How to Build a Fence

Build a Fence

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I had never built a fence before, but I could not afford to hire it done.  This article shows my process of learning how to build a fence.

I needed to build a fence, both to get my dog off of a chain and because a neighbor dog killed 5 of my 8 chickens.  It is true that Tennessee law allows a livestock owner to kill a dog that is killing livestock.  However, that is not really an option for me at this time.

Besides with a fence I can get a Great Pyrenees that my lovely bride wants, as well as some dwarf milk goats that I want.

Starting by Measuring and Talking

After measuring my yard, and deciding on what I want to fence, and where I want the fence and gates I looked at my finances.  After a through decision making process I decided on a 4ft tall welded wire fence.  I put in 10 ft 4x4s in the corners, at the fence posts, and where I planned on mounting some new chicken roosts and rabbit hutches.  Everywhere else I put metal T posts.

I spoke with my neighbors that will border my fence, and they were very receptive and after some discussion of where the property lines were I strung up some string to mark the boundaries.  This made it easy to paint future pole locations with marking paint every 8 ft.  This allowed Genny to visualize the process so we could discuss how everything would look.

Digging the Posts

I took a weekend to dig the fence posts.  But I soon realized that I have about ½ inch of topsoil, with the rest of the ground being hard packed clay and rock.  I quickly enlisted my wife’s help digging post holes since I did not want to rent an auger for 10 poles.  Next, I broke the ground up with a tanker bar and Genny used the post hole digger to lift out the loose dirt.  I really love her, and so did the first 5 poles myself, but I love her even more because once she saw what I was doing she came out and helped.  Together we dug and set the posts three times as fast as I did alone.

After digging the holes two foot deep (I used a pvc pipe marked to depth) I put in a little gravel.  My wife then held a level to the side of the post while I poured in cement and water.  I left the posts to set in the ground for a week while I used a metal T-post driver to beat the T-posts into the ground between the wood posts.

Mounting Fence Gates

The next thing I did was mount my gates.  I used a double gate at the back of my yard and a single walk through gate at the side of the house.  It was pretty simple to drill a starter hole and screw in the bolts the gates hung on.  We then loosened the clamps on the gates and moved them around until the gates hung level.

Once the posts set, the next weekend we strung the wire.  Basically we used big staples to nail one end to a corner post, then unrolled the wire along the ground.  Once the wire was unrolled we threaded a small metal bar through the wire mesh and attached a fence stretcher (Basically a long bar with metal hooks on one side and an eye on the other) to the fence and attached a come-along to the eye.  We attached the cable of the come along to nearby trees, and in one instance the bumper of our jeep.  As we tightened the come-along the fence stood up and laid itself next to the poles.  It was a pretty neat thing to watch.

Running Wire on Uneven Ground

Our land is not level, and in some places it has a very steep rise, in the worst places, I made shorter runs of fence so we could adjust for the elevation changes, but generally we just let it run out.  This caused two problems.  The first is that the fence does not always contact the ground, which allows our terrier to shimmy out of the fence.  I should have dug a trench and partially buried the fence, but I have planned to build a raised bed along the entire fence and use the fence as a trellis for climbing vines.  This will have the effect of burying the fence so I took a shortcut.

The larger problem is that the fence stretcher only tightens the fence equally if you pull it from the center and straight along the axis of the fence.  Since the yard is unlevel, and we did not always have perfect angles to anchor the stretcher the fence has some slack in the top section of the fence.  Luckily this is worse near the corners of the fence that we planned to attach rabbit hutches to so the hanging animal cages will cover up the unsightly mess.

Costs and Conclusion

I bought about $100 in tools for this job.  I needed a tanker bar, wheelbarrow, a fence stretcher, some fencing pliers, and a come-along.  We ended up using EXACTLY 3 100 foot rolls of fence, 20 T-posts, 11 4x4s, 11 bags of cement, and 6 bags of gravel.  So this fence ended up costing about $700 total.

As I told Genny, this project was a little more complicated than our level of skill, but in the end it came out pretty functional, and she thinks it looks good and so I am happy with the results.  I will say that fence building is another area that it does not matter how many books or websites you read, or videos you watch, you have to get out and do it to actually learn how.

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