Building a fence

Many landowners simply build a fence along what they think is their property line – risking problems ranging from annoyed neighbours to potential challenges to their property boundaries.

Put it on the line

Ideally, a new fence between two properties should be located on the boundary, enabling each neighbour to own half of the fence and share the maintenance and replacement costs equally.

A property survey plan is necessary to accurately show the boundary location. Each neighbour can examine their own plan and, for rectangular lots, approximate their property limits by measuring the perpendicular ties to each house shown on their survey plans*. 

Consider having the boundary staked

You can also engage a surveyor to mark your property boundaries and stake the fence line before digging the first post hole. This will eliminate the uncertainty of locating your fence along your boundaries, and save yourself the potential expense and hassle of being forced to move the fence because you are encroaching on your neighbour’s land.

If you wish to be the sole owner of the new fence, ensure that it is located completely on your side of the property boundary—but recognize that you will be surrendering use of a portion of your land to your neighbour. If your property (or your neighbour’s property) is sold, the new owner(s) may incorrectly assume that the fence is on the property line, which could lead to potential problems if not disclosed to them by the seller.

Zoning by-laws will dictate the required fence height and materials, and professional fence-viewers are available to resolve disputes between adjacent landowners as long as the dispute is not related to the boundary location. Only an Ontario Land Surveyor is entitled by law to provide a boundary location.

Be aware that building a fence alongside or amid growing trees will likely cause damage to the fence over time, and subsequent repairs may cause renewed fence sections to deviate significantly from the true boundary line.

Poet Robert Frost famously wrote that “Good fences make for good neighbours” and we would like to add that the best fence is one that properly marks your property boundaries. Have a friendly chat with your neighbours before you build your fence. With luck, your neighbours will recognize the mutual benefit you'll both get and agree with your fence plan—and possibly even share the cost with you!


* This method is only advised for general information purposes. Only a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor can determine the true location of a boundary.