On city lots or across rural fields, good Sonoma County fences make good Sonoma County neighbors. Fences play an interesting role in our lives. Sometimes, you absolutely want a fence – to keep your pets in, to keep deer out, to keep neighbors’ eyes from prying into your home.
Other times, you simply want to define a boundary. Or maybe you want to add a fence to add beauty to a view. No matter why you decide to add a fence, fences can be both extremely useful and, at the same time, quite 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 a Sonoma County fence company that can give you the optimal combination of fencing materials, design, and installation to get the fence you want.
Fencing Provided By Sonoma County Fence Contractors
The first thing to decide is what you need the fence for. Are you marking the perimeter of your Sonoma 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.
Take a look around the property in Sonoma County, whether you are in Windsor, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Cotati, or Cloverdale. 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 need a permanent fence, or do you require a temporary fence?
Now that you know what you want your Sonoma County fence to do, it’s time to consider what it should be made of. 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. Cedar and redwood are some of the more popular wood options, though of course there are other woods.
Sometimes, wood is pressure-treated, meaning that 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 in place, you may have to stain it from time to time, or otherwise treat it to help prevent weather and water damage.
A vinyl fence is a surprisingly popular option in Sonoma 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 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. Before you go ahead with vinyl, consider what you expect the vinyl fence to do. 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. If your purpose is to contain livestock, you might want to consider adding an electric fence line around the interior of the vinyl fence to stop livestock from getting through.
When durability is a prime concern, aluminum makes a good choice. When sourcing aluminum in Sonoma 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, your concern is how well the exterior coating – no matter what it is – will stand up to weather, especially if you live in a severe climate.
If you are considering a chain link fence, the size of the wire, also known as the wire gauge, is probably your prime consideration. The wire gauge correlates to different strengths. Chain link fences can also be interlaced with slats, for increased privacy. Some chain link fences can be found in various colors, besides the basic galvanized silver.
While you can usually do as you please in choosing a fence, in some cases, you would be advised to follow some suggested guidelines. If your Sonoma 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, the fence being at least four feet tall, with spacing between the pickets of less than four inches, as well as a recommendation for self-closing and self-latching gates, among others. You want to look for companies whose products are advertised as BOCA-compliant.
Installing a Sound Fence in Sonoma County
Pay attention to your fence design. Fences essentially consist of a couple of components. Posts, the anchors of the fence, 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 piece of fence that lies 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, for example, which will be used where gates are installed. The points where a fence meets a building also need proper attention and bracing.
When you choose the fence for your Sonoma County property, whether in Windsor, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Cloverdale, Sonoma, Cotati or another area, you’ll find many possible options.
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. You might decide to implement a custom design instead of one of the many pre-fabricated fence sections available. An experienced fencing company should be able to design and build a custom fence based on the design ideas that you supply.
A further option for your fence is whether or not to install a footing. When you look at an installed fence, you will notice that fences do not run all the way down to the ground, usually. 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. A kickboard can be installed to close the gap. The kickboard 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 concrete footer will run along the bottom of the fence.
Sonoma County Terrain and Fences
Look at your Sonoma County property where you plan to install the fence. The contours of the land can be a significant consideration in the design of your fence. 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.
When the property has a minor slope, a fence may 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, but are parallel to each other.
When the property has an acute slope, the fence 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 end result is a fence that looks like a staircase, with each section of the fence acting as a stair.
It’s largely up to you to make sure your fence is placed in right location. After all, one of the main functions of a fence is to mark boundaries. You need to know the boundaries of your Sonoma 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 Sonoma County, whether in Windsor, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, Guerneville, or Cloverdale, 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 take the time to familiarize yourself with any restrictions about building a fence on your property.
In California, the state allows the building of fences that do not exceed six feet without requiring a permit. Similarly, when the fence is less than eight feet when the top two feet are made of barbed wire, no permit is required. California’s building code does place other restrictions on the building of 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.
For pools greater than 18 inches deep, California does enforce strict standards. 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 of the fence around the pool must self-close and self-latch, and the latch must be sited at least 54 inches from the ground. The California requirements are very similar to the B.O.C.A. guidelines.
While we’re mentioning California’s laws, it’s worth a quick mention of the “good neighbor” law. 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 pay toward the cost of the shared fence.
The Sonoma County fence company that you work with must be aware of the state requirements and be willing to meet them. There may also be more local regulations imposed by a city or homeowners’ association or other body. 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. 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. But the fence company be alerted so it does not dig in the wrong place.
Who’s Building Fences in Sonoma County?
If you so desire, you can choose your materials, order them, and install your Sonoma County fence by yourself. Many fencing companies sell supplies and include CAD drawings, instructions, videos, and other aids to installation. When you don’t want to put the fence in by yourself, look for a full-service fence company.
A full-service fencing company in Sonoma County will design the fence with you, and 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 opt to hire a fencing contractor, be sure that they are licensed by the state of California, probably with a C13 fencing contractor license. Their license number must appear in their advertising. You can check the license online at the Contractors State License Board’s website. The CSLB will show whether or not the license is current and if there are any complaints against it.
The last step in putting your fence in, prior to a lifetime of maintenance, is a proper installation. 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.
When it comes to securing the posts, they 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 one of the most critical parts of your fence 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, in a chain link fence, the posts must be placed at regular intervals along the fence line so that the fence retains stability and integrity.
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