Tips on Building a Wood Fence
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Tips on Building a Wood Fence

Fencing your yard is a big expense that requires careful planning. Consider these helpful tips before beginning your landscape design and planning your fence. A visit to your community building code office is the first step. Be sure to contact the “call before you dig” 811 help line to have your yard marked for underground power and cables even before you measure.

Building Codes

Some communities require building permits for fences. Visit the building code office of your city or town to find out if they offer a plan for fences in your area. Sometimes the code office will provide a small packet complete with drawings and recommended materials for your building project. It is a great resource, and then you can be sure that you are not violating any codes. Many cities now have online websites where you can download and print plans and codes for a variety of building projects such as decks, sheds, fences and garages. Call city hall if you are not sure who to ask about building codes in your community.

Be Neighborly

It is worth mentioning that your neighbor will likely have to look at your fence every day. It would be kind and neighborly to reach out to your neighbor regarding your plans and perhaps discuss the possibility of sharing the cost of a fence that follows the property line of both homes. If your neighbor is not in favor of the project, you may have to just move forward with your plans on your side of the property line, but do try to negotiate a solution if there is a conflict. After all, you don’t want to have to build that fence any higher than you have to.

Select the Right Wood

Selecting fencing wood that will hold up in all weather conditions is usually pretty easy because the lumber yards and home improvement centers will have their fencing materials in a section that is clearly labeled as such and will have an assortment of precut, treated wood fencing products appropriate for your region.

Red Cedar, Redwood, Spruce, Pine are all common wood choices fencing.  Heartwood is the most naturally resistant wood for outdoor construction but can be cost prohibitive. Many of the wood choices for fencing will be pressure treated with chemicals that resist insects and rot. You may ask for the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the chemical that has been used on the particular fencing product that you are considering. Arsenic treated wood is no longer available but used to be quite common.

American Wood Protection Association has extensive information on how to select the best option for treated wood.

Surface Treatments

There are wood preservative, stains and paint made specifically for outdoor landscape wood. Look for surface treatments that include UV protection, anti-mildew and insect resistant additives or properties.

You may want to use a heavy bodied stain if you are trying to impart a little color. Choose a product that says that it is “penetrating”. You still may want to topcoat your wood fence with a clear coat.

Wood fences will generally turn silver or gray if left untreated. You may like that look and it is indeed pretty common throughout many suburban backyards. If you do want your wood to have color you will want to coat it every few years with  stain or tinted UV protection coating.

Nails and Fasteners

Nails and fasteners must be galvanized or coated for outdoor use if you want to preserve the look and integrity of your fence structure. A short walk around a neighborhood will soon show you the homeowners who did not use proper outdoor fasteners or nails because as time passes you will see rust colored streaks running down each slat in the fence.

Enjoy Your Outdoor Living Space

Fencing a backyard can provide security and extend your living space for years of enjoyment. When designing a landscape, take care to protect the investment of your fencing by careful selection of appropriate materials and building procedures. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of the knowledgeable staff at building supply stores by asking additional questions.

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Comments (1)

Built a few fences in my day, Jude. These are some good tips.