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How to Install a Fence in Your Yard – A Step-By-Step Guide

white picket fence

Image by Peter Brown from Pixabay

Fences add privacy and a touch of security to your home, and they can be a great way to add interest to your yard or garden. Here, we’ll discuss how to install a fence in your yard.

Step 1: Check Local Zoning Codes and Regulations

Before you start installing a fence, you need to make sure it’s completely legal. In most cases, zoning laws do permit the building of fences, but they may place some restrictions on the materials and styles you can use.

In addition, homeowners’ associations will often have limitations on whether you can build a fence and what types are allowed. Check with your HOA to determine what type of fences you’re allowed to install.

Historic districts tend to have more rules than other places on what you can do with your property, particularly when it comes to the front yard. You’ll be required to keep to the overall aesthetic of your neighborhood, so keep that in mind before you start planning.

Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to check with your neighbors. Not only can you get ideas from them on what works, you’ll also avoid conflicts.

Step 2: Choose a Material and Style

The next step to install a fence in your yard is to choose a material and style. Common materials for home fences include:

Photo by Alvin Engler on Unsplash

  • Wood
  • Aluminum
  • PVC
  • Vinyl
  • Wrought iron
  • Chain link
  • Bamboo

Many of these fencing materials can be used for multiple styles. Two of the most popular styles for homes are board-on-board (shadowbox), pickets, and post-and-rail.

The following instructions are meant for board-on-board and picket fences, so keep that in mind if you go for a different style.

Step 3: Determine Spacing for Posts

Once you have your materials, you’ll need to start planning out the fence’s layout. At this point, it’s absolutely crucial that you know exactly where your property’s boundaries are, so if you haven’t checked already, do so.

Start your plans by figuring out the corners. Each corner will have a post, and the distance between corner posts will provide the baseline for your measurements. Typically, fence posts are spaced between six and eight feet apart.

To find where to put your posts, it helps to put down your corner posts first (or use a temporary post) and stretch a string from one to the next. Mark along each line where you’ll dig.

For the gate, make sure you place posts with just enough space for a door with full-width panels.

Step 4: Dig Holes and Set Posts

Here, we begin the actual process for installing your fence. Using a post hole digger, dig holes about 1/3 of the fence post’s height. The string you placed in step 3 should help you get your holes in a straight line.

If you’re in a place that freezes, such as Wichita, Kansas, you might need deeper fence post holes. The reason for this is to keep posts from being pushed out of the ground when soil freezes.

Once your holes are dug, start setting your posts. If you’re using wood for your fence, you might want to apply a wood preservative to the section of the posts that will be underground.

After that, fill the bottom of the hole with either concrete or gravel, and plant your post. Use a level to make sure it’s straight. Use braces or stakes to keep it that way, then fill in the rest of the hole with concrete or soil, carefully tamping it down afterward.

Once the hole is filled, remove the braces and move on to the next.

Step 5: Install Fence Rails

Once your posts are set in the ground, it is time to install the rails. For most fences, it’s  a good idea to span multiple posts with long rails. For instance, if your posts are seven feet apart, you’ll want to measure rails about 14 feet long (plus a bit extra) to span three posts.

Each rail should end flush with the corner post, and they should also remain at the same height from one post to the next.

Cut the boards so they fit flush with each other, and nail or screw them to the side of each post.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Step 6: The Gate

If you want a door in your fence, you’ll need to install the gate. Some types of gates will need some support boards at the posts. Attach the gate’s hinges to those boards.

Step 7: Attach Your Boards/Pickets

On wooden fences, once the rails are in place, you’ll attach vertical boards. This step is as simple as nailing each board to the rails, but make sure you keep them straight and level. To do that, it helps to attach your corner boards first, then run a string from the top of one to the next (using nails to secure them).

Step 8: Paint and Decorate

Most fences, once installed, will need to be finished or painted. Use weatherproof paint in multiple coats to get the color you want, then coat it with a sealant.

Extra Tips on How to Install a Fence

Some additional tips that might help throughout this process include the following:

  • Check for underground utilities before you dig. Calling 811 can get you that information.
  • Get the help of a friend—an extra set of hands makes installing your fence much easier.
  • Check to see if you need a permit. Some cities require it.
  • Make sure your gate size accounts for full width boards or pickets.

If the whole task seems a bit daunting to you, it might be a good idea to get a professional. That, or see if you know someone who’s an experienced DIYer and get them to help you out!

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