If it’s time to build, or rebuild, some fencing around your house, here are answers to a few commonly asked questions that might help make your next fencing project a little easier.
Q: How do I lay out exactly where the fence will go?
First of all, you need to determine if the fence will go directly along the line between your property and your neighbor’s. If that’s the case, you need to determine exactly where your property lines are and lay out the fence accordingly. In fact, it may even be necessary to pay for a property line survey, because if you end up putting your fence on your neighbor’s property, you may end up incurring the cost of ripping all that fencing out and redoing it. If the fence is not going on a property line, then it’s only necessary to determine where you want the fence to start and stop.
Once you’ve determined the course of the fence, drive a stake in at each corner. Stretch a string tightly between the stakes, and use the string to determine the line of construction. If you have a long run of fencing, or if it will be making any changes of direction, add intermediate stakes as needed to keep the string line accurate.
Q: How deep do I need to dig the holes?
In most soils, you need to dig a hole that is about one third the height of the post above the ground. For example, if your post will be 5 feet above ground, you want the post hole to be about 1 foot, 8 inches deep. In loose or sandy soil, increase the depth by approximately 50 percent. As a time-saving trick, when digging holes with a post hole digger, first measure up from the cutting edge of the post hole digger and mark the handles in one-inch increments with waterproof pen. That will allow you to quickly check the depth of the hole as you dig, without always having to fish out your tape measure.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of metal posts versus wood posts?
Metal posts have the advantage of consistency and long life. They will not warp, twist, split or otherwise become deformed, and should last longer then any other component in your fence assembly. On the down side, special hardware is required for connecting the wooden horizontal stringers to the posts, a pipe cutter or hacksaw is required for the cutting posts to their finished height, and a metal cap is typically used to finish off the cut top of the post and to prevent water from getting down inside (the posts are hollow, like a pipe), which adds a little bit of cost. Both wood and metal posts will work fine for just about any type of fence installation, but a growing number of professional installers are favoring metal.
Q: Do I need to pour concrete at every post?
Concreting your posts will definitely help keep them straight and solid, and in the overall scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay in time and money for the peace of mind of a sturdy fence. Concrete is especially important for posts that extend above the ground 5 feet or more, or in loose soil.
Q: How do I keep the heights of the posts even?
The most common method is to first set all of the posts in the ground, without worrying about their heights. Next, measure the desired height on the corner posts and cut them off, then stretch a chalk line between the two corner posts. Snap the line to mark all the intermediate posts, and then cut each one off at the proper height.
An alternate method is to dig the corner post holes to the proper depth so that the two corner posts end up at the desired height. Stretch a string over the top of these two posts, and then use the string as a guide for setting the intermediate posts by adjusting the depth of each hole as needed so that the post ends up at the right height.
Q: How do I set posts if the ground is not level?
The methods used for uneven ground are pretty much the same as for level ground, with the exception of utilizing more intermediate posts. In addition to setting the corner posts and cutting them off to the proper heights, you need to set a post at each major change in elevation. Measure and mark the desired height on each intermediate post, and tack a nail at the mark. Stretch a string between the nails to establish the line for the remaining posts. As you set each post, it is especially important that the posts remain plumb, regardless of how much the ground slopes.
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