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Over 2,000 years ago a man had a plan: to build a very, very, very long fence. He was dealing with bigger problems than errant soccer balls and tricky foxes. Those Huns were barbarians. . . literally. He needed to keep his people safe and send a signal to potential intruders.

He recruited quite a fence building company–over half a million employees. And they weren’t paid very well. Most of them weren’t paid at all. They were a batch of soldiers and convicts, some of whom gave their lives for the project. The word on the street is that there are around 400,00 bodies entombed in the fence. Well, it is more of a wall.

The Great Wall of China is an impressive display of security. Built of stone, it stretches for almost half a mile, rising to 30 feet in some sections and peppered with watchtowers along the route. You are probably not trying to build a wall that can be seen from outer space, but we imagine that you would like a fence that will be around for a good, long while, with no lives lost along the way.

There are a few things to consider as you begin building this fence:

Choose the Wood Wisely
Choosing the right wood fencing is the first and most important decision in the process. There are cheap options available, but those options will often include hidden costs down the road for repairs and replacements. Cedar is a strong wood that doesn’t need chemical treatments to last. It costs more upfront but will pay off in the long run. If cedar is not the wood you want, consider investing in wood that is pressure treated. This will help it to resist rot and pest damage.

Dig in Deep
Your fence doesn’t need to be 30 feet high (unless you are worried about barbaric invaders), but you do want to make sure that you dig deep before you go high. The general rule of thumb is to dig a hole at least one third the height of the fence. For example, you will need two feet of the post in the ground for a six-foot-tall fence. This is the hard work of fence building, but it can’t be skipped or shortened. The frost line is also something to consider. A quick Google search should tell you how deep the frost line is in your area. You’ll want to be below that to keep everything upright and sturdy.

Anchor it In
When the hole is dug, take a moment to create a post hole that will keep everything steady. Concrete is a wonderful tool for this. Put a couple of inches of gravel at the bottom of each hold. This will protect the bottom of the posts from rot and improve drainage. And tamp, tamp, tamp away. If you aren’t using concrete, tamping is especially helpful. If you aren’t sure that you want the fence posts surrounded by concrete, it is still worth considering using a small amount of concrete when you are filling in the holes. It can lend lasting stability to the posts.

You have the wood, now you put in the posts. The image of pounding nails into boards might be the first thing that comes to mind, but nails are a bad idea. Nails will loosen over time, which will weaken your fence and require repairs. Stainless steel fencing screws are best. Three-inch screws will work well for framing, and shorter screws will work for the boards. That size can vary, depending on the size of the board you choose. Again, it will be a bigger investment than a bag of nails, but you will be grateful for it in the long run.

Add Some Color
While Tom Sawyer might be famous for whitewashing (or not) Aunt Polly’s fence, he isn’t a good model for fence maintenance (or behavior, but that’s another topic). Paint traps moisture, and moisture can lead to rot. Start with a stain. Stain it all–the boards, the frames, and every notch. Staining will seal and protect your wood, stretching out its lifespan in a beautiful way.

Stain, on its own, is a beautiful touch for a backyard space, drawing out the natural grain of the wood in a unique way. Still, you might want some fun splashes of color on your fencing. Add your unique touch to the fence, but stain it first. Deck stains can be especially helpful. They have an element of wax inside them, as well as a pigment. This will go an extra step in protecting the wood. Dipping the bottom of the fence posts and fence boards in stain before installing them will be an easy way to seal and protect them.

While you might not be creating a structure to guard your home in battle, you do want a fence that will last a long time. Luckily, this won’t require an army of workers, dangerous working conditions, or 50 years. See, compared to the Great Wall, the fence you want to build seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Let us help you get started with the right materials, and you can take it from there!