Define your perimeter

Fences can serve three purposes: to keep people out, to keep people and pets in and to act as a decorative border to your property. Fences add a finished look to your property and are often used to add some privacy in cramped neighborhoods.

Installing a fence can be fairly complicated, and takes a lot of time to do it right. If you're set on installing the fence yourself, make sure you have some helpers on hand.

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Prep Work Before Installing Your Fence

Before you start fence shopping, learn about your local bylaws. Does your neighborhood have rules about the heights of fences or which materials are acceptable? If your neighbors both have similar types of fencing, it's best not to deviate from their design - doing so will make your house stand out, and not necessarily in a good way.

It's also crucial to make sure you know exactly where your property line is. An inch or two of error on either side can cause major headaches down the road. Neighbors tend to be territorial of their property and may call in a surveyor to check your work. If you're encroaching on the neighbor's side, you may be forced to tear down your work and start again.

Plan out your fence. If you don't have a square or rectangular yard, where will you make the corners? Where will you install your fence gate? Most homeowners opt to place the entrance close to their garage or front door. Which way will the gate swing? Will you need any special security measures like a gate lock or security sensors? If you're choosing a decorative gate, be sure to measure how it fits with your fence and if it's the right height.

Tips for Sturdy Fence Construction

When you're installing your fence keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep it up. Make sure the bottom rail of your fence is at least 2 inches above the ground. This will protect your fence from rot and makes trimming the grass easier.
  • Measure, measure, measure. With sloping lawns and uneven ground, it's easy for fences to look staggered in height, producing a very unappealing look. Follow the old handyman's saying: "measure twice, cut once."
  • Remember drainage. Just like any permanent structure, drainage is important to fences too. Put a shovelfull of gravel or a large rock in the posthole for each fence post. This will prevent the post from rotting or shifting.
  • Start in the corner. Install the corner posts first and work out from there. This will help keep your posts in line with each other and create a stronger fence.

Keep your wooden fence looking sharp by sanding and staining it every few years. Metal fences should be painted with rust-resistant paint to keep them looking fresh.

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