Install a Fence and Gate 1 - Preparation Install a Fence and Gate 1 - Preparation

Like most of those old sayings, there's a lot of truth behind the old chestnut that good fences make for good neighbors. A fence can keep your dog in your yard or your neighbors' kids in theirs. When everyone knows where their property line is, there's no need to wrangle about who's responsible for that tree or whether your side path is on someone else's property.

Having said that, the fist thing you need to do when getting ready to build a fence is make sure of where your property line actually is. The best way is to have your land surveyed so you know exactly where the line is. It's also a good idea to check your local zoning and building codes. They quite likely have some provisions on what kind of a fence you can build, and you don't want to have to tear down your brand new fence because you've violated the building code.

Once you know where your property line is and have determined what type of fence you're going to build, start by putting stakes in the ground where each fence post will go. Run a string from post to post to figure out if there are any potential problems with trees, shrubs or rocks. If there are, you will need to adjust your post spacing to accommodate the obstructions. Try to position your posts so a standard length of lumber can span the space between them; in practice this usually means about 8 feet apart.

Contact all your local utilities (water, gas, cable, telephone) and ask them to come out and mark where their lines run on your property. This is a free service, but you'll probably need to give the utilities two or three days to respond before you can start digging. Besides being required by law, it just makes sense because you sure don't want to dig into a buried gas or power line. The North American One Call Referral service (1-888-258-0808) can provide you with a listing of all your local utility companies.

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Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with articles published in both the United States and Canada. He has written on a wide range of topics, but specializes in home maintenance and how to's.

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