Taking on a fence project yourself can save you the monetary cost of hiring a professional, but it’s important to be prepared for the work involved. The first step is to plan, measure and get all the materials you’ll need.
Always check for underground pipes or service lines before digging holes for your fence posts. This can prevent costly mistakes and expensive repairs later on.
Most homeowner-installed fences require a lot of planning, and this is especially true if you’re working with wood posts and spray foam insulation. This is because the wood has a tendency to twist or warp slightly. Having arrow-straight posts is essential to a successful fence installation and will ensure your new fence is level, uniform, and stable.
The first thing you’ll need to do before beginning work is make sure you have all the materials required. You should also check with your neighborhood’s building department to see what design and setback restrictions, if any, there are for fencing. You may also need a permit to build one.
Before digging holes for your fence posts, you’ll need to call 811. This service will mark all underground utility lines for you so you don’t accidentally hit them. It’s a good idea to stake the location for each corner of the fenced-in area as well. You’ll need this information later on when installing the posts. You’ll also want to consider how high your fence should be. This will affect how much grass grows underneath and around the fence and whether or not a gate can be installed.
If you’re an accomplished DIYer with some construction or woodworking experience and a willing partner, installing a fence yourself can save money over hiring someone. Before starting, review the homeowner’s deed to determine property lines, and use garden stakes (or even sticks from your yard) to mark the line where the fence will go.
Next, visit your local home improvement store to purchase the materials needed for the project. Always buy a little more than you think you’ll need – it increases your margin of error and gives you a bit more material to work with if mistakes are made.
When digging holes for posts, it’s best to rent a post hole digger or auger. It makes the job much easier and faster.
You’ll also need a post pounder, which is a heavy steel bar with handles on the side that you can bang down to set T-bar posts into the ground. A spirit level is also helpful for making sure that the fence is perfectly straight as you build it. A good rule of thumb for determining the depth of a post hole is that it should be one-third to one-half of the fence’s height.
Digging the Posts
The posts are the backbone of your fence, so it’s important to make sure they are set properly. Most people use concrete to set their fence posts, which provides the strongest support. Before digging any holes, check with your local building code to find out how deep your posts should be. The rule of thumb is to dig the hole one-third to one-half as deep as the post’s aboveground height.
Once you’ve dug the post holes, stretch a string line from corner to corner, using a carpenter’s square to ensure that the corners are perfectly square and that the string lines run straight. This will help you to set the posts in a straight line.
Before setting the posts, add six inches of gravel, such as Quikrete all-purpose gravel, to each hole. This will provide a solid base for the post and keep it from coming into direct contact with the soil, which can cause it to rot. If you’re using concrete, top off the hole with sloped concrete to help rain and snow melt drain away from the post, preventing water from pooling around the bottom and rotting the wood.
Installing the Panels or Pickets
The last step in the fence building process is to install your panels or pickets. Using panels makes this part of the job much easier than building a fence from scratch with individual pickets, especially for those with a limited amount of time.
Before installing your fence, you should check with local ordinances and regulations to ensure that the fence complies with all requirements. Also, you should contact utility companies to have them mark any underground pipes and cables before digging. You can also consult with your neighbors along the fence line to make sure they’re okay with having a new fence in front of their property.
When installing the fence, it’s important to measure your yard and calculate the total length needed. This will help you avoid over- or underestimating your materials and having to return them. Also, remember to always measure twice—once before beginning to build the fence, and again after installing the fence.
Finally, if your fence is made of wood, you may want to stain or paint it to protect it from the elements. After staining, allow the wood to dry completely.
Attaching Post Caps
Fences can make a house seem more appealing, provide safety for pets or children, and separate your property from neighbors’. However, building a safe fence requires some hard work and the right materials to be successful. You might even need to get a permit from your town to make the fence legal.
Before digging the fence posts, run string from corner to corner to ensure your line is straight. This will prevent the posts from being set in the ground at different heights and keep the fence panels or slats evenly spaced.
When setting the posts, use scrap two-by-fours to support them in the hole and help keep the concrete sturdy between each post. It’s also a good idea to check each post with a bubble or laser level before seating it in the ground.
Post caps are not only a great way to finish the look of your fence, but they also protect the end of the wood from moisture, which can cause it to rot and break down. Be sure to buy caps that fit correctly on the base of the post and snap securely in place.