By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Considering adding a little privacy to your yard by adding a fence?  Or maybe you’re tired of the fence you have and want something new.   In this week’s Angie’s List report, Jim Donovan has some things you should consider if you’re thinking of installing a new fence.

Fences can be a great way to give you more privacy and they often provide security too.

“We installed the fence because we wanted more privacy in our backyard and we have two dogs that like to run around and it’s nice to have them not tied down,” said homeowner, Kim Ruskowsky.

But before you have one installed, you’ll need to do a little research.

“Fences can make the best neighbors unless it’s put on the wrong side of the property line. The first thing you want to do is have a survey of your property and check with your neighbors. It’s not required to do that but it’s a nice courtesy. And don’t forget to check out your homeowner’s association by-laws because they might have regulations about the type of fence,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.

There are a variety of materials to choose from like vinyl which is low maintenance.  Wood may require more upkeep.   But keep in mind, prices vary widely.  So evaluate your options carefully. And before you hire anyone, ask for references.

“When hiring a fencing company you want someone who is going to be willing to share references with you. Ask if you can go out and visit with those references. Look for a house that they have done a few years ago to see how that fence has held up and a project that’s been done recently to find out what it was like to work with the company,” said Hicks.

More from Angie:

Fencing Materials:

•           Wood: One of the most common types of fencing, wood can give properties a traditional look. However, the lifetime of wood fencing varies. Many types have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and require regular maintenance, ranging from cleaning and sealing to painting. It’s important to understand the different types of wood and which are preferable for your purposes, tastes and climate. Bamboo is among the most recent newcomers to the range of fencing options. It is highly touted because it is considered environmentally friendly

•           Vinyl/composite: Often a top choice among homeowner associations in newer neighborhoods, this type of fencing tends to have clean, uniform lines. It also is a cost-effective option because it is easy to maintain; no painting and sealing required. In most cases, vinyl/composite fencing has a longer warranty than other types of fencing.

•           Metals:  Materials in this category can include aluminum, steel and traditional wrought iron – an expensive but beautiful choice. These options are ideal if you want to establish boundaries on your property but would rather maintain your views. They also can be highly decorative and enhance the overall aesthetic of your property.

•           Brick/masonry: Though an expensive option, brick as fencing is appropriate for historic neighborhoods and more stately properties. It also provides a high degree of privacy and security.

What to consider when installing a fence

•           What’s the purpose of the fence? Is it for privacy? To keep your kids and dogs in or another reason?

•           Are you allowed to have fence? If so, what type? Homeowners are responsible for checking with their homeowners association on types of fences allowed, verifying their property lines, having their yard checked for buried utility lines, etc.

•           Be a good neighbor: While it’s not legally required, communicate with your neighbors that you’re thinking of putting up a fence so they don’t learn of it only when they see it being installed.

•           Factor in maintenance: Your fence will lose its appeal if you don’t maintain it. Check your fence every few months for splintering, peeling, mold, breakage and insects. Be careful with the weed whacker near the fence. Over time, that causes splintering and scratches which breaks the seal and encourages damage.

Hiring a fencing contractor:

•           A quality fencing company should provide you with written estimates, a warranty on the work, as well as a product warranty on the materials.

•           Are they a full-service company? In addition to the installation, do they do repairs and adjustments?

•           Ask for references and don’t be afraid to do a little leg work to check up on the company’s past projects.

•           Get at least three written estimate and read the contract thoroughly.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3