Planning & Design
A fence can provide several things: privacy, a weather barrier, containment for children or pets, protection from intruders, or merely decoration. Deciding which is most important to you will lead you to what type of fence you should build.
Fence design is limited only by your imagination. The best way to start is to look at other fences in your area, and to look through books and home magazines.
There are many different types of fences: chain-link, panel, picket, ranch style, etc. And most of the installation techniques are very similar.
Contact your city or residential association to find out if there are any restrictions on fence construction.
Check your setbacks to see if you're allowed to build right up to the property line.
Check for buried cables or pipes. Most utilities will come and mark these with spray paint if you request it.
And make sure you know just where your property lines are. It's a good idea to have a surveyor stake the corners of your lot before you start.
Laying out your fence is pretty basic in theory. You stake out where your fence will go, and stretch a string between them. This will serve as your guideline for installing the posts.
If your fence starts at your house or at another fence, you'll usually want to come off of it at a right angle. You can calculate this right angle using what's called the 3-4-5 method:
First stake the spot where your fence will start.
Tie a string to the stake and stretch it out roughly perpendicular to the house (or whatever your working from).
Measure out 4 feet out on the string and mark it.
Mark a point on the house 3 feet away from the stake.
Hold a tape measure diagonally between the three foot mark on the house and the four foot mark on the string, and move the string until the distance between the marks is exactly 5 feet .
Tie down your string this spot. It is now exactly perpendicular to the house.
Mark the position of the first post. Then measure out on the line to mark the rest of the posts along your section of fence.
Your string should actually be the outside edge of the posts. So you'll have to measure in from the string for the center of the posts. Mark these with a stake, or a nail with a piece of ribbon so you can see them.
When a fence runs down a hill you have two options: you can have the tops of the sections follow the slope of the hill or you can keep the fence sections level and step the fence down at each post.
For a step-down fence, determine the height difference between the top of the hill and the bottom, and divide that number by the number of sections. This will be the amount to step the fence down at each post.