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Building a fence: where to start?

Are you thinking about building a fence? Start by defining your needs, then choose the appropriate model, materials and location. Make sure your fencing project complies with municipal regulations and bylaws. Look into the possibility of sharing the costs with your neighbor.

Determine the needs

With the proper planning, a fencing project can be completed fairly quickly and easily. The function of your fence should be your first and prime consideration. Once that has been established, check if any municipal bylaws or regulations apply, then determine the exact location of your fence.

Establish the purpose of the fence

  • Privacy: When your backyard joins a neighbour's yard or faces a busy street, opt for a solid-panel or fine-trellis fence. This will ensure your privacy and block out an unwanted view.
  • Security: In areas with a lot of traffic or a neighborhood where safety is an issue, a high vertical fence is the preferred option. A high fence is recommended where children play outside.
  • Animals: Once you know how high your pet can jump, you can establish the height you require. Do not opt for fencing with any kind of pointed ornamentation on top.
  • Pool: In some provinces, such as Quebec, you must by law install pool fencing. Check with your municipality for the required height and other specifications.
  • Weather: In regions where heavy winds are common, a fence may provide protection. Choose a fence with a solid foundation (with sonotubes) and install posts closer together. Do avoid full panels 6' wide or more, and ensure the model allows for air to flow through freely.
  • Pollution barrier: A fence is useful where there is an excess of noise, dust and fumes from busy thoroughfares. Choose a high opaque fence model (ideally with wood on both sides).

Check existing municipal regulations

Be aware of bylaws and regulations governing minimum and maximum height, the distance between fences and residential buildings, and the types of fence models and materials that are allowed. Find out if you'll need to apply for a permit.

Determine the location

Check if there is any possibility of sharing the cost with a neighbour. If not, be sure you install the fence on your side of the property line.
Locate and measure the property line. Use stakes and string to mark the location of the proposed fence on the ground and determine the total length. Note that on sloped ground, the fence should be installed in stages; you must therefore measure horizontally to obtain the exact length. Allow for the location of doors and gates.

Installation

Depending on the length of the area to fence and the panel width of the selected model, calculate the materials you will need for one section of the fence (post, rails, boards, and trellis) then multiply that figure by the number of sections you need to install the entire fence. For each panel or section, you'll need one support post, 4 hangers per panel, plus hardware.

For each entrance (door and gate), you will need:
  • The door or gate
  • 2 hinges
  • 1 spring
  • 1 handle
  • 1 latch

The foundation

There are five different ways to put up a fence: posts sunk directly into the ground or into sonotubes, posts inserted into concrete footings, metal stakes driven into the ground, or posts secured to anchor piles. The method you choose should depend on climate conditions (i.e. frequency of strong winds) and the evenness of the ground where you plan to locate the fence. Get complete details by reading our article Choose and put in a foundation for your fence.

The steps to follow

Installing a fence is a fairly straightforward project. There are seven major steps to this project:
1. Determine the precise location of the proposed fence using stakes and string.
2. Dig post holes.
3. Insert posts according to the type of foundation chosen.
4. Measure the placement of the hangers on the posts, then install;
5. Install rails.
6. Screw boards to the rails.
7. Install accessories, if selected.

If you need help to install your fence, call on qualified professionals.

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