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Key Considerations When Installing a Fence at Home

A fence is an element of your home that can elevate your curb appeal, provide more privacy for your family and help secure your property. While DIY improvement shows can make fence installation seem straightforward, installing one on your own can be a serious undertaking.

Before you begin digging holes in your yard, consider the number of factors that impact fence installation, including your property’s terrain, which materials you want to use and the length of the perimeter. The following information may help determine if you have the skills and equipment needed to build your own fence.

Laying the Groundwork

Make sure you own or have access to various tools. In addition to a standard toolkit, you’ll also need a post-hole digger or gas-powered auger, a sledgehammer or mallet, a shovel, a mason string and a leveler. You may be able to rent some of these tools from a local hardware store.

Choosing your fencing material is also a crucial step. There are tons of options readily available, but which type you choose depends on your DIY skill level, what look you’re going for and functionality.

  • Cedar Wood. Pressure-treated cedar wood is a popular choice for its longevity, since it’s highly resistant to rot and decay and typically weathers to a silver-gray color. You can find cedar fencing at your local home improvement stores and the planks can be customized to a variety of different styles.
  • Vinyl. Vinyl fencing is also available in a variety of heights and styles, but it often requires more meticulous and precise installation, which could be difficult for less experienced DIYers.
  • Iron or Metal. Traditional wrought iron fences often have custom elements that can require professional installation. Newer metal options, like aluminum and steel, can provide a similar look and feel to iron, and often come in ready-made DIY-friendly kits.

Planning Your Process

Be prepared — installing a fence can be a process that spans several days. When making your plan of attack, consider each of these steps.

  • Post Location and Digging Holes. Fencing sections typically come in 6- to 8-foot lengths. It’s important to keep these standard span lengths in mind when digging holes for the fence posts, which experts recommend placing no more than 8 feet apart.
  • Choose Finishing Hardware. Once you’ve found hardware that fits your style, consider its weight and the material of your fence. For instance, a pressure-treated wooden gate can become heavier when it rains as the wood absorbs moisture. In this case, be sure to set the gate posts deeper than normal and with more cement around them.
  • Pour Cement and Secure Posts. When setting a fence post, aim to bury at least one-third of each post into the ground. Doing so will provide the structural integrity the fence needs to endure heavy winds. Allow the cement to dry for 24 hours.
  • Attach Fence Panels. There are two sides to every fence, but both sides are not created equal. Professionals follow the “pretty side out” rule: The visually attractive side should face outward toward the neighbors and road. The other side, the “integrity side,” will face inward toward the house. This is the side with the wood railings and other structural support beams.

Routine Maintenance

Once your fence is installed, consider these top maintenance tips.

  • Sealants, Stains and Paints. For wood material, a water-repellent or wood-preserve sealant will help keep your new fence from drying out in the sun. If you stain or paint your fence, reapply the stain or paint every three to five years. If you opt against staining or painting, you’ll most likely need to reapply the water sealant every year. Vinyl fencing requires minimal maintenance — simply wash off dirt with a mild detergent and garden hose. For a wrought iron or steel fence, use a brush-on or spray-on rust-inhibiting paint.
  • Landscaping. Try to keep vines from growing on your fence and be sure to trim back shrubs, especially if you chose wood material. When plants come into contact with a wooden fence, their moisture can increase the risk of wood rot.
  • Damage. If your dog digs underneath the fence line or a tree branch breaks one of your fence panels, any damage to your fence should be addressed as quickly as possible. Prompt care can reduce the risk of wood splitting and rotting, or keep a vinyl fence from sagging.

Enlisting Professional Help

Considering of all this information, you may be wondering if professional installation is worth the investment. If your yard has difficult terrain or varying elevation, you may want to look into a professional service. Also, if you live in a community with a homeowners association (HOA), bylaws may require you to choose from pre-approved contractors.

Whether you’re installing a fence yourself or going with the pros, be sure to contact your local independent insurance agent to make sure your policy includes your new addition.

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