What to Know Before Building Your Next Fence

Contributed by: Ashton Rugh, San Antonio Steel Company (SASCO)
Originally appeared in the Summer 2017 Issue of Whitetails of Louisiana

For property owners, the thought of building a new fence can be daunting. It is a significant investment, and if you've tried building a fence yourself, you can likely thank a roll of barbed wire for one or two battle scars. lf building fences were easy, there would be miles of shiny, fixed knot fence securely affixed to galvanized t-posts lining the highways rather than rusty, saggy barbed wire attached to dilapidated cedar posts.

Building a proper fence, intended to keep wildlife in, and people and predators out, takes detailed planning, technologically advanced materials and expert construction. If done properly, your fence cannot only enhance your land's appearance and protect your investments but improve your property's resale value.

Planning Your Fence
As with anything else, prior planning is paramount. Familiarizing yourself with the details of your land, taking into account any nuances, can pay huge dividends in the long run.

In many instances, you are dealing with an existing fence that can serve as a guide for your boundaries. However, you may need to evaluate an aerial map of your land, a survey, or view it on Google Earth, to determine accurate, approximate distances in order to develop quantities for a materials list.

Before you begin the process of selecting materials, ask yourself:
  • How much land am I fencing?
  • What am I trying to keep in our out?
  • What are my long-term plans for the land?
  • What is my budget?
Once you have answered these questions, you should be able to develop a better idea of the type of fence you are wanting to build and what materials you need to get the job done right.

Selecting Materials
When it comes to selecting fencing materials, there is no shortage of products to use or retailers to purchase from. Buyer beware: Not all products are created equally. When selecting the right materials for the job, there are several product specifications to evaluate including wire gauge and galvanization.

Bigger isn't always better. Today’s wire utilizes high carbon contents to achieve more strength and better performance over time. High carbon, also known as high tensile, wire is made with a carbon content of 0.28%, while low carbon wire contains only 0.10% carbon. High tensile wire will only stretch 1-2% before breaking and will not sag as much as low carbon wire. If installed properly, high tensile wire provides a maintenance free fence requiring no additional restretching. Because a high tensile fence has a higher breaking strength, your project will require fewer posts spaced at greater distances, again helping you save money.

Type and class of galvanization are also key components that determine the longevity of your fence. Class 1 wire is likely to rust within 7 years, and Class 3 wire will typically rust within 10-25 years. The latest technological advancements, like the Zinc-Aluminum galvanization (ZA Class 40) means landowners can now enjoy 50 years of rust-free fence.

Zinc is sacrificial, which means your wire will always rust where it first comes in contact with rust. Typically, that first point of contact is where the wire attaches to the t-post. While painted t-posts are the most economical option, they tend to rust more quickly. Galvanized pipe braces and t-posts cost more upfront but are more cost effective in the long-run.

Fixed knot fence is constructed using a vertical stay wire, which increases the vertical strength of the fence and allows for increased post spacing. The fixed knot is created by a separate piece of wire tightly wrapped around the line wire which maximizes strength by locking both the vertical and horizontal wires in place.

Building your own fence can be hard. Building your own game fence can be exponentially more challenging. Hiring a certified contractor is crucial to ensure that construction is executed properly.

Before hiring a fence contractor to handle your next project, it's important to make sure they are qualified for the job. Interview your prospects to uncover more about their business philosophy, portfolio of projects and current job demands. Ask for references or testimonials or do a quick online search for customer reviews. This project is a significant investment, and one that should be entrusted to an experienced, professional contractor.

Fencing your property doesn’t have to be a daunting task. From thoughtful planning, to proper materials selection and professional execution, landowners can look forward to a fence that is made to last.