Do-It-Yourself Fence Installation and Supplies – Chicago, IL
For many homeowners in and around Chicagoland, as in every community in the United States, do-it-yourself home improvement projects are a point of pride. By investing some hard work in a home, your projects can help to increase the property’s value, while saving money. Painting, making home repairs, building a deck or upgrading a kitchen are common DIY projects. It’s natural that people who are active in doing home projects often think about building their own fence. Every year, homeowners install thousands of fences. If you’re considering building your own fence, there are several advantages you might be anticipating:
- Saving Money – The cost of installation is normally half the total price. If you can do it yourself, you’ll save plenty.
- Pride of Craftsmanship – There’s a lot of pride in being able to say, “I built that myself,” when someone compliments you on a beautiful finished job.
- Flexibility of Design – When you build a fence as a DIY project, you can create a design that is unique, if you want to. Some owner-built projects include attractive features not typically seen in standard fences.
Before Taking on a DIY Fence Installation, Understand What Is Involved
Building a fence is more complex than most homeowners realize. Many steps go into the process, and the skills needed are different than for most home improvement projects. It’s also a time-consuming project and one that requires a few tools that aren’t in the typical workshop. Sadly, many DIY fences go unfinished, once homeowners start the process and then realize that it’s more difficult than they expected. So, if you’re thinking about building your own fence, here are the steps involved for a simple design on a level lot. Think carefully before you commit to the job.
Initial Planning Is the First Step
Every fence begins with an idea. You can start choosing the materials you’ll use and visualizing it when finished. Next, you’ll have to measure your property, locate the property lines and learn what local building codes require. You’ll find code and regulation information right here on this website. Then, a detailed drawing, showing post and gate locations, solidifies the design. With that drawing in hand, you can apply for a building permit at your city’s Building Department office. You’ll need some other paperwork for the permit, depending on the city’s requirements. Allow a couple of days for planning.
Create a Materials List
Based on your design drawing, you can create a list of materials you’ll need for the project. A trip to a local building or fence supply store can help you select the basic materials, such as wood, PVC vinyl, ornamental aluminum and steel, chain link, etc. Then, based on your plan, you can create a shopping list that includes the posts, rails, and the rest of the basic materials needed. You’ll also need hardware and fasteners, along with bags of concrete for post footings and any gates and accessories you plan to include. For some fence types, like chain link, there are numerous small items needed at every post, and even more hardware for gate installation. Once you have your list, you can order the materials for delivery or pick them up if you have a truck. Allow 2 days for these tasks. If any materials require special orders or are out of stock, it could take longer.
Lay Out the Installation Site Carefully
After locating the property lines, drive stakes beyond the ends of the fence and run tight string lines near the ground. These should cross the centerlines of the postholes. Carefully measure post locations and mark them with paint spray or stakes. Post locations are critical, especially for gate and corner posts, and for all posts used with pre-fabricated panels. Misplaced posts will cause delays and complicate construction. For gates, follow the manufacturer’s dimensions exactly for the required spacing. Because of hardware, gateposts are often installed farther apart than the width of the actual gate. Check and double-check every post location. Allow half a day for this work.
Dig Post Holes Carefully
This phase requires some hard physical work. The job will be much easier if you have a helper. Without one, you’ll spend more than twice the time. Digging postholes requires at least a clamshell-style manual posthole-digging tool. Borrow or buy one. Renting is uneconomical. If the soil contains rocks, you’ll also need a heavy, chisel-ended digging rod. A power posthole auger can save a lot of time and labor, but may not do the job in very rocky or hard clay soil. You can rent those. Most require two people to operate. The time needed for this depends on the number of posts and your physical condition. TIP: Make a wooden depth gauge with a crosspiece wider than the posthole. Digging to the right depth the first time is easier than making major adjustments later.
Set Fence Posts Accurately and Embed Them in Concrete
With all postholes dug, you can set posts. You’ll need a fence post level. They’re cheap, and help enormously in getting posts perfectly plumb. You’ll also need a wheelbarrow or other container for mixing concrete. Start with the end, corner and gate posts. Put each post in its hole, center it and adjust its height from the grade and distance from adjacent posts. Mix concrete to a stiff consistency and fill the hole to within a couple of inches of the surface. Tamp the concrete around the post. Then, using the post level, align it so it is perfectly vertical.
For corner posts, use scrap lumber to make angle braces on two sides to keep it vertical. Check and double-check until the concrete has set. When all corner posts are in place, run tight string lines at the tops of the posts to help you maintain the correct height for the rest of the posts. Follow the same process to install all remaining posts, starting with gateposts. Measure carefully to maintain proper spacing, and verify that all posts are plumb before the concrete sets. If your concrete mix is stiff, bracing may not be needed for intermediate posts, but keep checking posts for plumb until concrete is firmed up. Allow at least three days for concrete to set completely.
Installing the Rest of the Fence Carefully Is the Final Step
Once the concrete for the posts has set thoroughly, you can finish the fence. The process will depend on the material you choose. For wood fences, install the rails and then the vertical boards. String lines will help you keep the top of the fence even. If boards have gaps between them, use a wooden gauge stick of that width as a guide. Use only galvanized or stainless steel fasteners to prevent rust stains. For PVC vinyl and ornamental metal fences, follow manufacturer’s installation instructions to the letter. Chain link fences require stretching. You’ll need a stretcher bar and a come-along. You can rent those. Install all hardware on all posts before installing the woven mesh fabric, and keep fence pliers and appropriate wrenches with you as you work. A willing and able helper is essential throughout the process. Finally, install gates, latches and accessories. For most residential fences, this final assembly will take at least a full day or more.
Is a DIY Fence Installation Right for You?
If the fence-building process sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Do you have time to complete the whole process? Do you have a hard-working helper with construction skills available? Most busy homeowners underestimate the amount of work involved. Hiring a contractor to install your new fence will eliminate all of the work and most of the time listed above. All you have to do is choose the type of fencing material you want and leave the rest to the professional crew. You can use your time to do other projects or spend it with your family. Your project will be completed much sooner, and the skills and experience of professional builders assures you of a great-looking addition to your property. Yes, it will cost more money if you hire a local contractor, but if you consider the value of your time, giving the job to a pro may actually be a bargain. It’s your choice.