The old addage holds true: good fences make for good neighbors. Fences play many roles in our lives. Sometimes, you want a fence for a specific purpose – to keep your pets in, to keep deer out, to keep neighbors’ eyes from prying into your home or to provide a boundary. Other times, you want to add a fence to add beauty to your yard.
Whatever the reason, fences can be both useful and pleasing to look at. When it comes to choosing a fence, you have many options, from woods like cedar, redwood, and cypress, to vinyl, to chain link, to aluminum.
No matter where you are placing your fence and what you need it to do, you can find the right combination of fencing materials, design, and installation to suit your needs through research and careful consideration. The articles below will help you make wise decisions when it comes to new fences for your home or property.
Building New Fences in Marin County
Fences for Marin County homes and businesses come in many different styles and materials. The first thing to decide is what you need the fence for. Are you marking the perimeter of your Marin County property? Are you trying to keep a dog in bounds? Are you trying to prevent deer from wandering into your garden? Are you guarding a pool from wandering toddlers? Knowing what you want your fence to do is one of the first steps in determining what you need. Next, take a look around the property in Marin County. Is the land relatively level? Or is does it include steep inclines?
Next, consider access. How many places will you want to place gates? Is this a residential fence surrounding a driveway, and will you need a gate to allow a car to drive through? Or are you building a fence to go around the back and sides of the property, and will you need a gate on each side of the house? Do you want a permanent fence, or are you looking for temporary fence?
Once you’ve settled on what your Marin County fence needs to do, start thinking about the materials you want to use. For many fences, such as perimeter fences, security fences, and general residential fences, your material choice depends on a combination of looks, costs, and your personal taste. A perimeter fence could be made of aluminum, wood, or vinyl, for example. With wood, you will have several options, probably including cedar and redwood. Sometimes, wood is pressure-treated, which means chemicals have been pressured into the wood to help it resist moisture and insects.
Since 2003, the chemical most often used to treat wood is alkaline copper quat (ACQ). ACQ replaces chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which was restricted after concerns about arsenic leaching out. Be sure to inquire about what chemicals were used if your wood is pressure-treated. Once a wooden fence is installed, you may have to stain it from time to time, or treat it to help prevent damage from water and weather.
Vinyl’s popularity is increasing for fences in Marin County and elsewhere. This is because vinyl can be made to look like wood or can be made to look like painted wood, yet requires less maintenance than wood. You do not have to paint or stain vinyl fences. Vinyl fences have improved since they were first introduced, and they can last a long time. Vinyl may cost more than wood initially, but the benefit comes from the reduced maintenance over time. You can clean a vinyl fence simply by hosing it down. Some vinyl fence owners claim that vinyl fences attract dirt, but the solution is relatively simple.
Vinyl fences used to be available in very few shades – white and beige – but now many colors are available. Consider the proposed use before setting on vinyl. Some vinyl fences are reinforced with steel at certain points, to increase the strength and stability of the vinyl fence. However, some warn that any large animal, like a horse or a cow, could easily break through an unreinforced vinyl fence. In this circumstance, you might want to consider running an electric fence line around the interior of the vinyl fence to prevent livestock from escaping.
Fences made from aluminum are quite durable. When looking at aluminum sources in Marin County, you’ll be considering the alloy used; companies tout the composition of their alloys for adding strength and durability to their fences. Some companies also used increased amounts of aluminum in their fences, adding strength but also weight to the fence. You will also want to consider the finish on the aluminum. Most aluminum fencing has a powder coat – look to see what kind of weather resistance it offers. Some aluminum uses the same kind of paint as is used on cars – again, you are concerned about how well the exterior coating – no matter what it is – will stand up to weather, especially if you live in a severe climate.
Chain link fences typically come in different wire gauges. The wire gauge correlates to different strengths. Chain link fences can also be filled with slat, for increased privacy. Some chain link fences can be selected in different colors, other than the basic galvanized silver.
For most fences you install, any material that you prefer is fine. But if your Marin County home or office has a swimming pool, you need to take care. Fences surrounding a swimming pool should meet the Building Officials and Code Administrators (B.O.C.A.) national guidelines. These guidelines include height, at least four feet tall, with spacing between the pickets of less than four inches, as well as self-closing and self-latching gates, among others. You would want to look for companies that offer BOCA-compliant fencing.
Running a Good Fence in Marin County
Fence design is an important part of building the fence you need, and has a place right beside the consideration of the fence’s purpose and materials. Fences essentially consist of posts, the anchors of the fence that are sunk into the ground and stand up vertically. Stretching horizontally between the posts are the rails. The fence may consist only of post and rails. Or fence boards, also called pickets, may be attached to the rails. In this case, the rails become part of fence frame, supporting the pickets.
The length of fence between two posts is called a section. You need end or terminal posts where the fence stops, you need posts that occur at pretty regular intervals along the fence, these are called line posts. You will also need specific kinds of posts where gates are installed and where the fence meets a building.
When selecting the style of fence for your house in Marin County, whether in San Anselmo, San Rafael, Novato, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Sausalito, Tiburon, Corte Madera, or Ross, you have many possible selections. Many companies make pre-fabrication sections of fences. You would have to choose your material and how far apart you want the pickets. For a privacy fence, you might choose board-on-board, in which the boards are overlapped. Then, even as the boards shrink and expand with the weather, the neighbors still cannot see through the fence.
Or you might select a dog-eared fence, in which the tops of the pickets are cut off on each side, to form a vaguely dog-eared shape, then the pickets are attached at the top and bottom. Besides the many pre-fabricated fence sections available, you might choose to have a custom design. An experienced fencing company should be able to work from your design ideas to produce the fence you’d like.
Take the time to notice, and you’ll see that most fences do not run all the way down to the ground. Instead, there is a gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground. For wood fences, this is especially important, since it helps protect them from rot and damp. If you wish to close this gap, you can install a kickboard, which runs along the bottom of the fence and closes the gap between the fence and the ground. Kickboards are easier to replace than the entire fence, if they get damaged. A kickboard can also prevent dogs or other animals from tunneling under the fence. If a kickboard does not stop a dog, you could also consider a concrete footer. Again, this footer will run around the bottom of the fence.
Marin County Terrain and Fences
Take the terrain into account when designing your fence in Marin County. If the terrain is flat, there is not much problem. You simply have to account for the distance you want the fence to cover, the corners and turns involved, the placement of gates and buildings. If the land is moderately sloped, your fence may have to be raked. Raking refers to installing a fence so that it follows the slope of the land. The posts are plumb, but the section of fence installed between them is slanted into a parallelogram, so that the top and bottom rails of the section are not level. If the slope is too acute, the materials may not be able to rake sufficiently to accommodate it.
In this case, you may have to use stair-stepping. In the stair-stepping technique, each section of fence is installed above or below the adjacent section, following the incline or decline of the ground. The resulting fence looks like a staircase, with each section constituting a stair.
Where you place your fence is important. You need to know the boundaries of your Marin County property. If you don’t, you can contact a survey company, which should be able to find out exactly where your property lies. Once you know your property lines in Marin County, whether in San Anselmo, San Rafael, Novato, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Belvedere, Greenbrae, or Tiburon, you need to find out if there are any other restrictions that apply.
Does your city have a required setback? A setback is a distance from the property line in front of which the city does not allow certain actions, such as landscaping or building, for example. Your homeowners’ association may also enforce setbacks or other limitations. You should be aware of any restrictions on building on your land.
California typically does not require a permit to build a fence of less than six feet, or less than eight feet when the top two feet are made of barbed wire. However, California does have other regulations about fences. Fences in front of the house cannot be more than 42 inches high, while fences in the rear cannot be more than 72 inches high.
A fence that lies within five feet of a building must be either made of materials that will not combust or must be at least as fire-resistive as the exterior wall standard. California also has strict requirements for masonry walls, requiring that the concrete must have a compressive strength of at least 2500 pounds per square inch (psi), while the mortar mix must have compressive strength of 1,800 psi and the grout should have 2,000 psi. California enforces strict standards for any pool with a depth of over 18 inches. The fence must be at least five feet tall, with no more than two inches between the ground and the bottom of the fence. The gate must self-close and self-latch, and the latch must sit at least 54 inches from the ground.
It’s worth taking a moment to talk about the “good neighbor” law in California. This law says that the neighbors must share the cost of the fence, unless one of them is willing to let their own land go unfenced. If the person with the unfenced land later decides to add a fence, then that person must contribute to the cost of the shared fence.
Your Marin County fence company should be able to discuss the state requirements with you and meet those requirements. Many fencing companies can help you understand who you need to contact about setbacks, etc. While a knowledgeable fencing company may be able to point you in the right direction to find out about local codes and restrictions, most will not take responsibility for meeting those codes. Instead, the owner is generally responsible for finding about them and making sure they are adhered to. You and your Marin County fencing company should discuss who is responsible for meeting local requirements. Your fencing company should always check with the local utility company before digging the posts, since you don’t want to run into any underground lines – electric or otherwise. Make sure that your fence company will do the checking, or you must do it yourself.
Who’s Building Fences in Marin County?
To put in your Marin County fence, you can always install it by yourself. If you feel comfortable with the work, you can choose your materials, order them, and install them. Many fencing companies sell supplies and include CAD drawings, instructions, videos, and other aids to installation. If you are not comfortable building the fence yourself, a full-service fencing company will not only design the fence with you, they will also provide the materials and the installation. You should be aware that most fencing contractors are not willing to install materials that they don’t provide.
If you do hire a fencing contractor, they must be licensed by the state of California, probably with a C13 fencing contractor license. Their license number must appear in their advertising, and you can check it online at the Contractors State License Board site to see that the license is current and has no complaints against it.
A proper fence installation prevents an early demise, sagging, and swaying. The most important thing is to be sure that the posts are properly installed. A post should ideally be in a hole at least one-third the length of the entire post, or half the length of the above-ground part of the post. This often does not happen, but you should go for at least 2-3 feet deep. Posts may be set in gravel and backfilled with dirt, or they may be set with concrete. Concrete should at least be used for corner and gate posts, as should any post in loose ground or where there are high winds.
The posts should be set into gravel, made plumb, and braced. The concrete can then be poured. Getting the posts right – making sure they are plumb is critical because it means there will not be sags in the fence or that you won’t be forced to cut pieces to make them fit. You should also be sure you have sufficient posts along the line of your fence. For example, chain link requires posts at specified intervals to retain its stability and integrity.
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