Quick Tips for DIY Success
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when installing a vinyl fence. And a little extra planning at the outset can go a long way in preventing costly and time-consuming mistakes. At Maintenance-Free Outdoor Solutions we’ve been installing vinyl fences since 1994 — and advising and supplying vinyl fence supplies to many DIYers along the way.
No matter whether this is your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, keep in mind these 9 simple tips for installing vinyl fences:
1. Talk with the neighbors
Ok, this one is not solely focused towards vinyl fences. Once you’ve decided on a fencing solution, it’s important to have a conversation with your neighbors about your plans. Discuss the location as well as materials, so everyone is on the same page, and there aren’t any surprises. If your neighbors are concerned about aesthetics, keep in mind that most vinyl fences are “good neighbor” fences, meaning their appearance is the same from both sides.
> > Pro Tip: If your fence will run along a property line, it’s generally a good idea to have the property surveyed to ensure proper location and prevent any potential misunderstandings.
2. Have the right permits and permissions
This is a general rule for installing any fence, as well. Anytime you build on your property, make sure you’re in line with local building codes and any pertinent HOA rules — and that you have the proper permits. A growing number of HOA’s in St. Louis, for example, are placing strict requirements on the height and style of fence they’ll allow in their neighborhoods.
In some cities and towns, fences may be limited to back or side yards. Others may require that a fence be a certain distance from the street, or from property lines. Before your installation happens, make sure that your plans are in compliance with local laws and ordinances.
Installing a fence can be hard work: it’s not something you want to do over once you’re done.
3. Handle materials carefully
Vinyl fences are essentially maintenance-free once installed, but they can be scratched if not cared for properly. When transporting your fence materials, handle them with care to ensure that the fence is protected — and never lay vinyl materials on abrasive surfaces. Use a drop cloth if storing your vinyl fence materials in a garage or on concrete.
4. Check for Underground Utilities
Nothing stops an installation faster than hitting a pipe or underground line while digging posts. Make sure you mark underground utilities clearly, and that your fence posts will not cross them. In St. Louis (or anywhere in Missouri) you can do this easily by using the one-call system, Dig Right. This allows you to put in a request with utility companies to come mark anything that is underground. Allow three business days for this to happen.
5. Lay out the fence line
Laying out a fence is not something to ballpark, and mistakes can be costly and time-intensive to fix. To avoid surprises, lay out the entire fencing perimeter ahead of time. A simple way to do this is to use stakes and string, marking exactly where each post and section (including any gates) will be installed.
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6. Survey the terrain
After you’ve laid it out, walk the fence line and make note of any significant changes in elevation or terrain. Installing a fence on a slope will require that you use either the stepping or racking method — and both approaches require that you plan carefully to order the right amount of vinyl fencing. Know the difference between the stepping and racking methods so you can make an informed choice when installing a fence in your yard:
Stepping: In the stepping process, the rails remain horizontal, and the posts extend to follow the natural slope of the terrain. Longer posts will be required, and you can order these in advance from your local fencing company.
Racking: The racking method involves angling the rails so that they follow the natural flow of the terrain. For popular vinyl fencing brands like Bufftech by CertainTeed, fences can accommodate slopes of up to 10° before rail and post holes need to be enlarged to accommodate steeper angles.
Racking vs. stepping your fence is generally a personal aesthetic preference, but it will affect cost and installation, so it’s important to determine which approach you’ll take before getting started. Manufacturers recommend certain approaches for different fencing styles, as well.
7. Read the directions
Reading the directions seems like common sense, but we all know that some DIYers are more “do it yourself” than others. Remember: not all vinyl fences are the same. Check with the manufacturer for installation instructions specific to your fence. A vinyl fence is virtually maintenance-free once installed, but that doesn’t mean it installs itself.
8. Measure twice and cut once
This is a pretty standard rule for any DIY project, but still… Depending on your fence line and terrain, you may need to cut rails or posts accordingly using a hacksaw, circular or chop saw. Before you cut your vinyl fence, make sure you’ve measured twice to ensure accuracy.
9. Digging and Setting Posts
The best vinyl fence installation really takes pains to get this right. Above all, posts need to be a precise distance apart to accommodate PVC panels or sections. For best stability, make sure that roughly one-third of the post is in the ground. It sits in a 10-inch diameter hole. This includes a few extra inches for gravel backfill, which allows better drainage, helps protect your fence, and prevents sagging.
Check each post to make sure it is plumb and level. Measuring is critically important at this stage. One crooked or out-of-line post and can create hours of additional work down the road.
10. Check out YouTube
You really can find anything on YouTube, including helpful tips and step-by-step instructions on how to install a vinyl fence. DIYers, fencing companies, and even big box stores have some great resources on YouTube. If you get stuck, it’s a fair bet that someone else has encountered the same problem — and you can usually find a step-by-step solution from a knowledgeable expert on YouTube.
11. Set aside 1-2 days
Installing a fence yourself is time-consuming work. Most vinyl fences will require 1-2 days to install. For safety and efficiency, it’s best that at least two people install the fence together.
Can You Go DIY With Vinyl Fence Installation?
Yes, many home DIYers do manage to install their own fencing, whether wood, metal or vinyl/PVC. But, as with any home project, you have to know what you are doing and take special care to measure and plan.
Contact the greater St. Louis area’s vinyl fencing experts at Maintenance-Free Outdoor Solutions for further information about achieving even greater DIY installation or about the many vinyl fencing options we offer. Visit our showroom or request a free, full-service estimate today.
Considering the Fencing Experts?
Because of the time involved and the skill required, many homeowners choose to have a professional installer handle the details. If that’s the way you go, be sure to hire a professional vinyl fence installer who understands the above process and has experience with this type of fencing.
If you live in the St. Louis area, that installer could be us, Maintenance Free Outdoor Solutions. We take pride in our service and installation and we commit ourselves to adding value to your home, without the upkeep of wood fencing!