With most fencing shops and contractors booked solid, more and more people are embracing the Northwest “can do!” spirit and going the DIY route. If you’re considering building your own fence but aren’t sure how to get started, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you should know before you begin building your own fence.
Types of fences
First things first: Let’s talk about the different types of fences and the pros and cons of each.
A cedar fence is a popular option and it’s highly recommended that you use “post on pipe” construction if you go this route. Because it rains so often in Washington, you don’t want wood to have contact with the ground. “Over time, the fence absorbs the water and when the winds come in, they snap on the bottom,” explains Igor Kozlov, a local contractor at Inline Fences. Although it’s cheaper in the short term, think of it as an investment for the future — you can rest easy knowing that your fence won’t fall down.
Seattle resident Jerrod Hainline, who recently built his own fence using materials from All City Fence, opted to use post on pipe for this exact reason. “I didn’t want 4×4 wood posts going into the ground because they’d rot,” Hainline says. “With post on pipe, the pipe goes into the 4×4 and it’s the only thing that sinks into the concrete, so it won’t rot.”
Another option is ornamental iron. Kozlov explains that this fence type requires very little maintenance, so you won’t have to think about it much after the project is completed. Ornamental iron fences are also elegant and aesthetically pleasing. Ornamental iron provides good security, though it doesn’t offer much in the way of privacy.
Then there’s a chain-link fence. This style tends to be a more popular option for commercial or industrial properties, but Kozlov says it’s still doable for residential homes. In this scenario, he recommends going with a black iron-coated or green iron-coated fence. “The thing with chain link is you can get these slats in the middle, inside the chain link, for extra privacy,” he adds.
Choose the right fence type for your needs
If you’re looking for both privacy and security, a cedar fence is a strong option.
If privacy is less of a concern, consider ornamental iron. “If a customer has a nice view and wants to have security without compromising the view, then I’d recommend ornamental iron,” says Kozlov. For extra security, go with spear tops — it looks classy, too.
If your top priority is security, chain link fences are known for being one of the most secure ways to protect your property.
How to plan your fence
So, you’ve decided on the fence type that best suits your needs. Now what? The two most important things are ensuring you have accurate measurements and that you have all the right materials and tools to build your fence. Hainline emphasizes the importance of measuring correctly. “Measure twice,” he says. “Doing your measurements right is key.”
Once you’ve gotten accurate measurements, the next step is to figure out the correct amount of each material needed.
Kozlov recommends getting extra boards in case you have any measurement discrepancies or other unexpected challenges. Don’t forget to include concrete and nails in your estimate. You can use an online fencing materials calculator to get a rough idea of exactly how much you’ll need of each material, but be sure to confirm these estimates with a professional before you invest in them.
Hainline emphasizes that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re buying your supplies — after all, building a fence isn’t exactly something you do every day.
“When I bought the materials, I asked for help. I asked questions like ‘how deep should I dig the hole?’ and ‘how wide should it be?’ ” says Hainline.
Beware of these common mistakes
Kozlov says the most common mistake is assuming that building a fence is easy. This mentality, of course, leads to people starting to build without enough knowledge or even all the right tools and they end up wasting a lot of time. As Hainline said, ask a lot of questions — it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared.
If you already have an old fence that you’re replacing, you’ll need to dig out the quarter posts — and they have existing concrete slabs that probably go two feet deep. Kozlov says to make sure you have a jackhammer to do this; you could seriously injure your back trying to pull the plug from underground.
Another common mistake is not going deep enough when you’re digging the post. “If you don’t know how to grade it, you’ll end up building a fence that isn’t straight and it just looks unprofessional,” says Kozlov.
Finally, don’t forget to call 811 before you start digging — it’s important to notify utilities that you intend to dig so they can mark any buried utility lines on your property.
When it’s time to call for professional help
Building your own fence is a pretty big deal, especially if you don’t have prior experience and there’s no shame in calling for some professional help if you run into roadblocks or if something on your property requires special tools. For example, Kozlov recommends calling in professional help if you have a retaining wall.
“You can’t really dig on the retaining wall, so I highly recommend professional help,” he says. “We have tools that drill into the concrete to anchor it so it’s very clean and it’s very professional.” These tools are very expensive, so it’s worth the cost of bringing in a professional for that particular task.
Similarly, if you have a lot of trees and roots where you want to build, Kozlov says it’s best to call a professional. “It’s a nightmare digging where there’s a big root system and, again, professionals have special tools,” he says.
For Hainline, building his own fence was a positive experience and he encourages others to not be afraid to do it, too. “Sometimes I go back and look at my fence and think, ‘I’m glad I did that; it looks good and I’m proud of it,’” he says. “If you look really closely you might find an error or two, but it’s beautiful and I’m proud of it.”
Hainline’s parting words of advice are, again, don’t be afraid to ask questions! He also emphasizes the importance of buying high-quality materials. “Don’t buy cheap stuff. It’s an investment,” he says. Hainline also encourages anyone building their own fence to take their time and have fun with it. “At the end of it, you’re able to say you’re proud of what you did,” he says.
At All City Fence, we source the best materials available to make sure your fence matches up to our high standards. When planning your fence, call the professionals. We’re here to help with every step: advice, material sales and more!