Looking to install a fence around your property, delineate your yard or create a private area? Great idea! Before tackling the job, though, you’ll need a plan, because choosing and positioning a fence isn’t as simple as it sounds.
To get the job done properly, you’ll need to follow these steps:
- Check all regulations and excavation hazards;
- Position the fence (and discuss the project with your neighbours);
- Choose the type of fencing to suit your taste and budget;
- Decide on an installation method appropriate to the soil type;
- Hire a contractor, or build some or all of the fence yourself.
- Contact your municipality’s urban planning department to find out what styles and fencing materials are permitted. Rules may vary from city to city, neighbourhood to neighbourhood or even street to street!
- Generally, fence heights are restricted to 3 feet in the front yard and 6 feet in the back. There are also minimum distances from the property line that must be respected.
- If you have a pool, read our advice about construction of fences and barriers around residential swimming pools. There are safety regulations that apply all across Quebec that your municipality has to comply with, and its bylaws may contain further restrictions.
- You must be careful when digging post holes. Call Info-Excavation for a free location request for underground infrastructures on your property. Don’t be the next person to slice an underground cable or puncture a conduit!
Location, location, location…
Decide on the exact location of your fence. Take a hint from your surveyors: use your certificate of location. Take the time to see whether it mentions any easements (sometimes called servitudes).
Inform your neighbours about your project, to avoid any potential disputes. Remember, good fences make good neighbours!
Styles and materials
When in comes to picking a style, several factors will influence your decision: price, looks, colour, durability, degree of privacy, maintenance costs and ease of installation. Do-it-yourselfers prefer an installation that they can repair themselves in case of wear or breakage—something not all materials will allow.
Decide on your needs:
- Are you looking to simply mark off your property and stop unwanted animals (or even bipeds!)? A chain-link fence should do.
- Do you want to add value and curb appeal to your property? Consider ornamental steel or aluminum.
- Seeking shelter from prying eyes? A privacy fence, made of wood, PVC or metal panels is the solution. To let in a little light, privacy fences can be topped with a trellis.
Made of 1 in. x 6 in. boards, 2 in. x 4 in. beams and 4 in. x 4 in. posts, wooden fences are sold in pieces or, often, in prefabricated sections 5 or 6 feet high by 6 or 8 feet long.
For a different look and unrivalled stability, several installers offer a wood fence held up by metal posts.
Treated wood is the most affordable and most popular. Red cedar, meanwhile, is sought after for its rich tones and durability (its natural resins help it resist rot).
Pros: Affordable, variety of shapes and colours, warm look, can be built and repaired by the homeowner.
Cons: Need to plan preventive maintenance, even with treated wood (application of a sealant or protective stain every 2 to 5 years).
Chain-link fencing is made of galvanized wire covered in vinyl and comes in different colours. The posts are made of enamelled or galvanized steel.
Pros: Affordable, maintenance-free, durable.
Cons: Not esthetically pleasing, see-through (though it is possible to add lattice or to grow climbing plants).
PVC fencing is available in boards or panels. The structural elements are reinforced with metal. Choose PVC made from new materials, as it is whiter and brighter than recycled PVC.
Pros: Maintenance-free, durable, offers the privacy that some homeowners seek.
Cons: Higher cost, available in white only.
Galvanized-steel and aluminum fencing has taken up where wrought iron left off. Like wrought iron fences, they stand tall and proud, and require little upkeep.
Most styles are made up of 2 in. x 2 in. posts, 1 in. x 1 in. beams and ½ in x ½ in. bars. Note: Steel-panel fencing is also available.
Pros: Esthetically pleasing, maintenance-free, durable, choice of colours.
Cons: Higher cost, most styles are see-through.
Different installation options
Anchoring the posts in the ground is the most important step, as the stability of the fence depends on it. Several good methods exist, and every expert has an opinion.
Post-hole digging and anchoring methods will depend on the type of soil: rocky, clay, sand, etc.
Good to know:
- Fences that form an unbroken, solid wall are much more susceptible to wind damage than open (see-through) fences. Solidly anchored posts with shorter distances between them are recommended.
- Installers normally dig holes 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 3 to 4 feet deep. For greater stability, some suggest digging up to 6 inches below the frost line. If you decide to go this route, expect to pay more.
- Are you a DIYer? Consider having the post holes dug by an installer and building the fence yourself.
Footings of all kinds
Finally, there are several methods for anchoring your posts in the ground…
- The classic: Concrete is poured into a cylindrical form sunk into the post hole. The post rests on a compacted gravel base, is surrounded by concrete. To provide good drainage, the top of the footing is smoothed into a cone shape. Wooden posts should have an exterior sealant applied in case a gap appears between the posts and the concrete.
- Variation (the skeptic): A metal bracket is set into the concrete and the base of the post is bolted into the bracket. The wood never touches the concrete.
- The practical: This is the most-used method. Concrete is poured directly into the hole. The post, resting on a compacted gravel base, is surrounded by concrete.
- The traditional: The post is sunk directly into the ground and held in place by compacting screening (rock dust) around it (the screening is moistened and tamped down with a length of 2 x 4).
- The delegator: A contractor is hired to screw in thermal piles to below the frost line. The posts are then bolted to adjustable brackets on the tops of the piles.
- The innovator: The post is held in place in the post hole using expansive urethane foam specially designed for this purpose.
- Among all the available options, it’s now up to you to find the right product and the right installation method to meet your needs and your budget.
Our thanks to Michel Miglierina of Clôtures Sentinelle, a CAA-Quebec-Approved Supplier, for his contributions to this instalment of Tips & Tricks.