Sometimes Less Fencing is More

Some fencing can be a real accent and actually add value to a home. On my personal home I have several types of fencing for different purposes.

Fencing options and tips

My barrier fencing which is stained

For privacy, I’ve done a solid barrier fencing and had it stained to blend with the tree bark in the background.  For pool fencing, I needed to have a specific height and type of locking mechanism so I used iron fencing. Iron fencing, while it is more permanent, does require maintenance to keep it painted.  Originally, I had green chain link fence around the perimeter but when the pool was installed I replaced it with 5 ft high black chain link (since this fence is buried pretty deep in the landscaping you really can’t see it).  The front fencing was aluminum 5 ft fencing and pre-dated the pool as well.  It doesn’t require the maintenance of iron but it doesn’t seem as stable either.

Fencing options and tips

Black iron fencing surrounds the pool

Since all my current fencing is black, it blends well and covers a myriad of purposes.  Its good to do your research when fencing to determine if there are ordinances in your HOA or neighborhood about the type of fencing.  I did learn that coyotes can jump over an 8 ft fence, so its almost impossible to fence them out. One friend installed chicken wire over the top of a fenced area to protect her pet chickens from coyotes and foxes, but obviously that’s a limited area that you can cover.

I have also tried an underground electric fence with my previous dog and while it worked to keep him in it didn’t keep other dogs out.  I feel that it made him aggressive to other dogs, as he felt contained and they weren’t, so I didn’t go that route with my current dog.

Here’s an article from Atlanta home inspector, Chris Curles, that discusses the installation and basics of fencing.

Fencing options and tipsA picket wood fence can be installed, often in a weekend, and depending on the size of the yard, for under $1,000. It is a job that can be undertaken by beginners, and needs few specialized tools. The key is to plot out the fence outline, stake it, and mark post location, which should be six to eight feet apart.

To properly set a fence post, the post should be set at least two feet into the ground, or as deep as one-third of the entire length of the post. A power auger can be rented and will save time when digging multiple holes. Three inches of gravel at the bottom of each hole will insure water will not pool around posts. Once the posts are place, they can be set with concrete. The concrete should extend two inches above ground, sloping outward to divert water.

Bottom and then top railings (also called stringers) are attached to the fence post with galvanized screw and nails, and pickets can be attached. Once all the pickets are attached, the fence can be painted or stained.

Fencing options and tips

Black chain link fence lies behind the landscaping

A privacy fence is a more difficult project, and will cost more in time, money and labor. One way to decide the height of the fence is to fashion a cardboard screen the height of the fence and try it out at various points in the yard. It’s good to remember that privacy fences work both ways. They provide a barrier that limits access, but can also wall a homeowner in and create unattractive sight-lines. Fast growing shrubs and bushes or privacy screens may be able to achieve the same effect.

Another way to break up the stockade effect is through varying fence design, height, and material, or installing partial fencing, arbors and gates in areas of the yard to be highlighted.

Once the fence design has been created and building permits granted, a plot plan will provide a starting point to mark the border of the yard. Guessing at property lines can result in having to tear down and move a fence off someone else’s property.

When the yard is staked, post holes can be marked. The more posts that are placed, the stronger the fence will be. Generally, spacing posts slightly less than eight feet apart will prevent sagging and provide a fence strong enough to remain standing in spite of wind. The process of digging post holes and installing the posts is the same, whether it’s a picket or privacy fence.

Fencing options and tips

Black aluminum fencing in front of the house

Once the post holes are dug and filled, basic carpentry tools are needed to assemble the fence. In addition, a circular saw, screwdriver, hammer and a 4-ft. level are essential. To speed up the process, a pneumatic nail gun with galvanized nails can make fast work of nailing pickets and panel boards, but only if you know how to safely use a nail gun.

The bottom and top stringers need to be nailed in place first. As least three horizontal 2x4s or 2x6s will be needed to support the weight of each privacy fence panel. Scrimping on stringers will also result in a sagging fence.

The nails hold everything together until the upper and bottom rail pieces are permanently screwed together with galvanized screws. When the stringers are in place, the fence panels can be added, along with the trim. Gates can be purchased and installed or built and installed, and the posts can be trimmed, if necessary.

There is one other important step to consider when working with wood fence material. Staining the fence can take energy as long as building it! If the wood is stained before cutting and assembly of the fence, it will look cleaner, receive better stain coverage and most importantly, save hours of staining time.

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