Aside from the ever-popular and affordable vinyl-coated chain link fence, there are a number of materials to choose from: PVC, synthetic wood, enamelled steel and ornamental metal.
Check existing municipal regulations and bylaws (maximum height, materials permitted, minimum distance) before you make a final decision. Look into the possibility of sharing the costs with your neighbour.
Establish the purpose of the fence
- Privacy: When your backyard joins a neighbor’s yard or faces a busy street, opt for a solid-panel or fine-trellis fence. This will ensure your privacy and block out an unwanted view.
- Security: In areas with a lot of traffic or a neighborhood where safety is an issue, a high vertical fence is the preferred option. A high fence is recommended where children play outside.
- Animals: Once you know how high your pet can jump, you can establish the height you require. Do not opt for fencing with any kind of pointed ornamentation on top.
- Pool: In some provinces, such as Quebec, you must by law install pool fencing. Check with your municipality for the required height and other specifications.
- Weather: In regions where heavy winds are common, a fence may provide protection. Choose a fence with a solid foundation (with sonotubes) and install posts closer together.
- Pollution barrier: A fence is useful where there is an excess of noise, dust and fumes from busy thoroughfares. Choose a high opaque fence model, ideally double-sided.
Check existing municipal regulations
Be aware of bylaws and regulations governing minimum and maximum height, the distance between fences and residential buildings, and the types of fence models and materials that are allowed. Find out if you’ll need to apply for a permit.
Determine the location
Check if there is any possibility of sharing the cost with a neighbour. If not, be sure you install the fence on your side of the property line.
Locate and measure the property line. Use stakes and string to mark the location of the proposed fence on the ground and determine the total length. Note that on sloped ground, the fence should be installed in stages; you must therefore measure horizontally to obtain the exact length. Allow for the location of doors and gates.
Fence panels come in widths of 4', 6' and most commonly, 8'. The spacing between panels is determined by the type of terrain (flat or sloped) and typical weather conditions; place fence posts closer together in areas where strong winds are common.
Standard height is 6'. However, a pool fence should not be as high or opaque (you should be able to monitor children at all times) and a security fence can be as high as 8'.
Colour and finish
Colours vary a great deal according to the type of material used. Most popular: colours that combine well with the existing landscape design, such as green, brown, and natural wood.
A wood fence is versatile, in that it can be painted, stained or varnished. There is a wide range colours to choose from.
- Avoid solid panels more than 6' wide in areas where heavy winds are common, and make sure the panel model allows air to circulate.
- For a property with a steep slope, opt for more narrow panels to minimize the empty space on the bottom of the fence.
- If children will be playing outside, do not install fencing with spikes that could be harmful.
- If possible, do not install a fence without a foundation (anchor pile or metal posts) in loose soil; the fence could soon become unstable.
- Choose a fence chiefly for functional reasons rather than aesthetic ones.
Wood is easy to cut and assemble. It’s versatile and comes in a range of styles. There are many patterns to choose from, unusual shapes and the option of a trellis on top.
Use stainless or galvanized steel screws for assembly.
Prefabricated fence sections are ready to install, easy to assemble, good quality, less expensive and available in different models.
- Requires maintenance
- Less durable than steel, PVC or composite wood
- Low-maintenance and extremely durable
High-end quality, rich texture and great durability are the trademarks of a cedar fence. Use stainless or galvanized steel screws for assembly.
- Becomes more beautiful with age
- To improve durability, apply a wood preservative
Synthetic wood is made of lengths of recycled plastic. The colour imitates natural or painted wood. It is durable and as easy to work with as natural wood.
- Material is made of recycled plastic
- Limited choice of colours
- Can’t be stained, painted or varnished
This material is easy to mould, which makes it possible to makes fences and components of various shapes and textures.
It can be made to imitate other materials such as painted wood. Structures are often reinforced with galvanized steel. The support posts are anchored to a concrete base, and may also be filled with concrete.
- Colour doesn’t fade
- Guaranteed up to 30 years
- Limited choice of colours
- Can’t be stained, painted or varnished
Vinyl-coated Chain Link
Vinyl-coated chain link fences are an economical and durable choice. Posts are anchored to concrete base mounts to which metal rods have been inserted. You can weave in PVC or aluminum strips to enhance your privacy, or grow climbing plants.
- Not expensive
- Allows good visibility in the yard and to the outside
- Ordinary and not very attractive
Made of wrought iron, galvanized steel or aluminum, ornamental metal fences can be very complex and refined, particularly if made by a specialist.
- Certain models allow good visibility in the yard and to the outside
- Apply anti-rust paint to wrought iron every 8 to 10 years
- Steel and aluminum are maintenance-free
There are five different ways to put up a fence: posts sunk directly into the ground or into sonotubes, posts inserted into concrete footings, metal stakes driven into the ground, or posts secured to anchor piles. The method you choose should depend on climate conditions (i.e. frequency of strong winds) and the evenness of the ground where you plan to locate the fence.
Fence with posts sunk directly into the ground
This is the most common method. It is fairly simple and the time required is average. However, it is should be used on even terrain where it will be more or less sheltered from extreme weather conditions. Suitable for wood or metal fence posts.
Fence with posts inserted into tubes
This method is the most time-intnsive, and also the sturdiest. The fence can be secured solidly to the ground. It can be installed on uneven terrain and can withstand heavy winds. Suitable for wood and metal posts.
Fence with posts set in concrete footings
The installation of posts into footings set in concrete provides a solid result and makes it possible to replace wood posts that have rotted over time. When the tube has been filled with concrete, the footings are inserted on the fresh concrete. Different models are available. This is a very stable and solid method, and suitable for uneven ground. Footings are ideal for wood or PVC posts measuring 4" x 4" or 6" x 6".
Fence with metal posts
This is a less stable method, suitable in a dense urban environment where the ground is flat and sheltered from extreme weather conditions. Installation is quick and easy, since posts are inserted into the ground using a sledgehammer. The ground must be loose, not compact.
Fence using anchor piles
This is a less stable method, suitable in a dense urban environment where the ground is flat and sheltered from extreme weather conditions. Installation is straightforward since the spikes are simply screwed into the ground with a screwdriver. The ground must be loose, not compact.
For optimum stability, posts should be inserted to a depth of 4'. If you have chosen to sink the posts directly in the ground or in sonotubes, you will need to dig a hole 8" to 10" in diameter and 4' deep using a post-hole auger. Cover the bottom with a layer of gravel approximately 6" thick. Lower the tube or post (according to the method chosen), then backfill with stone dust or concrete
Once the posts have been sunk, you can begin installing the fence panels (secured with post hangers for a wood fence) or vertical boards. For a chain link fence, you need to fasten the chain links to the posts with metal rods. For other types of fencing, please consult the step-by-step guide detailing installation techniques.