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Expert Tips

There are numerous reasons to build a fence. A new fence can add privacy to your yard, increase property value and provide an extra measure of security.  It may seem like an ambitious project at first, but planning is half the battle.  Once you have a set plan in place and permits in hand, the remainder of the project will come together rather easily.  First, premark your project area with white paint and/or flags before notifying JULIE.  Once your project area has been marked, make a quick call to JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 to have your lines located for free by our members. You can also enter a “locate request” now via E-Request by visiting illinois1call.com or contact a call center agent at any time.  If you choose to begin your project over the weekend, remember to notify JULIE by Wednesday at 4 p.m.  All projects must begin within 14 days from your notification to JULIE.  For additional information please reference our Homeowner’s Guide.

Become familiar with the most common mistakes below, so you can avoid them.  Besides materials, types of fences and design, consider the following:

1. DISCUSS THE PROJECT WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS.   
Know your property lines.  Discuss the fence you would like to have built with the   neighbors whose property lies along the desired area of installation.  You want to make them aware of your plans and ensure you do not build the fence on their property. Guessing property lines could not only anger neighbors, but could also lead to a legal dispute.  Never assume that your lot is perfectly square or rectangular. Many properties have uneven shapes or unusual jogs.  Use your plot plan to identify your property lines and mark them with wooden stakes.  Next, run string in-between each stake. Make sure the string is taut.  If your stakes weren’t driven evenly into the ground, it will be apparent when the string is up.  Adjust accordingly with a level if necessary. It is better to err on the side of caution when dealing with property lines.  Another suggestion is to build your fence a few inches on your side of the marked lines to ensure compliance of property lines.

2. SELECT THE HEIGHT OF THE FENCE.   
Before purchasing a fence, consider the height you would like and check local zoning laws regarding fence construction in your area.  The 5-foot high privacy fence you     originally envisioned, may not keep your neighbors from peeking in on your yard as they lounge on their back deck.  You may even discover that you only need a 4-foot fence to provide necessary privacy if your neighbor’s yard slopes away from your yard.  If you need a visual aid before fully committing to a fence height, make a cardboard cutout that measures the height of your proposed fence and have a friend walk the perimeter. This will allow you to visually comprehend the type of privacy your fence would provide.

3. PLAN FOR TWO GATES AND MAKE THEM EXTRA WIDE.   
Have you ever found yourself trying to squeeze a lawnmower or wheelbarrow through a narrow entrance?  It isn’t very convenient and can be frustrating.  When planning out gate entrances, make sure to include at least two gate entrances and make one of those entrances slightly wider to accommodate bulky equipment.  A 3-foot wide gate   entrance will easily accommodate pedestrians, but a wider entrance is needed for items such as trash bins, lawn mowers and wheelbarrows.  Usually a 4-foot wide gate entrance will allow for easy pass through of equipment; however, take note of the equipment you have and how much clearance is needed.

4. INCLUDE A REMOVABLE FENCE PANEL IN YOUR PLANS.
It’s a safe bet to assume that at some point you’re going to need to get something fairly large into or out of your yard.  From heavy equipment to remove a tree or a hefty delivery of firewood, easy access would be ideal.  Plan ahead for such situations and include a removable panel in your drawings.  A removable panel is simple to install and can be done by toe screwing the rails to adjacent posts.

5. DETERMINE TYPE AND AMOUNT OF MATERIAL NEEDED.
Just how many fence posts will you need? How many fence panels?  What type of materials should you use?  To best calculate materials needed, use the property line stakes as reference points and measure the distance between each stake. Add your measurements and account for gate entrances accordingly.  Next, draw an outline of your yard and mark fence posts.  A general rule of thumb is to keep the fence posts 8-feet apart or less as this will prevent the fence from sagging.  The more posts you have, the stronger your fence will be at resisting wind and gravity.  Use this as a guide to approximate how many fence posts you will need to construct the fence.  You can use an online fence materials calculator to determine the amount of fence panels and other fencing materials needed for the completion of your fence.  In regards to type of material used when building a fence, there are many options.  Most fences are built using pressure treated pine wood; however, pressure treated pine is slowly becoming less popular in favor of chemical free and environmentally friendly materials.  Other options include, western red cedar, white oak, black locust, tropical hardwoods and plastic or synthetic lumber.  While a pressure treated wood fence will last approximately 20 years with regular maintenance, plastic or synthetic lumber will last about 100 years. Carefully consider the pros and cons of each material before committing to a type of fence.  While some options may seem cheaper, in the long run the higher quality materials will yield the best results in terms of longevity and ease of upkeep.  When selecting nails, bolts and hinges; go with something galvanized to resist rust and everyday wear.

6. OBTAIN A BUILDING PERMIT.
Fences are prominent fixtures that have a visual impact on properties and              neighborhoods.  If you build a fence without a permit, chances are you’ll get caught. Most municipalities enforce zoning laws that regulate fence height, materials used and even the style of fence if you live in a historic district. You can apply for a fence permit at your local building and planning office.  You should receive a copy of all rules and regulations regarding fence installation in your area at the time of the permit being issued.

7. NOTIFY JULIE BEFORE YOU DIG.     
Never make dangerous assumptions.  Always contact JULIE before you begin a dig to have your utility lines located for free by our members.  Utility lines could be buried just beneath the surface of your dig site.  Hitting a utility line could disrupt service, cause serious harm to you or result in costly repairs and fines.  It is crucial that you call JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 before breaking ground.  You can also submit a “locate request,” via E-Request by visiting illinois1call.com or contact a call center agent at any time.  Call center agents are available 24/7 to process requests.