how to extreme

Build Your Own Fence

Construction How-To, Fencing, Projects March 2, 2016 Sonia


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A fence can add a lot to a landscape. A fence can divide property lines, boost home equity, add to the outdoor décor and safely contain animals.

When it comes to constructing a fence, you have a lot of options to consider for materials and design. Fence materials range from metal and wood to vinyl and wood-plastic composites. For an easy-to-build fence, you might consider using pre-assembled panels, which can dramatically reduce building time.

However, if your yard is sloped, then to keep the panel tops level you’ll have to stagger the panel heights where they fasten to the posts. If the yard has a significant grade, the staggered panels will create gaps at the bottom of the fence, through which a family dog can escape.

The alternative is a privacy fence built to closely follow the grade of the yard. The pickets can install along one side of the fence, or you can install a shadowbox style fence, which alternates the position of the pickets from one side of the stringer to the other.

Mark off your fence layout with stakes and twine.

Mark off your fence layout with stakes and twine.

For the framing, treated lumber is often used. Posts can be made from 8-ft. 4×4 posts, and the horizontal stringers (also called fence rails) can be made from 8-ft. 2×4 boards. The treated posts should be approved for ground contact.

For the fence boards or “pickets,” you can use treated wood or a species such as cedar or cypress that have natural preservative oils to resist insects, decay and chemical corrosion.

Use fast-setting concrete sold in ready-mix bags to set the posts. Simply pour in the mix dry, straight out of the bag into the post hole. Once the post base is buried, pour about a gallon of water per 50-lb. bag over the dry mix, which then cures in about 30 minutes. Use roughly 1-1/2 bags per post.

Fasten all connections with hot-dipped galvanized nails with ringed shanks for extra holding power. Make sure your fasteners are approved for exterior use in chemically treated lumber.

Planning the Layout

Check with local officials regarding building codes and any necessary permits. Some neighborhoods may also have certain architectural guidelines or “covenants” that restrict design. Also, double-check that the location of your proposed fence is not on a neighbor’s property. And before digging, always dial 811 nationally to get underground utility lines, cables and pipes marked for free.

Stake the line intermittently to keep the string tight and straight, and them mark the post locations with spray paint.

Stake the line intermittently to keep the string tight and straight, and them mark the post locations with spray paint.

Within local code limitations, the height, décor and trajectory of your fence are up to you, and may be dictated by other obstacles in your yard, such as trees and sheds.