9 steps to building a picket or chain link fence

June 30, 2015

Building your own fence can be easier than you thought. Armed with a plan and the right materials, you can put up a sturdy picket or chain link fence that will last for years.

9 steps to building a picket or chain link fence

1. Easy digging

  • Use a posthole digger to scoop out deep, narrow holes without disturbing the surrounding soil.
  • Or use a soil auger, which bores neat holes with little effort. Set posts 45 to 60 centimetres deep.

In cold climates, dig one metre deep to get below the frost line.

2. Anchor the posts

  • Use metal spear connectors, available at home supply stores, to solidify fence posts.

These spears can be easily driven into the ground with a sledgehammer before the post is attached. However, they'll be sturdier if sunk in concrete.

3. Cutting your own pickets?

  • Clamp several pickets together in a bench vise and saw through them all at once to save time and assure consistent length.

But before going to the trouble of cutting your own, check out precut pickets and preassembled panels, which are widely available at home supply stores.

4. Properly space your fence

Use a spare picket as a spacer to ensure consistent gaps when you're assembling a picket fence.

5. Trim post tops

Trim post tops to a point, slant or dome to shed water, or buy protective post caps, sold at hardware and home stores.

6. Prevent rot

  • Prevent rot by coating individual wood pieces with a preservative, stain or paint before assembling the fence, so all the surfaces will be covered.

Check the fence at least once a year to see if it needs touchups, repair or recoating, which should be done before the bare wood is exposed to the elements.

7. Don't go cheap on chain link

  • Select sturdy iron or heavy-gauge galvanized chain link.
  • Plastic coating increases a metal fence's longevity; choose green to help it blend with the surroundings or black if the fence will be located in a shady area.

8. Avoid rust

Use galvanized or brass nails or screws as fasteners for your fence to prevent rust that will stain the wood.

9. Coat costly cast-iron fencing

  • Coat costly cast-iron fencing with rust-inhibiting paint before setting it up, then repaint every three years.

Watch for chipping or flaking that will leave metal exposed.

If you get rotted board ends

  • Saw off the damaged portions and attach a five x 10 centimetre board horizontally at the base of the posts.

To prevent future problems, set the replacement 2.5 centimetres above ground level so that air can circulate freely.

Make a fence disappear

  • Let a hedge or climbers grow through a chain-link fence to help it fade into the landscape.

To reduce weed trimming chores, plant daylilies or other vigorous perennials at the base.

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