How to Build a Fence

Wood Fence Panel

Knowing how to build a fence can save hundreds of dollars in labor costs. Although it is not a difficult project to complete, having a helper to assist in moving fence panels and setting fence posts is essential.

Picking a Fencing System

There are dozens of fencing systems available at the typical Lowe's Home Improvement Store, Home Depot, or other home improvement center. Most systems use the same general theories to construct a fence, but the materials and construction methods used may vary. In general, a fencing system that uses fencing panels is easiest to install. These fencing systems are usually made of wood or a composite material, although they may use metal posts to prevent rot.

When choosing a fence, the intended function should be carefully considered. Is the fence intended to provide a barrier for a dog or small children? Is it intended to provide privacy? Does it need to keep small animals out? The answers to these questions will help determine the kind of fence needed.

The budget for your fence and the time you intend to spend maintaining it are also important issues to address. While wood fences may be less expensive initially, the cost to maintain a wood fence accumulates over time.

How to Build a Fence Step By Step

Although building a fence requires a lot of manual labor, conceptually it is an easy structure to construct. If you purchase a fencing system, be sure to read the manufacturer's guidelines before you begin.

Installing Fence Posts

Setting fence posts properly has the greatest impact on the appearance of the finished fence. Plan on installing fence posts 48 hours before adding the fence sections. Unless otherwise instructed by your fencing manufacturer, posts should be spaced at either six or eight feet on center. One third of the total length of the post should be buried underground.

To easily create the deep, cylindrical holes required, a post hole digger is a useful tool. Just calculate the necessary depth of the hole and use the post digger to dig each hole. Consider using stakes to mark each post's intended location before digging.

Setting posts in concrete is an easy way to create a stable post. Mix the concrete according to the manufacturer's instructions. Then start by having an assistant hold the pole in place, while you shovel the concrete into the hole. When the hole has been filled with concrete, use a trowel to build up some concrete around the pole, having it slope slightly towards the ground. This extra step will help prevent water damage.

Installing fence posts using concrete often produces the sturdiest structure. However, the cost of concrete as well as the additional work involved may not be worthwhile for your particular project. In these cases, using dirt as a fill material may be warranted.

After the hole has been dug, add a shovel full of gravel. The gravel will help with any drainage problems that may occur. Put the pole in place, asking an assistant to hold it. Add dirt fill around the pole, stopping to pack the soil every few inches with the shovel. Build the dirt up around the post once the top of the hole has been reached, having the dirt slope slightly away from the post. Pack the area around the post well.

Installing Fencing Panels

Fencing panels allow a homeowner to install a fence quickly. Wood fencing panels are attached to metal polls using a U shaped fencing clip. To install the panels, have an assistant hold the panel into place. Then, place the U shaped fencing clip over the metal pole and onto one of the vertical support pieces of the panel. Screw into place with galvanized screws or nail into place with galvanized nails. Repeat the procedure, adding the manufacturer's specified amount of fencing clips to each panel.

For fencing systems with wood posts, a fencing clip is often attached to the post itself. Then the panel is slid into place between the two posts. While this method produces a fence that is more traditional in appearance, it requires more measuring and skill to construct. In some cases, the manufacturer may recommend installing the posts individually as the panels are installed. This alternative method of how to build a fence will allow the installer to make adjustments as needed.

Finishing Touches

While composite fencing options will require little maintenance, if you installed a wood fence you should plan on painting, staining, or at least sealing the wood. This will help prevent rot and can double the useful life of the fence. Be sure to use an outdoor paint or sealant made for fences. Fences that are stained should also be sealed to protect the wood. A good piece of DIY advice is to plan on resealing any wood used for outdoor applications every three to five years.

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