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A fence can provide security and privacy. It can keep your dog in and your neighbor’s dog out. But the fence that keeps the dog in may not be tall enough to keep out prying eyes. First consider why you want a fence, then find a few existing fences that meet your needs. Now look at the back of these fences. The front and back of a fence are almost always different. Any fence that is beautiful from your yard but unattractive from the neighbor’s deck is probably a poor choice. Where a fence is to be located, its dimensions, the amounts of time, money and help available, the climate at your location—all of these factors go into deciding what kind of fence you will build.
Once you’ve decided on a type of fence, decide on the material—chain link, vinyl, redwood, cedar, ornamental iron, or pressure-treated wood. While chain link wins no awards for beauty, it will keep the kids in the backyard, it doesn’t block your view of the neighborhood, and it is maintenance-free. Vinyl comes almost exclusively in white, but it’s a white that stays maintenance-free for years.
You can build almost any kind of fence with wood, then paint it, stain it, or simply admire the grain. Wood issues arise in regard to maintenance. Fortunately, pressure-treated wood pretty much solves the problem. Once you get above ground, the resistance to decay is considerably less important. Cedar, redwood, and pressure-treated wood will give you similar results. (If you’re building the fence from scratch, pressure-treated timber rated “above ground” is made for everything except posts.)
Whether you’re building from scratch or prefab panels, if you go with pressure-treated wood, stain it rather than paint it. Even the best paint will eventually chip. Cedar and redwood can both do with or without a finish. Both exterior-grade clear finish (other than varnish) and finishes made to match the wood apply easily. Both will also darken the wood somewhat, as will time and weather. Time and weather, however, won’t lengthen the life of the fence; a good finish will.
Basic materials for constructing a wood fence include (A) pressure-treated 4×4s for posts; a stamp indicates that they are suitable for ground burial. Protect the tops of posts from exposure to water with (B) post caps . (C) Prefab fencing panels go up quickly and come in a variety of styles. If you want to build a fence from scratch, nail (D) pressure-treated 2×4 rails to the posts to build a frame for the fencing. Fence boards made from (E) 1×6s apply to fencing styles such as the alternate board, louver, or basket weave. You can also make your own pickets by cutting shapes from (F) 1×4s. (G) Cedar and (H) redwood fence boards resist rot naturally and are virtually maintenance-free. (I) Wire fencing is yet another option. Build a rustic fence without the old-time work, using (J) precut mortised posts and rails, or nail rails to a 6-inch post.
Vinyl fences come with ready-to-assemble (A) balustrades, (B) posts , (C) top rails, (D) bottom rails, (E) fence boards, and (F) post caps. Many local home improvement centers offer pre-assembled fence panels of both wood and vinyl, which speed installation time.
Mix (A) concrete and put it in end, corner, and gatepost holes to anchor the posts in the ground. (You can also purchase ready-mix concrete for this purpose, or hire a concrete vendor to drive a pump truck to your home and pump it in the holes.) Put (B) gravel underneath the other posts to help drain away water.
A chain link fence is easy to put up -- don’t be scared off by its large number of parts. For the basic frame, you’ll need (A) 2-1/2" diameter end posts and caps, (B) 1-5/8" diameter line posts and caps , and (C) 1-3/8" diameter rails and caps. Attach rail caps to posts with (D) brace bands. Assemble a gate with (E) top, bottom, and side rails or buy all the parts together in a kit. Install (F) chain link fencing with (G) tension bands, (H) tension bars, (I) tension wires, (J) tie wires, and (K) hog rings.
Choose fasteners and hardware suited to the type of fence and gate you’re building. Fit rails edge up between posts with (A) hangers and galvanized hanger nails. Fasten fence boards with (B) deck screws or (C) galvanized nails. Attach wire fencing to wood posts and rails with (D) staples. Hang a gate with (E) self-closing butt hinges, (F) strap hinges, (G) T hinges, or (H) lag-and-strap hinges. (I) Strike latches can be used to fasten the door shut when not in use. Other types of latches include (J) a drop latch, (K) a slide-bolt latch, (L) a thumb latch, and (M) a hasp latch. For a double gate, install (N) a barrel bolt. (O) A spring closure swings a gate shut automatically. Correct a sagging gate with a turnbuckle-style (P) anti-sag kit.
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