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Fence installation may seem like a straightforward home improvement project, but it’s often more involved than meets the eye. Rocky ground, sloping terrain and other unexpected challenges can make the job more complicated. A professional contractor can overcome these obstacles and install your fence faster than you can do it yourself.
1. Get Your Property Surveyed
In order to build a fence that is legally in your own yard, it is important to know exactly where the property lines are. A licensed surveyor will mark your property with stakes and use GPS to provide you with an accurate map of the boundaries. A survey will also help you to determine whether your property is encroaching on your neighbors’ land.
In addition, a survey will give you an idea of the value of your property. This is important for financial statements, estate planning and more. A survey will also reveal any type of property easement that may run through or near the area where you want to install a fence.
Once you have a survey, it’s time to prepare the site for installation. Start by calling 811 to have any buried utility lines located. Then dig the post holes. They should be at least one-third to one-half of the fence height and deep enough to be stable when filled with concrete or other materials.
You may also need to check with your local government or homeowner’s association to see if you need to get a building permit before starting the project. Having all your legal ducks in a row will prevent any issues that could arise later on.
2. Get a Building Permit
Fences are highly visible structures, and your community may have laws governing their height, materials and placement. If you don’t follow these rules, you could end up having to tear down your brand-new modern fence—a costly mistake. Before beginning construction, check with your local building department to see what the requirements are.
A permit is not always necessary for installing a fence, but it’s always worth checking to make sure. If you hire a contractor to handle the permit process, they should know exactly what’s required and what steps to take to speed up the approval time.
If you’re planning to install a fence yourself, you should contact JULIE (or your local utility company) and have all underground lines located for free before starting work. This will prevent you from accidentally hitting a line and causing significant damage to your property. It’s also the law in most areas that you must notify JULIE before digging. Even if you are hiring a professional, it’s still a good idea to do this to avoid a potentially expensive project down the road.
3. Talk to Your Neighbors
Living with neighbors who like and respect you can make your building or neighborhood a more pleasant place to live. They’re less likely to intrude on your personal space, be loud and boisterous, or just make daily living uncomfortable. This kind of positive relationship often starts with simple conversations and invitations.
For instance, if you’re planning to build a fence, speak with your neighbors and find out what their expectations are. This will prevent you from accidentally encroaching on their property or, worse, hitting utility lines. Also, you’ll want to know whether your city or neighborhood has any covenants that dictate the look, height, or material of a fence.
Knowing your neighbors can also make it easier to work out conflicts when they arise. If, for example, your neighbor is hosting a party that gets out of hand and their kids are running wild on your lawn, they may be more understanding when you call the police. It can also be a good idea to offer to help your neighbors out from time to time, like sharing the extra tomatoes from your garden or helping mow their stretch of grass. It’s these small acts of kindness that can lead to a stronger sense of community and long-lasting friendships.
4. Clear the Area
Like any home improvement project, a fence requires a certain amount of prep work before it can be built. This includes clearing the yard of anything that could hinder construction, such as stray debris or a messy backyard. The more room your fence building crew has, the faster and more efficiently they can work.
This step is especially important if your property lines are unclear. Accidentally installing your fence outside of the property line can lead to disputes with neighbors and even cost you money. You can avoid this issue by hiring a professional to stake your property line and find the property pins that are used to mark it.
Depending on the type of fence you’re installing, you may also want to consider clearing trees or shrubbery that are in the way. This could mean trimming bushes or pruning large trees to allow for the new fencing. If you’re removing any trees, be sure to grind the stump and roots so they can’t grow back.
Also, call the utility companies to find out where any gas, electric or cable lines are buried on your property. Damaging these lines can cause expensive damage and even leave you without service.
5. Install the Posts
Fence posts are the backbone of any fence. They help to keep your fence upright, and they ensure that all your panels are attached in a straight line. They also need to be sturdy enough to withstand the weight of your fence and the pressure from wind or gravity.
For most residential fences, it’s best to install posts that are at least 6 feet apart. This will make the fence stronger and more stable, preventing it from sagging over time.
Ideally, you should use treated wood posts (as opposed to untreated) because they are less likely to rot. If you prefer a more natural look, you can use a wooden post that’s painted or stained.
While many homeowners choose to set their posts in concrete, this can be a bit costly and slow. It’s recommended to only pour a concrete footing for posts that support a gate, are freestanding, or are at the end of a fence (where there may be a slope).
To speed up the process, you can try using quick-setting concrete, like Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix. This can be mixed in a bucket, poured around the fence post, and troweled to smooth. Then, just wait a day or two for the concrete to cure.
6. Attach the Panels
Before you begin installing your fence you will need to set the posts. This is done by digging a hole and then putting concrete in it to form the post. It’s important to make sure that the posts are in a straight line and that they are plumb. If they aren’t you will have problems when it comes time to attach the panels.
A spirit level is helpful for checking how straight a post is but a post level is much easier to use as it will tell you the level on two faces of your post at once. If you have one of these it will save a lot of time as you won’t need to keep checking the spirit level.
Once the metal posts are set they will need to be covered with concrete. When pouring the concrete it is important that you use a tube to help you get the concrete to flow in a straight line. You will also need to string a line between the far corner or end posts so that you can be sure that the new post is aligned with both of them.
It’s best to bring a helper with you when you are securing the panels. This will allow you to work faster and will prevent any mistakes. Also be sure to use a metal screw and not a wood screw when attaching the panel to the post.
7. Apply the Finish
Once you’ve chosen the stain that suits your protective and aesthetic needs it’s time to apply it. It’s important to take a few precautions during this process to ensure a smooth and even finish. Before beginning, it’s a good idea to do a quick visual check of the fence for any areas that may need additional sanding or repairs. This will give you a better idea of how long the process is going to take and help avoid any unnecessary surprises down the road.
It’s also a good idea to use painter’s tape and drop cloths to protect any areas you don’t want to stain or to prevent stain from getting on anything other than the fence slats. Lastly, make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area with low wind. Sprayers can produce a lot of airborne particles that can be harmful to your health.
If you’re using a sprayer be sure to practice first on a less visible area of the fence to get a feel for exactly how much you need to spray. If you apply too much, there will be run marks; too little and your stain will be patchy. Once you’re done, allow the stain to dry completely before using the fence again.
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