Tips For Building Your Fence

With good planning, basic carpentry skills and the appropriate tools, almost anyone can build a wood fence. In fact, the most difficult part may be trying to decide on the style of fence (there are about 12 different types) and the type of building materials.

Before you begin, it's a good idea to check the local codes and ordinances in your area. They could influence your decision about the height, style, setback and material of your fence.

Use pressure treated wood or wood like redwood, western cedar or some forms of cypress i. e. , heartwood that is decay and termite resistant. And use only rust-resistant hardware for your fence - hot-dipped galvanized or aluminum nails, galvanized bolts, screws, hinges and catches. It'll help your fence last longer.

First, plot your fence line. Build the fence 1 to 2 inches on your side; it'll eliminate possible boundary disputes in the future. Unless, of course, you're marking joint boundary lines with your neighbor.

Accuracy of your fence line will determine the straightness of your fence. Plot a fence line by marking each corner post with a solidly driven stake. Run a tightly drawn mason's line between the stakes, using the line and a level to locate sites for the remaining posts. Mark each spot with a stake.

If your layout calls for plotting a right angle corner (exact 90 degrees) use the 3-4-5 rule to square the corners.

The next step is digging the post holes. Posts that aren't set firmly or deep enough into the ground may result in your newly built fence tilting or collapsing.

We recommend renting a posthole digger. You'll save time and effort by renting a power digger to dig your post holes. For ground that's rock-hard consider renting a jack hammer.

Fences up to 6 feet require post holes at least 2 feet deep. End and gate posts should be about 3 feet deep and the diameter should be about 2 1/2 to 3 times the width of a square post (10-12 inches for a 4-inch post).

Though you can set posts in earth and gravel, concrete provides the strongest installation. Be sure to plan your work carefully, because if concrete seeps under the post it can retain moisture and speed decay. Begin with the corner posts - you'll need them to plumb and align remaining posts. Plan one and a half bags of concrete mix for a 4-inch post set 3-feet deep one bag for 2-feet deep posts. Place a large, relatively flat stone in the bottom of the hole, then fill it with gravel (about 6 inches), or until it's level with the top of the stone. Continue to plumb and align the post while adding concrete (2-3 inches at a time), tamping it in. Add another 1-2 inches of concrete above ground, sloping it downward for water runoff.

Be sure to double check your posts for plumb and alignment. You'll have about 20 minutes to move your posts after pouring. And wait at least 2 days before installing the rails and siding.

Align each fence post so they're exactly vertical and in a straight line. The most common aligning method is the end post or corner post method, though it may be impractical for fences longer than 100 feet. Begin with your two corner posts. Position posts with their faces in flat alignment and plumb them with a level.

Next, nail a 2-inch-long 1 by 2 spacer block to each post -about 1 foot above the ground. Stretch and tie a mason's line between the posts, making sure the blocks are between the line and the posts. Then tie a second mason's line at the top of the posts.

With lines intact, set and align each post so their faces are exactly the thickness of a 1 by 2 (3/4 inch) away from the lines. Before and after filling each post hole with concrete, check each post for plumb and alignment, using a level on two adjacent faces.

Once the fence posts are set and aligned the most difficult part of building your fence is over. The next steps include attaching the railings, installing kickboards (if you plan to use them), and securing the siding like boards, pickets, panels and other material.


Once the fence posts are set and aligned, the next step is to attach the rails, install the kickboards (if you plan to use them) and post the siding (boards, pickets, panels, or other materials).

Even though setting and aligning the fence posts are the most difficult parts to building to a fence, you still need to be careful when you fit, level, and fasten the rails. That's because this part of the framework ties the fence together and must support the weight of your siding.

"You'll need a hammer, lots of nails, a good level, lots of string and a circular saw. "You can rent the saw. Check to see if you set the top of the posts at their finished height, adds If you haven It done so yet, do it now.

Now you're ready to join the rails to the posts. Decide how many railings you want between the posts. Most fence designs require at least two railings, but for added strength use three railings, or install a wood or masonry support under the center of the bottom rail. Place the railings on edge, so the siding is less likely to sag, especially if you plan to use heavy siding.

Attach the rails to the fence posts with fence brackets or angle brackets, or by toenailing them. You can buy them at your local hardware store. Nail 2 X 4 cleats to the posts for extra support (if you plan to toenail the rails).

Determine if you want to use butted or lapped rails. Lapped rails are the easiest to install and are most often used with vertical board fences.

Level the rails and nail them to the posts using hot-dipped galvanized common, or box nails that are at least three times as long as the thickness of the rails. When attaching the railings, keep in mind if the railings meet at a corner, miter the ends. If they meet on an intermediate post, butt the ends at the middle of the post. Butted rails should be cut to fit snugly between posts.

Kickboards are installed for decorative and technical reasons. On board and panel fences, siding is usually added 6 to 8 inches above the ground to keep it from rotting. To close this gap, a kickboard may be installed by nailing it to the bottom fence rail before the siding is attached.

Use decay resistant, 1 X 8, or 1 X 10 wood for your kickboards. Center the kickboard under the bottom rail (secured with a cleat), or nail it to the face of the post and the bottom rail. Allow the kickboard to extend at least 4 to 6 inches into the ground to discourage animals from digging under the fence.

After you've attached the kickboards you can begin with the siding. Even though this is the easiest part of building a fence, don't be tempted to start nailing without double checking if the framework is straight, because if your framework is not straight, the siding will make any problem very apparent.

The technique you use to attach the siding depends upon the type of material you use. If you're using panels for siding, consider using a helper or two to lift and hold the panels while you level and nail them into place. On the other hand, nailing boards, slats or pickets can be a one man job. Use a level to check each board for plumb before nailing them to the rails. If you installed kickboards, and they're level, you can rest the siding on top of them. otherwise, stretch a mason's line tightly along the fence where you want the bottom of the siding to end, checking the line with a level, to determine the bottom part of the fence siding. And of course, make sure all boards are the same length.

Finish the top of your fence with decorative lattice topper.