Need fence-installing advice

Hi,
I would like to fence my yard for two smallish dogs. After getting some heart-stopping estimates, I decided I would tackle it myself. However, in talking to people about how to do it, I've become too intimidated to try.
I would like to do a picket fence, probably using panels, 3 feet high. I've been told it's absolutely critical that the posts be exactly the same height, set in concrete at least 2 feet deep, perfectly squared, must use several inches of gravel in the bottom, set up props and don't touch them for days after pouring concrete, don't use the quickie cement, etc. etc.
I've also been told not to go near HD or Lowe's vinyl panels, "they're junk." But I'm only fencing in two small dogs, not pigs or a bull. It doesn't need to be that sturdy and I don't even want it to be permanent, although it needs to last for several years. I live in town, so it has to look presentable, but I can't believe I have to hire pros and spend $8K+ to get it to look nice.
Do I really have to set the posts in concrete? What's the risk (other than having it look a little sloppy) if the posts aren't perfectly set? Are panels a good choice? Is there a compelling argument against using just any old panels? Is installing a fence really so tricky that an inexperienced DIYer shouldn't even try?
Jo Ann
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I have never used them, but my guess is they are not equal to the better quality materials that are available. You don't need a big dog to cause problems, normally mother nature supplies plenty of problems and she fails the neighborhood kids can usually do it.

That depends on the local conditions and how deep the post are set. If they are not properly set to begin with you are going to have problems.

Panels are more demanding of getting the post in properly. It is far easier to fudge errors when building stick than panel.

No it can be done yourself, but it is work and you do need to start with a good solid foundation (the posts)
I suggest you find a DIY book on the subject for a starter.

--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Joseph Meehan wrote:

own privacy fence out of rough-sawn pine lumber from a local saw mill. 4x4 pt on bottom, 2x4 pt on top, edges of vertical boards caught between two narrow catches on the top and bottom. The most expensive part of the whole thing was the wood stain. That surprised me.
You could design and build your own fence from rough-sawn lumber. It's actually a fun project. My fence was stepped from 5' to 8' high and was fairly complicated and wasn't overly hard to build. Meehan's advice to get a book is good.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

of plastic and the UV inhibitors. But that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune. It costs a lot of money to do all of that advertising telling people they are better. In my area there are two suppliers that sell a much better quality plastic fencing than say HD at a similar price.

That would be like saying "do the studs on my house really need to be nailed at the bottom?

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
George wrote:

If the posts are in square and exacly the right distance apart putting the panels in place is an easy job. If you get the spacing wrong it better be on the short side so you can cut the panel to length.
I have installed a run of fence and cementing the posts was the last thing done.
My method was.
place two rods in the ground at each end of the fence run and streatch a line between them , level as a guide for the fence top rail.
Dig post holes at proper spacing using a length of 2 x 4 as the measuring rod.
Place posts in holes on a stone bed approx 4-6 " deep.
prop two posts in place with scrap timber braces and nail panel in place.
with panel levelled and squared fill posthole with quickset concrete to 8" of surface.
next day repeat for each fence section .
this allows adjustment of each post as you go.
Not the best method but workable for a home user .
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Usually only the corner posts are set in mortar. the posts in-between (line posts) can be set in soil or some well draining material. If the posts aren't set accurately then your pre-made panels may not fit. Panels are a good choice to save work but are probably more expensive. For the purpose stated, I think any panels will do. A fence is is not tricky from a carpentry viewpoint and worth a try. There is a lot of maual labor involved however in digging the holes. A posthole digger is usually used. If you can hire someone to dig the holes then you are golden. Just mark their locations carefully and check the digging as it progresses. an auger can be rented to make the digging go easier but may also require a helper.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

It's doable but an ambitious project; comparable to, say, building a deck yourself. There's quite a bit of physical labor involved with digging the holes. (Unless you get someone to do that.) The advice to date is good, especially the read a book part.
It's fairly exacting in a few ways. The holes must be deep enough. The holes must be in the right place. The posts must be installed all in a line. The posts must be exactly the right distance apart (the width of the panels). The posts must be straight up and down. Look around at fences in your neighborhood; you will notice that nice looking ones are remarkably straight.
I fenced my back yard last fall using premade panels, except they were from an old custom fence that had been torn down, so they were not all the same width. I did the stake-and-string thing to make sure I had a straight line. (Also measured and compared to the survey for my house to make sure I was on my side of the property line.) I rented a power auger and dug a bunch of holes with it with my son helping, but found it pretty hard to handle. Also, somehow no matter how carefully I measured, it would turn out that when installing the posts and panels the holes were not quite in the right place and I had to do a lot of hole "shaving."
I did the rest of the holes using a hand digger. There are two kinds: the clamshell type and the augur type. I found the augur type much easier and faster to use, at least for my type soil, etc. I would just dig one hole, put in a post, put the panel on, then repeat. If you do it that way, you can see how you like it and quit without too much invested if its not working.
I did not use cement. I just backfilled with the clay and dirt I had dug out. I have noticed the pros in our area do the same thing. I did have to do a little straightening in the spring after a winter of freezing and thawing and the ground settling around the posts. But it's been OK since then. Supposedly, cement retains moisture and makes the wood rot faster.
Check the archives, there have been fence building threads on this group many times.
OK one last thing, this is pure opinion, but use real wood panels not vinyl. The vinyl ones will always look like an imitation.
Good luck, -- H
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Yes you can do it yourself. Doing it right is hardly more diificult than doing it wrong, with the added benefit that your fence will stay up the first time the wind blows hard.
If you are not looking for privacy you can use welded wire which only requires well braced posts at the corners. Drive in a metal post every 10' in between using a fence post pounder - no digging required. It's best to stretch out the welded wire with a come along when you attach it. Otherwise,
1. You could dig holes with a shovel but the kind of post hole digger that you rotate by hand and digs out the soil is not expensive and well worth it. Or, rent or hire someone with a power post hole digger. Getting down 2 feet should not be hard at all unless you live on boulders. 2. You MUST use treated wood (or metal) for the posts or it will rot and the termites will eat it up in no time. Even if you live in the desert. 3. Setting posts in concrete is easy - set the post in the hole vertically, using a level and a few rocks to keep it in place. Pour the dry fence post mix around the post. Soak it with a hose. Poke all around with a rock bar or other pointed metal implement to make sure all the cement gets wetted. Recheck with the level. Water the cement for the next few days. 4. Setting the posts the proper distance apart is not hard. If you are off a few inches you can pad the post with a 2x4 if you have to to fit the panels. Or, it's easy enough to string 2x4's across the posts and attach your pickets to them.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Start at the least visible part of your yard, and by the time you get to the most visible, you'll be pretty good at this.
wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

In general, no, it is not necessary to set the posts in concrete. It depends to a great extent on what the soil is like in your area, or your yard. The posts (assuming wooden 4X4) can be cut to height after setting in the ground, so I don't see where the "exactly the same height" is an issue. In fact, for some types of fencing a difference of several inches or more wouldn't matter and might even be required along sloped terrain, where the panels are "stepped" to match the elevation. 2 feet deep should be quite adequate to support a 3 ft high fence. You might be able to get away with somewhat less if the ground in your area is suitable. I have 6 foot picket fence I put up around my yard, using pressure treated 4X4 posts, 8 ft long. They are set in the ground just a few inches more than 2 feet IIRC and hold the fence up fine.
Best thing is to find someone in your area who has installed their own fence and see what they did. If you've never done it yourself, read up on it first or maybe you have a friend who has done it. The posts do have to be plumb, though not "perfect" (what is?) and spaced on-center correctly, most pre-made panels are 8 ft. Renting a post hole auger makes things go a lot faster, but if you don't mind a workout it can be done with a digging bar and/or post hole digger.
--
No dumb questions, just dumb answers.

Larry Wasserman - Baltimore, Maryland - snipped-for-privacy@charm.net
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

taking into account all your variables, you might want to consider buying 6 foot cedar (or other environmentally friendly fence woods) privacy fence pickets and paying a little extra to have them cut exactly in half...get some 4" x 4" cedar posts and 2" x 4" rails also, as well as fasteners (nails, screws, etc.)...if you have clay soil, cementing the posts isn't terribly critical, especially since the fence will only be 3' tall...also, if you don't like the fence later, with no concrete around the posts they come out easier
when you get the 6' pickets cut in half, half of your resulting pickets will have dog ears on one end and the other half won't, so you will have to decide if you want to leave them like that and maybe alternate them or put all non-dog eared ends on the up side so they look uniform...or dog ears could be cut off the other half of the pickets using a saw
one caveat on picket size - 6' pickets are often less than 6' actual height, but you can leave a small gap at the bottom of the fence (but not small enough that the dogs can get out)...you could also run a separate piece of wood horizontally along the bottom of the entire fence, some use 2" x 8" for that, making the fence over 3' tall
you didn't mention any gates for the fence
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I am just now having to replace a cedar mail box post that has rotted in the ground. If you're sure you're going to get rid of it in 2 years it doesn't much matter, but if it goes to waste and has to be replaced, that's not environmentally friendly IMO.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.