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5 Fence Installation Tips for Portland DIYers

Installing a Fence on a SlopeThe Pacific Northwest has a rugged reputation in general, and Portland in particular is known as the town where folks like to do it themselves. Portland’s strong do-it-yourself culture has been widely noted across a variety of media, from Twitter to television. We like to make our own eco-friendly cleaners, build our own compost bins, convert salvaged materials into furniture and cook fresh meals from scratch. It’s no wonder, then, that many of us also prefer to build our own fences.

For the average person, building a fence can be intimidating as far as DIY projects go. When considering a fence installation, Portland homeowners need to take into account the skills required to complete the project, as well as how to build a fence that will hold up under the Northwest’s demanding weather. Vinyl, aluminum and chain link all make sound Portland fencing materials, for their ease of installation as well as their durability.

There are many things you need to know in order to build a quality fence, but the following are a few of the most important considerations for homeowners who are planning a Portland fence installation.

1. Check utilities and property lines.

Anytime you plan to dig into your yard, have your underground utilities located by calling 811 – this is true no matter what city you live in. It’s also important to double-check your property lines, even if you think you know where they are. Finally, many Portland communities have neighborhood regulations or city codes that place certain restrictions on fencing, so do some research before you start digging.

2. Choose water-resistant materials.

One of Portland’s well-known features is its abundant rainfall. Before beginning a fence installation, carefully review your options for fencing materials. While wood is still a top choice for fences, low-maintenance options such as vinyl or aluminum are becoming increasingly popular Portland fencing materials, as they are impervious to moisture and won’t rot during the city’s long, wet winters. If you’re set on wood, cedar is the way to go, as it’s native to the area and possesses unique fungicidal and water-regulating properties that help it survive Portland’s harsh winters. Use pressure-treated wood for posts and any other fencing that comes in contact with the ground. Consider hem fir for the rails, as pressure-treated rails have a tendency to twist.

3. Factor in the wind.

For a durable, long-lasting fence, local wind conditions should come into play during the fence installation. Portland includes many areas that are regularly exposed to high winds, for example, which means fences need to be especially sturdy to withstand hard gusts. For added stability, choose thicker fence posts (5×5” instead of 4×4”) and place them closer together than the recommended six to eight feet. Additionally, the wider the gaps between fence boards, the less wind resistance your fence will offer.

4. Decide how to handle slopes.

As an added complication to any fence installation, Portland is uniquely characterized by its hilly terrain, which means a large number of homeowners must grapple with sloped yards. Before ordering any fencing materials, you’ll need to decide how to deal with these slopes. Fence panels can be either raked or stair-stepped. Raking means the top of the fence installation angles downward on the hill in order to maintain a consistent distance between the ground and the bottom of the fence. This works best on shallow slopes. For steeper grades, the fence can be stair-stepped down in sections, so the top of the fence remains level.

5. Consider a partial installation.

While it may be tempting to build the entire fence yourself, the reality is unless you have solid handyman skills, installing a fence is a difficult chore that’s easy to mess up. To alleviate some of the hard work while still allowing for that sense of DIY pride, some Portland fence installation companies offer partial installation, which means they’ll set the posts and leave you to assemble the boards and rails. That way, you get the benefit of a professional fence builder’s expertise and knowledge of local soil and climate conditions, while still taking part in building your own fence.

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