AUTHOR: MITCHE

HED:Variety of fencing for your every need

By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal

Whether building a fence to keep wandering toddlers or beloved pets in, or to keep prying eyes and intrusive elements out, an extensive selection of materials and designs is available.

Fences have been built from lumber, railroad ties, aluminum, wire, brick, plastic, bamboo and many other materials.

Selecting the right kind of fence for your needs, choosing materials and planning construction are just some of the considerations involved in a fencing project, says Jim Ivy, owner of Ivy Fence Co. in Tupelo.

"What you may want to buy depends on the lot," Ivy says. "There is a bigger demand now for privacy fences more than there ever has been."

Ivy says this demand results from houses being built closer together and lots being generally smaller than they were in the past. Erecting a fence gives homeowners a greater sense of their own space when that space is limited, he says.

Attractive and functional

A privacy fence is usually six feet high and constructed of boards that are close together to block the enclosure from view. Privacy fences are most often constructed of wooden, or now vinyl, boards. However, chain link fences woven with wood, metal or plastic inserts are sometimes used as privacy fences as well.

Other types and uses of fences include:

- Rail fence: Made from posts set vertically in the ground with rails running horizontally. A rail fence is usually two to four feet high and open, and is often used to contain livestock.

- Picket fence: Rail fence with pickets pointed stakes attached vertically to the rails. Both practical and decorative, usually four feet high or less.

- Board fence: Many styles, including slats and louvers, usually six feet high and designed for security and privacy.

- Chain link fence: Permit maximum visibility and longevity, while offering security and ease of construction.

- Masonry fence: Bricks, concrete or stone may be used to construct posts, or an entire fence wall may be constructed of these materials. Advantages of a masonry fence are security and privacy.

- Wrought iron or steel fence: May be decorative with picket style construction, or functional in design with rail and post construction.

- Vinyl fence: This new fencing option is available in both post and rail and picket style. Vinyl maintains an attractive appearance for a long time and is durable.

Affordable, too

The price of fencing has a wide range, based on the kind of wood or other material used.

Treated woods cost more, but are generally longer-lasting.

"Wood can be cheap or expensive," Ivy says. "If you're going with wood, try to get a quality wood like cedar. Choose a premium board with a small knot that doesn't come out."

A chain link fence might be a better choice if the enclosure is being built to keep a dog in, he says. An it's a more economical product.

"A dog will stay inside (a chain link fence) better because they can see out," Ivy says. "With wood they can't see out but can smell things out there, so a lot of times they'll start digging under the fence to get to what's out there."

When you have an idea of the kind of fence you'd like to install, taking measurements for the amount of fencing and number and size of gates you will need is the next step. Most businesses that sell or install fences will measure and give an estimate at no charge.

There is really no average price because the size of enclosures varies so much and materials have a wide range of costs, Ivy says.

But if a chain link fence is constructed that costs between $500 and $1,000, that same fence might cost between $1,500 and $2,000 if it is a wooden privacy fence.

Erecting barriers

Installing a fence yourself is usually the most economical way to go, says Tupelo resident Len Schaefer.

"If it's simple, it should be no problem for a homeowner to do it themselves," Schaefer says. "But it is a very labor-intensive project."

There are some factors that could cause a drastic rise in the price of the project.

"Lumber prices fluctuate so much," Schaefer says. "Sometimes it might be cheaper to do it yourself and you save, but if you get into a real involved fence project that will require a lot of expensive materials, you might consider using a professional."

One of the challenges you might encounter is trying to build a fence on land that is not level and needing to build up or down hills. Another is building access to your enclosed area.

"Gate placement needs to be preplanned in the initial stages of layout to accommodate post placement," he says. "I've always found that construction and installation of a good functioning gate is the hardest part of fence-building."

You may also encounter specific zoning codes or building covenants that must be met for your city or housing development.

"One of the first steps to do is check to see if your neighborhood has covenants to allow fence construction," Schaefer says. "Sometimes they will say what height and style is allowed in the neighborhood."

Overcoming barriers

With a number of fence-building projects under his belt as a layman, Schaefer offers some hints for the novice fence builder.

- Buy a good do-it-yourself book on how to build a fence that includes step-by-step instructions at a home center store or bookstore. Browse through the book at the store to be sure instructions are clear and easy to follow.

"I've seen a lot of videos at home improvement places, but videos don't leave a lot with you," Schaefer says. "A good book is better."

- Check local zoning codes and any covenants for your housing development to be sure the location, height and style of your fence meets all requirements. Get any permits necessary.

- Locate surveyor pins for your property or have it surveyed, and make sure fence is entirely on your property.

- Measure the fence line and make a drawing showing the location of all ends, corners, gate posts, gates and footage of each line of fence between posts, including gate sizes.

- Prepare a list of materials and get at least three price quotes of materials for comparison.

- Lay out the exact fence line with stake and string. The fence should be set square to the house or square to the lot line. If building off the back of the house, set the fence square to the house, since sometimes houses don't sit perfectly square on the lot. Use that line for the construction of the rest of the fence.

- Square the corners at 90 degrees to make right angles. To check that your corner is a right angle, measure 6 feet away from the corner stake in one direction and 8 feet in another. Measure across from the 6-foot mark to the 8-foot mark. The distance should be 10 feet.

- The next step is setting the posts. Posts are generally 8 feet apart on center, but you should consider several factors to determine spacing for your fence. The longer the sections, the greater the tendency of the fence to sag. Also, lumber comes in standard lengths, so make economical use of your lumber.

- A good rule of thumb is that posts should be set so that two-thirds of the post is above ground and one-third in the ground. Dig the hole about 6 inches deeper than the desired depth, and fill in the base with gravel or small stones to drain moisture and prevent rotting.

- Make sure posts are level with each other and plumb (vertically straight). Setting posts in concrete makes them sturdier.

- After setting posts, install 2-by-4 rails along the length of the fence at top and bottom for setting fence boards. Make sure rails are evenly spaced apart and off the ground.

- Attach fence boards to rails. For equal spacing between boards, use a spacer or a strip of wood to set the boards.

Cautions

If the project is more than you can manage, be sure the contractor you choose is a reputable one experienced in the kind of work you need to have done.

Ask for references and check to be sure the contractor has proper insurance.

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