My husband is wanting to build a wooden privacy fence himself. Does anyone have any suggestions on the building process, like how far apart do you put the posts, how far do you put the post in the ground, etc. Any detail and advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
Karen from LA
Check with the court house of your town, you need to get your utilities marked before you dig down for the posts. Most of the things I have read say to sink your posts 6-12 inches down, depending on if you are going to use concrete or bricks to help keep the fence stable. Also, when making a solid privacy fence, you'll want to check this to with the court house, you usually have to build it so that your neighbors see the finished side, while the posts are seen from your side, unless you plan on building on both sides. So sink your posts, then either lay the boards running horizontally, or use lattice sheets, and plant climbing plants, like roses or vines. I'm not sure which would be cheaper, but I would think that the lattice would be.
The Easy-Going Method Fence Project:
We put up our own "modified" stockade fence. If you can, whatever wood you choose, think about allowing enough time to let the wood uprights "dry out" in open air, for a month or two, a season, if possible.
Be sure to seek out the "ground contact" certification/logo on your wood posts, and, if you are laying down any garden ties (to increase the ground height). If it doesn't say "ground contact" your purchase will come back and bite you later.
Measure your yard a few times. The "standard" increment for posts would be 8 ft apart. That means: Post at starting point edge plus the 3-1/2 inches of your post, next the exterior edge, next eight feet exactly and strictly, next then the first side of the next post. But if you're using pre-made fence sections, be careful, because some of the ends are cracked or missing wood, etc.
We laid our posts an "eye pleasing" (not strictly measured) distance apart; even put a small segment right by the house, for a swanky recycling bins area. Sure, cutting horizontal pieces individually is a pain in the butt, however, in the future, you can just remove the entire segment and cut off those gnarly ends of a new one and drop it into the holders. Another reason we made ours "eye pleasing" was to add "emergency" fence sections (one on each side,) that are hinged in case we needed the exit. People couldn't see it from the outside, but our neighbors know, in case of emergency, theirs or ours. Also, you can "frame" around an extra-large tree or boulder living on your property line.
Measure 1,000 times and set up your guide lines "taut" with "bright" mason's line. It doesn't stretch and it's easily seen. Measure your diagonal corners. Move the stake until both diagonal measurements are equal length. This is really easy and a pretty much crucial. The end result can be a better looking fence than your neighbor's who paid his contractor. We used 2x4's to stand the posts in their holes to make sure each one faced the mason's line perfectly. Standing individually the post looks like an upside down bird footprint, sorta. We used the 2x4 galvanized holders w/deck screws to hold up the horizontal 2x3's.
For each post, we took care to paint the in-ground length with reinforced w/fiber roof coating which really helps extend its life from bugs and varmits. Inspect each post for any missed holes or dried bubbles. Slathering it on is really fun. Tar glop on hands, forearms, face, little helpers, etc? Just use plain ol' vegetable oil on skin and you clean up faster than any smelly auto store creams. In fact, if you want to rub on a bit "before" you start, it is exponentially easier to wipe off just about anything. Because you're using the Easy-Going Method, those post ends will be dry and easy to handle by the time you start your project.
We dug sensational wide bottom "bell" shaped holes and sank every last post in concrete. Post hole digger and a tall thin shovel does this quick. Ask around to see if there are any additional local "tips" for LA's moisture, bugs, or sandy soils that would help. Find out your local "frost line" and place your posts even farther down than that. We used 10'+ posts and cut the tops "after" the fence was finished. We left many posts taller to accommodate plant hangers, tiny light strings, etc.
Here's the luxury of this stretched out project: When you start your project with "dried wood" parts, uprights will be easier to fit together as you please, they are pretty darn close to their final (shrunken) widths. "If" you start out with moist any-kind-of-wood, uprights, by the time they cure, the vertical opening between slats with look "huge", instead of the quaint width you wanted. Also, you can easily discard or reuse the uprights that drying brought out that were bent, twisted or completely cracked by an innocent looking tiny knot saving you time and aggravation ahead. If you're using boards as fence uprights, you can use this "drying time" to cut out custom fence designs.
Calculate about how many uprights you will need. If you need many of them, buy a pallet of individual uprights from a local fence company. Plus, that delivery charge is easy to digest when you figure you're getting the product you want; not having to drive-load-unload-drive-back to get more; saving gas; and saving your mental energy for the project itself. Keep an eye out for "end of season" fence segments and snatch up as many "broken" segments as you can. Buy these uprights when you find a good sale, not right at the time the fence needs to get done.
Use galvanized or decking coarse thread screws. Later, you can move those uprights closer together and won't tear out any wood from a stubborn nail. Please mull these ideas around as you plan. It should be fun. Go to the library or Depot store and crack open their orange book of projects. I use that with customers to show what their construction project will involve. Go online. Find sites that show you things at "your" DIY level. The main thing is, this project can be a leisurely one that winds up quickly with top-notch results. You can do it. Good luck.
There are many choices of materials to use such types of wood, vinyl, metal etc. Next I would look in the yellow pages for companies that sell fencing and visit them for instructions and choice of materials. Another thought is to visit a big box store such as Lowe's or Home Depot and look in the section were they have all these books on building projects. They would have step by step instructions on building a fence. (02/26/2009)
To prevent the wood from warping on the top of the boards nail another cross piece close to the top. You can remove the board later or just keep it there. We've had 2 fences "twist" in Louisiana and were given this hint by the man installing our neighbors fence. (02/27/2009)
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