Should My Fence Touch The Ground?
Martinez image Courtesy of Sanfranman59 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6583904
In most situations, no other fence materials except the fence posts can hit the ground. Allowing your fence to touch the ground makes maintenance of the yard more difficult and can increase the speed at which your fence experiences moisture damage, depending on the material used. There are exceptions to that, of course. If you are setting up a fence to keep rodents or other small animals out of a garden or other field, you may want your fence to touch the ground. It can also be helpful if you're trying to hold small-breed dogs or other animals that might actually dig under a fence that doesn't touch the ground.
When constructing a wooden fence, be sure to plan the area between the pickets and the land. In most applications, a wooden fence should be mounted at least two inches off the ground. Your posts and rot boards (if you want to mount them) should be the only fence components that come into contact with the ground. Wood pickets are never meant to touch it.
Why do you need a space between the pickets and the ground?
When wood pickets meet the earth, they absorb moisture that can contribute to swelling or rot. Leaving space between the pickets and the ground avoids this accumulation of moisture, giving you a longer-lasting and nicer-looking barrier. The room also makes it easier to manage the yard and clean it up at the base of the fence. And it enables drainage, which is especially useful in sloping landscapes.
How do you keep a consistent gap between the pickets and the ground?
If you are constructing a fence using pre-assembled fence panels, the pickets are already connected to the back rails. All you need to do is connect it to your blogs. Measure at least two inches off the ground and mark your posts or put a spacer block under the fence panel. Check the level and connect the panel to the posts.
If you are constructing a fence with individual pickets, you may need to check the level more frequently. Measure at least two inches off the ground and mount your pickets to the back rails beginning at one end. Check the level and plumb every 3-4 pickets. Using a spacer block between the ground and the bottom of the pickets will help with the installation.
What about the sloping landscapes?
Very few fences are built on a flat field. If there are slight grade changes, you do not need to make any adjustments. Landscapes with steeper slopes or substantial grade changes, however, would require further planning. There are two ways to approach the hill, either parallel or stairway-stepped.
Parallel method - If you mount the fence parallel to the hill, ensure a clear distance between the pickets and the ground along the fence.
Stair-step method - For a stairway approach, as you'll do if you're building with pre-assembled panels, one side of the fence would have a wider distance between the picket and the ground than the other. Be sure that the side with the smaller gap is at least two inches off the level, with the larger gap on the other side of the plate.
Can you cover the gap or close it?
Some homeowners don't want a gap between the bottom of the fence and the field. They do not like the look of a distance. Or maybe they have a critter problem – they don't want a small pet to get under the fence, or small critters to come in. If you have one of these questions, there are several ways in which you can hide or fill the void.
If you don't like the appearance of the gap, consider planting small shrubs, daylilies, or other thick vegetation along the fence line to cover the gap.
If you're worried about animals crawling under your fence, you might fill the gap with a critter fence or chicken wire. Another choice is to mount a horizontal board (sometimes called a kickboard or rot board) along the bottom of your fence panels. This board is usually a 2x6 piece of lumber treated with ground contact. Use a kickboard to close the distance while still shielding your pickets from moisture absorption.
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