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Expert Tips

installing a fence

A new fence can add privacy to your yard, enhance your property and provide an extra measure of security. Sure it’s an ambitious project, but one that you can do on your own. Putting in a fence though involves digging multiple holes for posts in areas likely to contain underground utility lines. That’s why a project like this as well as any other digging project first requires a quick and easy phone call to JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123. You can also enter your locate request right now via E-Request

If not carefully planned out, installing a fence can have many costly mistakes. Besides materials, types of fences and design, here are a few other things you should consider:

Before you go out to buy a fence consider what height you actually need. You may find that the 6’ high privacy fence you were planning on won’t keep your neighbors from looking in on your yard as they sit on their deck. Or you may find you only need a 4’ fence because your neighbor’s yard slopes away from your yard. Either way you could be wasting materials, money and time building a fence that doesn’t suit your yard. Make a cardboard cutout the height of your proposed fence and have a friend walk around the perimeter of the yard with it so you can get an idea of the type of privacy your fence will provide.

What good is it to get your beautiful new fence up just to be ordered to tear it all down? Fences are prominent fixtures so if you build one without a permit chances are you’ll get caught. Some municipalities request that a fence be no taller than a specific height and limit style choices. When you apply for a permit you will get a copy of all the rules and regulations regarding fence installation in your area.  

If you guess at the location of your property lines, you run the risk of not only upsetting your neighbor by building a fence on their property, you may also be ordered to take the fence down. Use your plot plan to identify your property lines and mark them with wooden stakes. Don’t assume that your lot is perfectly square or rectangular. Many properties have uneven shapes or unusual jogs.   

Keep the fence posts 8’ apart or less and this will prevent the fence from sagging. You may think that fewer posts will save you money and some digging, but your fence will pay for it in the long run. The more posts you have the stronger your fence will be at resisting wind and gravity.

Think about the access to your yard. Ever find it difficult to get a lawnmower or a wheelbarrow through a gate? Pedestrian access can be handled with 3’ wide gates, but lawn tractors, wheelbarrows and garden carts need 4’ wide gates, or sometimes even double 3’gates for a full 6’ of accessibility.

It’s a pretty safe bet that at some point you’re going to need to get something pretty big into your yard. It may be heavy equipment to remove or plant a tree, or have a delivery made of firewood or mulch via pickup truck. Either way it would be a whole lot easier to remove a fence panel than to try and find some other creative way to gain access to your yard. You can make a removable panel by simply toe screwing the rails to the adjacent posts.

Digging holes for fence posts without first contacting JULIE can disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, harm you and those around you and potentially result in expensive fines and repair costs. Since the depth of utility lines varies, there may be multiple utility lines in the area where you want to dig. That’s why every digging project requires a call. You may think, I already know where the utility lines are located, I’m not digging deep enough for marking or this particular project is not in an area that needs marking.  Those are dangerous assumptions. One easy phone call to JULIE at 811 gets your underground utility lines marked for free, or click here and fill out an online locate request right now. Once a professional locator from each member utility company comes out and marks where all the utility lines are and you wait the required amount of time (2 working days), you’re ready to start installing your fence. 
Remember, when planning to install a privacy fence discuss your plans with your neighbors (who knows they may even be willing to split the cost with you), know your property lines, check local zoning laws, obtain required permits, and most importantly notify JULIE to have your underground utility lines marked for free.

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