sees small until you multiply the time required to cut each by the number of pickets (usually 100+). So look to make sure that each bid is giving you the same details that will give you the final look you want. These include finials and caps for posts, accent hardware, and assembly techniques such as notches, insets and rounding or radiusing of edges.

In addition to the details, you want to make sure all the bids include the same special requests you have made. For example, you might want a special feature like a removable panel for maintenance, heavy duty hardware for gate latches for a high traffic area, a more complex deck board pattern, decorative end beam cuts to match your house or an additional arbor tier to increase the visual interest. If each estimate gives you a slightly different quote, you could struggle trying to compare.

Estimate Cost, Time & Completed Project Cost

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into an estimate. But the bottom line is what your project is going to cost you. Unfortunately, unlike buying a car, there are no posted "sticker" prices for designing and building custom fences, gates and balcony railings. So many homeowners are left wondering if they are getting a good deal or being overcharged.

The first thing to know when comparing estimates is that they only reflect three costs:

  • the materials used
  • the labor needed for design and building, including how long it wil take to complete project

Since most fence contractors in South Florida purchase materials at the same lumber yards, major differences in estimate prices reflect either cheaper materials, lower labor costs, or lower profit margins. A cheaper estimate does not always imply poor quality or materials -- however the adage of "you get what you pay for" does apply.

To make an informed decision you want to understand:

  • what you are paying for
  • twhat you are not paying for

Lower Labor Costs

For example, lower labor costs could come from using a crew of lower skilled workers who are paid less. If they are working for someone who has a high quality standard, you still get a great fence or deck. But if the lower labor costs come from skipping steps that will ensure a long life -- that will affect the overall look and life of your wood project.

Lower Material Costs

The same idea applies to the materials. For example, if the material prices vary more than 10% - 20%, chances are the estimates are not based on using the same grade, quality and amount of materials -- or the prices reflect hidden profits.

Time Needed

One cost homeowners rarely factor in but are all too aware of is the cost of their time in dealing with their contractor and the impact of the length of construction and having fence builders on-site.

Total Project Cost

When looking at the estimates, you also want to look at the total cost of the project. Often, demolition new landscaping and painting will be additional costs that do not show up on the builders estimate.

There is a variety of materials used to build fences, gates that are appropriate for South Florida weather. All Fencing and Repair will consider the structural and architectural design of your property, your requirements and most importantly your local municipal code to suggest you a choice of fencing. Even though in South Florida aluminum fence/railing and wood fences are the most widely used material for building residential, industrial and commercial fences, we at All Fencing and Repair, also offer high quality chain link fences and ornamental/iron fences and gates. If you choose ornamental fencing our professional and creative staff will help you choose decorative pieces that will beautify your ornamental fence.

Fencing your property will not only keep your children and pets safely at home it will also protect your property from vandalism, crime, theft, liability of accidental injuries and it will increase your property value. Interested in our services and products? Take a look at the galleries below.

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For more information on our company fencing materials projects and products, please contact us at 954-306-3477. We look forward to working with you starting with a free on-site estimate.

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