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4 Tips for Designing Better Fences

Steve Maxwell, Casa Guru’s home improvement expert, tells you everything you always wanted to know about designing the “ultimate” fence (but were afraid to ask).

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In at least one way, wooden residential fences are like most other home improvement projects. The more you put into design and construction details, the more you get back. If you’d like a distinctive, beautiful and long lasting fence then click through our gallery of design tips.

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Great fences can look quite different from one another, yet they have one thing in common. Even though they’re typically made from standard construction lumber, they don’t look like it. And this visual trick springs from tasteful application of details like curves, trim and post caps. Think of your fence as a permanently rooted piece of furniture for your lawn and you’ll get the picture.

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Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

You’ve got to be a very experience fence builder to improvise a beautiful design on site. That’s why you need to sit down with a pad of graph paper or a graphics program on your PC and settle on details using scale drawings. The greatest advantage of having a well-formulated plan is the piece of mind it brings. If your fence looks good on paper, you can build with confidence.

Start by deciding on the big things such as fence height as well as post height and spacing. After these are settled then refine your ideas for post designs, picket shape and gate styles.

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 Premium Visual Details

Premium Visual Details

Consider the following visual details when planning the fence:

  • One of the best places to add visual detail is on corner posts and posts flanking gates.
  • Many traditional cabinet-making details, like flutes, crown mouldings and caps, can be applied here, helping vault your fence to premium status.
  • And even if you do nothing else, the tops of posts absolutely demand attention. You just can’t leave them cut off square. One simple, yet elegant approach is the pyramid top. Four angled cuts, 25 degrees from square, converging at a centre point makes an attractive finale.
  • The sliding compound mitre saw is an ideal tool for cutting these facets, but you’ll still need to fine-tune the cuts with a belt sander.
  • Check out  Garden Structure for more online ideas on fence, gazebo and arbour plans. Another valubale design source is the book Wooden Fences  by George Nash
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 Fastening Rails to Posts

Fastening Rails to Posts

As you decide on fence design, there comes a point when horizontal rails must fasten to the vertical posts you’ve installed.

The quick-and-dirty approach to this challenge involves toenailing the rails in place or securing them to posts with metal clips.

An elegant alternative uses routed pockets that surround the ends of the rails and hold them in place. A shop-built plywood routing pattern makes quick work of this operation.