Learn about the different types of materials that can be used to build a wood fence or deck, plus get tips on basic fence construction.
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To lay out a fence, secure a string line with pegs at the starting and finishing point of each straight run of fence. If you are using manufactured panels, it is best to plan the length of the fence so you can use whole ones. With other types of fences, it is easier to adjust the design to your specifications. Once you have marked positions, it is a case of installing posts to the required depth and filling in the fence.
It's best to determine the locations of post holes for a fence by locating the center of the hole. Mark that location with a nail so you can find it. Use a garden spade to dig a hole 12 inches square. Make the post hole a shaft straight into the earth with a flat bottom. Most fence post holes should be 2-feet deep. If your post height exceeds 8 feet, however, a good rule of thumb is to make the hole one-quarter of the total length of the post.
Once you have marked the run of the fence with a string line, you need to work out the post spacing. The distance between posts will vary according to fence type. For a panel fence, the distance is governed by panel size, which is commonly 8 feet. A similar distance may be used for close-board fences, although this can be adjusted depending on the type of boarding used. Fence posts can be set in concrete, or held in place by steel brackets, straps or post anchors on a concrete surface. When a fence is positioned on or next to a wall, the posts may be bolted directly to the wall, so there is no need for an attachment at ground level.
Once the post positions have been marked out, the next step is to dig post holes. Alternatively, you can drive in or bolt down post sockets. If you are digging post holes, a 6-foot fence will need posts secured in holes approximately 24 inches deep and 12 inches square. The holes will need concrete poured in the bottom. Use pressure-treated wood for the posts that will have ground contact. They can then be secured with concrete.
Fence panels can be nailed into place, but brackets give a neater finish. You need to make sure that the bottoms of the panels don't touch the ground — they must never sit in standing water. You can use gravel boards below the panels. Alternatively, as shown here, install fence panels so that they are slightly above ground level.
Screw clips to post, one at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom of the post (Image 1).
Slot the edge of the panel into the clips and secure it in place (Image 2).
Always contact your local building official and homeowner's association prior to building any outdoor structure. There are guidelines and regulations on a variety of issues ranging from material to depth of post holes.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009