How to build the perfect wooden fence
So you’ve decided on building a wooden fence, but need a bit of guidance on where to start. Well, here at DirtCheapFencing.com – we have created a set of How To Guides that will ensure you create the perfect wooden fence – and at a price that will astound you.
Before you Begin
So before you start with your fencing project, you need to keep a few important considerations in mind. The first factor to consider is whether your project will comply with local bylaws and municipal regulations regarding building codes – especially as they relate to the location of your fence and its location on the property border. Before beginning, you also need to determine the location of all your utility lines including water, gas, electrical and sewerage lines.
Consult your local municipality and determine whether your community has any restrictions on fence height and design. Many municipalities also have some limitations on the types of materials that may be used. If unsure, please contact your local municipality first, as you do not want to start a specific project without them providing the go-ahead. Your local building department can also advise you as to what is acceptable and if you will require a building variance to build your fence.
Most municipalities and local councils will provide this information free of charge – so be sure to consult them first. Also, it’s important to determine the property line before commencing any construction work. This will ensure there are no ownership issues that may arise at a later date once construction has begun. Where you have agreed with your neighbour to share costs for the construction of any fence, make sure you put that agreement in writing.
- The type of fence to be constructed
- The material type
- Who has responsibility for maintaining the fence.
Where there is no agreement, or you cannot come to an agreement with your neighbour, then the fence needs to be constructed wholly within the boundary of your property, including any concrete footing and fence posts.
Fence Design – Choose carefully
When choosing your fence design, you need to consider the intent and purpose for which you would like to construct the fence. Is the fence solely to be used as a boundary, or is it also to provide some privacy and security as well? Does the fence have any practical aspects – such as defining a particular play area or defining an area for certain activities? What are the aesthetic considerations – or will any old fence design do?
The factors to consider when designing your fence are as follows:
- The fence material
- The height of the fence
- Post settings
- Gate locations, if any
- Aesthetic appeal (including the look of the fence from both sides)
Simple Fence Plans
Where you intend installing a gate on your fence, you will need to decide whether the gate will go and how it will be designed. Most of the time the location is fairly straight forward and will largely be based on convenience and the most suited access location. However, when it comes to design, gates can either match the fence design in appearance or it can even be contrasting in size, design and material. Whatever design that you decide upon, the size of the gate will be the determining factor for post sizing and the location of the posts.
How to go about laying out your fence
Before you begin laying out your fence, you need to first locate the survey markers in the corners of your lot / land. These markers are usually made of pipe or concrete and may be buried a foot or two under the surface. Place a stake next to the marker and attach a chalk line to the stake. Pull the chalk line taut and secure it to a stake at the next marker. Continue until all boundaries are covered.
Setting, spacing and aligning the posts
The first construction step is properly locating and setting the posts so the footings are positioned inside your property line. You need to ensure that the posts are positioned according to any local ordinances. Never underestimate the most important part of fence construction – setting and aligning the posts.
If the posts are not set firmly in the ground, you will have the result of an unsteady fence. Also, if your posts are not vertically aligned and not plumb, you will have an impossible task to properly attach the rails and the fence boards.
Furthermore, post size and spacing also contribute to the aesthetic qualities of your fence. A design tip for fence construction is to always ensure that the intervals between posts are even. Most fence designs will have a post spacing of between five and eight feet. If you decide to go over eight feet, the spans may not have sufficient strength. You may need to have shorter sections though, specifically at the corners or where the fence meets a building or gate.
Digging the Post Holes
Even before your start digging, make sure you are aware of the location of any buried cables or service lines. Once those have been identified and appropriately marked out, you can begin digging. When digging post holes, you can either use a an auger or a post hole digger. Where the soil is fairly rocky in nature, you may also require a shovel and a steel digging bar. Where the soil is relatively free of rocks and you have a long fence to construct with many holes to dig, you should consider renting a power digger to save some time and effort. The hole diameter should be about 3 times the width of your posts. Put several inches of gravel in the hole for the post to rest on.
Setting and aligning fence posts
When constructing your fence, make sure that you install the end and corner posts first, making sure that the posts are in line as required. Brace the posts with stakes, and check for plumb on two adjacent sides with a level.
Stretch a string between the tops of the posts and another one near ground level.
Level the string with a line level and then put the intermediate posts in the holes and align them with both strings.
Overfill the holes with earth or concrete and bevel the fill down from the post for runoff. If you are using earth fill, wedge some rocks around the post for added stability.
Make sure that you check and adjust posts for alignment. In fact, posts that are in freshly poured concrete can be forced into alignment for a short time prior to the concrete setting.
NOTE: Fast-setting concrete will set in just 1/2 hour. If using a regular concrete mix, allow 24 to 48 hours before continuing.
Installing a Gate
Because gates receive heavy use, they require strong and secure gateposts, strong hardware and a well-braced frame. Gate openings wider than 5 feet should be spanned with 2 gates hinged to both posts and latched in the centre. The width of the gate should be about 1 inch less than the distance between the gate posts.