Tips for Installing a Split Rail Fence

Split rail fences have a rustic look to them that provides a great accent to landscaping while helping to define and protect property lines. Split rail fences are often used to fence horses or livestock, but also look great around homes and apartment complexes. One of the major benefits of split rail fences is that they are very cost effective to install when compared to other types of fencing, but still look great. Not only that but split rail fences are probably one of the easiest types of fences to install which makes it an ideal choice if you are a do-it-yourselfer.

Here are some tips on how to install a split rail fence.

The very first thing you want to do before installing any type of fence – split rail or otherwise – is to call your utility company to come out and locate the lines on your property. Gas and power lines can be buried right under the surface so don’t think that you are safe just because you won’t be digging too deep. The utility company usually has a number that you can call specifically to request someone to come out to your property and mark the lines for you.

After you know where all the lines are located you are ready to get starting on putting together your split rail fence. Obviously you can’t build a fence without materials, so the very first thing you will need to do is determine how much fence you need to buy. You can put small stakes in the ground and stretch a string around your property where you want your fence located, securing it with stakes where necessary. Be sure that your string is straight and that it is kept taught.

Once you have marked out your fence you need to take measurements. An easy way to do this is with a measuring wheel. If you don’t have access to a measuring wheel you can use a tape measure to measure the distance around your fence line. Be very accurate with your measurements since miscalculating can mean you either order too much or too little fence. It is always a good idea to double check your measurements to be sure you got it right the first time.

Now that you have your measurements you need to determine how much fence you need to buy. Obviously it needs to be as long as your measurements, but you will need to break it down into how many posts and how many rails you will need to complete the fence. If you have any doubts you can just take your measurements to the lumber yard or to your local home improvement store and they can help you to figure out how much you need. Otherwise, figure out how long each section of fence is and divide your measurement total by the length of a section. The resulting number will tell you how many posts you will need for your fence. You will need to count how many of those posts will need to be end posts or corner posts. Then, calculate the number of rails you will need based upon whether you are installing a 2 rail or 3 rail fence.

Once your fencing supplies arrive you will want to mark out where you need to install your posts. You can measure this by hand, but often times it is easier to just use a rail to measure with. Start by marking the location of your first end post at the beginning of your fence line. Then, lay down a rail there and mark at the other end for the next post. Be sure mark each section at least a couple of inches short of the end of the rail to allow enough length for the end of the rail to fit inside the post.

After your locations for your post have been marked you are ready to start putting the posts into the ground. This is one of the trickier parts of installing a split rail fence since the holes in the posts need to line up to fit the rails and keep everything straight. To accomplish this, measure the distance the post will be buried from the bottom of each post and mark it. In most cases this is 2 feet since that is how deep posts are typically installed.

Start by digging the hole for your end post first since this will help you to line up all your other posts. Dig the hole about a foot wide and 6 inches deeper than you are placing the posts. Fill the bottom 6 inches of the hole with gravel then place your post in the hole, backfill with dirt and tamp it down to hold it in place. As you are tamping the dirt down into the hole use your level to ensure that the post remains level and not tilted to one side or the other. The gravel in the bottom of the hole will help to drain the water away from the post.

Continue installing the posts in this manner, ensuring that they are level. You can place the rails as you go to make any necessary adjustments to the placement of the post before digging the holes. You can use a string and a level to ensure that the tops of the posts all line up and are level as you go along. If a post is too tall you need to dig the hole deeper rather than cutting the top of the post off. Continue this until you have reached the end of your fence.

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