Fence installation is a common project that many homeowners will do. Here’s how to install a fence and when you may need a contractor instead.
In the years between 2015 and 2017, Americans worked on 113 million projects to improve their homes. That includes upgrades like renovating the kitchen, adding a deck, or building a fence.
If you’re an ambitious DIYer and you want to add some privacy to your yard, you should consider installing a fence.
The trouble is, fence installation is not for the faint of heart and there are a lot of steps to follow.
Luckily, we’ve laid out all the steps here. Read on to learn how to install a fence yourself and when you might be better off hiring a contractor.
DIY Fence Installation Checklist: What to Do Before You Begin
Before you buy supplies or choose a weekend to install the fence, there’s a few things you have to take care of first.
First, you need to find out where your property lines are. This will prevent any future legal disputes with a neighbor who says your fence is on their property.
There’s a few ways to find your property lines. You can check the deed that’s part of your homeowner records or visit your local zoning department. Sidewalk lines and streetlights can also give you an idea of where your property lines are, but it’s best to get official proof.
When you check with your local zoning department, also ask if you need a building permit. If you build your fence without getting a required permit, you could face a fine or have to remove the fence.
Whether you’re installing a new fence or replacing an old one, you should tell your neighbors what you’re planning. It’s the neighborly thing to do. Plus, it’s important if you or your neighbor has kids or pets, since the installation could be a safety risk.
Finally, you have to call 811 to locate your underground utility lines. Hitting an underground utility line can be very dangerous.
Gather Your Tools and Supplies
Once you’ve taken care of the pre-installation checklist, it’s time to get your supplies.
To plan the location of your fence, you’ll need a level, a tape measure, and some string. You can also use small wooden batter boards to mark the location of the fence corners.
You’ll also need to get a post hole digger from your local hardware store. It looks like a large corkscrew that’s about the size of a shovel. You also have the option of renting a mechanical auger to dig the holes with less effort.
Next, you’ll need building supplies for the fence. You’ll need gravel and cement to set the fence posts. A shovel and a wheelbarrow will also come in handy when you’re moving dirt and gravel.
Don’t forget to buy the fence posts and the panels as well. You can choose materials like wood, metal, vinyl, or chain link depending on what kind of fence you want.
How to Install a Fence
Whether you want to learn how to install a wood fence or how to install a metal fence, you can follow these instructions. No matter what type of fence material you choose, all fence installations follow the same basic steps.
Step 1: Decide the Fence Layout and Choose Post Locations
Once you know your property lines, you can decide the layout for your fence. In most places, you can’t build directly on the property line so you need to put the fence a few inches inside it. Check your local zoning laws and regulations.
Next, you can map out the fence by putting a stake or batter board at each fence corner. Then, use a string to connect the corners so you can see the outline of your fence. Make sure the corners are square and adjust if you need to.
Use the strings as a guide to mark spots for the line posts. There should be about 6 or 8 feet between each line post.
Step 2: Install the Fence Posts
The corner posts support the entire fence, so you need to install the corner posts first. Use an auger or post hole digger to make the hole.
A third of the post should be buried in the ground, so measure the length of your post and divide it by three. That’s about how deep the hole needs to be. Check your local building codes to make sure your post hole is the right depth.
Next, put a few shovels of gravel at the bottom of the hole. Set the post on top of it and fill the hole with concrete and cover it with dirt. See if the post is level and make any adjustments before the concrete dries.
Once you’ve installed the corner posts, do the same thing for the line posts and the gate posts if there’s a gate in your fence.
Step 3: Connect the Fence Rails or Pickets and the Gate
Once you’ve installed the fence posts, you can install the rest of the fence. If you choose a panel fence, you’ll install a section at a time. If you choose a picket fence, you’ll install the horizontal rails first and then the vertical pickets.
For picket fences, you can use a string guide to keep the rails look level. That way the entire fence will look straight.
Once you’ve marked the location for each section or rail, you can start attaching them. Use a power drill to screw each section or rail to the posts.
When to Hire a Contractor
While the DIY route might work for some people, it’s not the right choice for all homeowners. If you haven’t done many home improvement projects before, installing a fence yourself might not be a good choice.
If you don’t have the time to spend on installation or tracking down building permits, you should hire a professional. It’s also a good idea to hire someone if your yard is very slanted or has rough terrain.
When it comes to choosing a fence contractor, you need to find someone with good reviews and happy customers. Look for a contractor who has installed a fence in a yard similar to your own. Check out some of their past work to see if they’re a good fit for your fence project.
Upgrade Your Yard with a New Fence Today
Learning how to install a fence can be a challenge for some. If you’re ready to take on this home improvement project, follow our guide. If not, you can hire a professional to build a fence for you.
For more home improvement ideas like this one, check out our home and DIY articles.
Author: Darcy Reed