Building curved fence sections
Building a curved fence section requires a careful layout. Once you have scribed the arc on the ground, use the directions illustrated to locate and set the posts and install the rails—either curved or segmented. Hang the infill as you would on a straight rail.
You should construct your curved fence section in the same manner as the straight sections. For example, if you built the straight sections with flush-mounted rails, your curved section will have to follow suit. The best solution is to design the fence so the rails are notched into the posts. If your straight rails are face-mounted, your curved rails should be too.
Make the rails from layers of thin stock— four layers of Winch redwood, two layers of 1 x4 redwood with Winch saw kerfs spaced 1/2 to 2 inches apart, or unkerfed 1×4 redwood for shallow bends. Soak the rails in water to make them more pliable.
Fasten the first rail layer on the posts (or into 3/2 Winch notches) with 2-inch screws. Butt-join successive pieces at the center of a post. Cut the next layer so the joint won’t fall on top of a joint in the first layer. Fasten this layer with screws long enough to go through both layers and into the post.
For segmented rails start by determining the angle for the rail ends. Tack a level 2×4 to the outside edges of two posts. Hold a straightedge against the side face of one post and extend the line across the top of the 2×4. Cut the 2×4 at this angle and use it as a template to cut all the rails.
Dealing with obstacles
When you’re planning your fence and discover that your proposed fence line is going to pass through tree trunks, large rocks, or gullies and other depressions that you can’t remove or eliminate, don’t give up. You have more solutions than you might think. You can skirt some obstructions such as trees and freestanding boulders by building a semicircular or three-sided fence section around them. When you can’t go around an obstacle, try these simple solutions.
It is usually not a good idea to nail fencing to the trunk of a tree. Puncture wounds and bark damage can expose a tree to disease and insect invasion and disturb the flow of water and nutrients. Digging postholes near a tree can damage the root system. Reposition the fence line or stop it short of the tree on either side as illustrated so the tree can continue to grow. Bring the fence as close to the tree as possible and support the extensions next to it with short posts under the bottom rail.
Set these short posts on concrete post pads. When a fence bridges a depression in the landscape, adjust the infill on the bottom to fill the gap. Conversely you can adjust the bottom rail position and trim the infill to clear mounds or other high obstructions.
Some types of infill work better then others when avoiding obstacles. Surface-mounted board infill, adapts most easily to obstacles. If you want louvers, basket weave, or another inset infill for the fence. In the rock example (right) you could position the rail higher and install a wider kickboard in the affected bay.
Vertical board fences are probably the most common style. That’s because they are easy to build and you can vary their design almost infinitely. Styles with surface-mounted infill have front and back sides, so you’ll have to decide whether you or the neighbors will see the frame. Installing inset infill makes a fence look the same from both sides.
A fence with no gaps between the boards can create a fully enclosed, very private space. It can also feel confining. You can relieve that by alternating the height of the bays or adding a lattice top panel to add variety and open up the view. Or you can alternate boards with slats—1x6s with 1x2s—and leave spaces between them. This design looks refined and adds an interesting play of light and shadow.
Whatever fence style you choose, first decide how wide you want the bays to be. Then divide that measurement by the width of the boards (or the boards and spaces) to choose the infill you want. A vertical board fence usually reaches 6 feet. It can be taller, if necessary and if codes permit.
HOW TO USE VERTICAL BOARD FENCES
Defining spaces: very good but can seem imposing
Security: excellent, especially with heights of more than 6 feet Privacy: good; closed styles can provide considerable privacy Creating comfort zones: fair; it blocks sun but can force wind into gusty downdrafts.
Vertical board fence
Measure the opening for the gate and construct the gate. Mark the position of the hinges on the gate frame and fasten the hinges with coated screws.
If the gate is small enough, hanging it may be a one-person job. Use blocks to support it. For larger gates enlist the aid of a helper. Fasten the top hinge first. Then line up the bottom hinge and mark its position on the post. Pull the hinge pin if the hinge style permits it and install the hinge plate. Fasten the middle hinge last. Mark the position of the latch hardware and install it.
A board-and-batten fence is a variation of the vertical board style but with the three-dimensional addition of battens on the surface.
The battens (generally 1x2s) help break up the expanse of the fence and add a small amount of texture that has a large impact on the way the fence looks. Board-and-batten construction is time-consuming and costs more than a plain fence, but the aesthetic return is high, making this fence and the effort to build it a worthwhile investment.
Build a board-and-batten fence – Build an edge-rail or flat-rail frame with 6- to 8-foot bays. Mount the 1 x6 or 1 x8 infill, then fasten 1 x2 battens on top of each joint.
Build a board-on-board fence – Depending on how much you overlap the boards, a board-on-board fence creates full or partial privacy. No matter what the spacing, this fence will protect you from the wind, breaking it up into little breezes.
Build an edge-rail frame with 6- to 8-foot bays, centering the rails on the posts (add a flat rail at the bottom if your design calls for it). Starting at an end post, fasten 1 x6 infill to one side of the fence, using a hanging spacer to keep the boards at consistent intervals. Fasten the top of the infill first, plumb the board, then fasten the bottom. Start the infill on the other side of the fence, overlapping the boards on the first side of the fence by 1 inch. Using the same techniques and the spacer, fasten the infill to the second side. The spacer will keep the boards overlapped consistently. Top off the fence with a top rail and a 2×6 cap rail if desired.