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A wire fence may not be a thing of beauty, but it isn’t meant to be. It’s meant to be a good, strong utilitarian fence that goes up quickly. The quickest are made with metal posts simply driven into the ground. A sturdier version features regular wood posts set in holes. To build the wood version, set the posts every 8 feet on center, then nail a 2×4 top rail across two sections. Install bottom rails between every set of posts, then staple the wire in place. Finish the fence off with a 1×6 cap rail.
Shown at left: (A) cap rail; (B) top rail; (C) wire mesh; (D) bottom rail; (E) post.
Whether you opt for metal posts or wood posts, the height of the fence depends on the mesh you buy. It usually comes in rolls that are 4 or 5 feet wide.
A wire fence is built on a wood frame or on metal posts. A wood-framed fence has 4×4 posts with 2×4 top and bottom rails to which the mesh is stapled. A 1×6 cap rail dresses up the fence and further strengthens it.
SKILL SCALE (Easy, Medium, Hard): Medium
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE? An 80-foot run of wire fence should take about:
- Experienced - 8 hrs.
- Handy - 12 hrs.
- Novice - 16 hrs.
- Basic carpentry
Install the posts and cut the top rails long enough to span three posts. Nail the rails in place on top of the posts so their ends are on the center of the posts. Then cut the bottom rails to fit and toenail them into place between the posts.
With a helper, unroll enough mesh to reach from end post to end post. Align the end of the mesh with the edge of the post and attach it to the post with fence staples. To prevent sagging, staple the mesh to the top rail every 3 inches, temporarily leaving the bottom unattached. Work your way to the next post.
When you reach the post, pull the mesh taut. Starting at the top, staple the mesh to the post every 6 inches with ½-inch or larger staples. When you reach the bottom of the post, work your way back along the bottom rail, stapling the mesh to it as you go.
Work your way along the fence, attaching mesh in the same order as before: along the top rail, down the post, then back along the bottom rail. When you reach the end of the roll, use fencing pliers to trim any mesh that extends beyond the post.
If you need more than one roll of fencing, cut the first roll even with the edge of the post, as described in the previous step. Begin the new roll on the same post, positioning it so at least one row of rectangles overlaps those already on the post.
Once you have attached the mesh to the posts and rails, center a 1×6 cap rail on the 2×4 top rail, positioning the 1×6 so the seams between boards never fall above those in the 2×4s. Nail the cap rail in place with 10d (3-inch) nails.
Metal posts are a quick alternative to wooden posts. Space metal posts—also known as T stakes—8 feet apart and drive them into firm ground. You can use a 3-pound sledgehammer, but you’re better off using a post driver made especially for the job. A post driver is a hollow 2½-foot-long metal tube with handles and a cap at the top.
Fit it over the post, lift the tube, and ram the top down on the posts. Once all the posts are set, hook the mesh over the hooks on one end post. Pull the mesh taut, then attach it to the next post, working your way from post to post until the fence is complete.
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