Adding a fence is not always the first home improvement project homeowners think about. But a fence around your home is one of the best ways to improve its value because fences are visually
compelling. Their impact on the home’s curb appeal is immediate.
And if you have small children or pets in your home, a fence will keep them from wandering while also keeping wild animals out. Fences give you more privacy and help reduce the premium on your homeowner’s insurance. Insurers will believe your home is safer and more secure.
But before you can install a fence, you must first determine if it is even possible to add a fence to your home. Initial questions you have to answer are:
- Does my neighborhood permit fences? In some areas, there are prohibitions for wood fences. In some cases, you only build to a certain height or design.
- Where are my property lines? If you plan to build on the property line, you may need a site survey and your neighbor’s consent.
- Where are the underground utility lines? Before digging in the yard, have the utility companies mark the location of utility lines.
Once you have gotten these out of the way, the real building can start. And the most critical part of your fence is the part no one sees. This is the part that serves as its foundation, namely your fence posts. If you install the posts right, half the work is done because:
- The posts support the weight of the fence
- They anchor the fence against the impact of strong winds
- They keep the fence stable when the soil in your yard is shifting or crumbling
Following the rights steps for erecting fence posts ensures the fence will not need urgent work in the years to come. Here are useful tips for building the foundation of your fence:
1. Choosing the fence posts
The wood you use for your posts must be able to withstand burial. They should be resistant to rot. Black locust is a wood species that is naturally rot-resistant. But if it is not possible to use wood that can resist rot naturally, the second alternative is wood rated for direct ground contact. These woods receive preservative treatments that allow them to survive burial. Also, note that the wood you use as fence posts should be larger than the wood used in the rest of the fence, usually 4 x 4 or 4 x 6-inch timber.
2. If you have to, treat the wood yourself
In situations where you don’t have access to pretreated wood, what should you do? The next best thing is to coat the posts with preservatives manually. Most people use copper naphthenate as their wood preservative, although there are other effective alternatives. Cover one-third of the post with the preservative, including all cut sections, and leave it to dry thoroughly. If you prefer, you may paint just the below-ground sections of the wood, at least six inches above the part that will be buried.
3. Posts depth and spacing
As a rule, bury a minimum of 1/3 of the post in the ground. This usually translates to a 2:1 above/below ground ratio. If you are building a 6-foot fence, the posts should be buried 3-feet in the ground. Having this much of the post buried ensures the fence can withstand strong gusts of wind. However, if your fence is short, you may need to bury more than one-third of the length of each post. Also, when spacing your posts, keep them between six and eight feet apart. Erect the posts at each end first, then stretch a line between them and use it to align the other posts.
4. Compacted soil VS concrete base
There is a lot of debate about whether you should use concrete or compacted soil to hold your posts in place. The main issue is when the post needs replacement due to rot or damage. Replacing a post that is rooted in concrete is hard work. As an alternative to concrete, you can use crushed gravel with rock dust. But if your home is on clayey soils, there may be no need to use concrete or gravel at all, as clay does a great job of holding fence posts. In the end, it is all a matter of personal preference.
5. Burying the posts
The hole you dig for the post should be twice its diameter. Remove large rocks and tree roots. If you plan on using concrete, make the hole wider at the base like an upturned ice-cream cone. This will prevent frost from heaving the post out of the ground. And finally, after installing the fence and filling the hole with compacted earth or concrete, make a mound at the base of the post to direct rain and snow away from it. If you use concrete, make sure it is cured before you do this.