Fence. Miles and miles of fence. This is what Steven Sarson sees when he drives through rural America. “Sometimes it is very satisfying and sometimes it makes me cringe,” explains the Bekaert fence pro and regional sales manager, who has worked in the fencing industry for more than two decades. “Sometimes I see a well-built fence and sometimes I look at new installations and think, “that isn’t how I would build it and hope they didn’t pay a lot for it.’”
So, what makes a well-built fence?
Sarson, in addition to his sales and customer support role also spends his workweeks answering customer questions and hosting fencing workshops and seminars for fencing contractors and livestock producers. He shares a few tried and true tips he’s picked up over the years.
Purpose determines materials
Before purchasing fencing supplies, take some time to consider the fence’s purpose. What type of livestock will it be keeping in? Or, what type of wildlife will it be keeping out? And, what will the stocking densities be? “Depending on stocking densities, a fence is either a physical barrier or a boundary,” explains Sarson.
The answers to these questions help determine fencing materials and design.
Build a good brace
The brace, Sarson says, “is the heart and soul of the fence.” He explains, if a brace is built incorrectly, it doesn’t matter the quality of materials or skill applied to installing the rest of the fence. If the brace fails the fence fails. A well-built brace can absorb 6000-pounds of pressure.
What makes a good brace?
Round posts: When using wood posts, DO NOT use square posts. Round posts, with all the growth rings in-tact, have the strength of the tree. “Those growth rings that make that tree stand strong, will do the same for the fence. A round post is basically a full tree treated,” Sarson says.
Square posts are susceptible to rot and are not as strong because they are either made of heartwood, which will not absorb treatment or include only partial growth rings. Depending on terrain, availability and preference welded pipe braces are also a viable option.
Brace pins: Use brace pins instead of notching the wood to hold the brace together.
High-tensile wire: Tensile strength increases the longevity of a fence and reduces cost-per-foot. The greater the tensile strength, the smaller gauge, lighter weight and more flexible the steel, which reduces cost per roll, risk of sag and number of fence posts needed to complete the project.
Line post tips
• 4-to-1: The best fences use one, round wood post to every four T-posts.
• Galvanized T-Posts: Don’t scrimp when it comes to accessories like brace pins and T-posts. After investing the time to construct a good brace, it only makes sense to invest in accessories that will hold up as long as the brace and quality wire.
• Spacing: The distance between posts can vary depending on stocking density, terrain and type of fence. However, every dip and rise need a post.
• Fasten high spots first: Fastening high spots first, makes it easier to achieve adequate tension.
• Never hard-staple: Leave enough room between the staple and the post so that the wire can move freely. This allows the wire to flex if an animal pushes against the fence and reduces the risk of sag and applies pressure to the brace instead of the post.